Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A gnome's tale of discrimination and crime in the garden

It was the worst of times in the gnome world. The little folk with the helping hands formerly so beloved of all garden owners had come to be regarded as symbolic of a petit-bourgeois mentality; their owners were increasingly seen as Philistines.

Even in the gnome heartland, the very Shire of gnomedom - Southern Germany - garden gnomes, dwarfs, and imps were in ill-repute. Many had already left for the diaspora in far away places like Illinois and Wisconsin. Gardeners that still had gnomes often hid them away in sheds or relegated them to shabby corners of their gardens out of shame. There were reports of gnomes being locked up and even mutilated!

And on the other side of the mighty Rhine River, the powerful Front pour la Libération des Nains de Jardin (FLNJ - Garden Gnome Liberation Front) was on the rampage, purporting to liberate gnomes from a life of bondage, but in reality kidnapping and then abandoning them in basements, forests, public libraries and other deserted places.

It was only a question of time before the FLNJ started foraging to the East of the border, for there were age-old resentments between the neighboring countries that ran deep.

To be sure, there were still some sheltered havens in Germany where gnomes were appreciated and nurtured as of old, one of these being a large garden colony near the traditionally open-minded metropolis of Mannheim. Here gnomes could go about their business in peace, performing their time-cherished tasks -

pushing wheelbarrows,

carrying lanterns,

tending animals,

pondering life,

painting the spots on poisonous mushrooms,

and other important things like waving and carrying buckets.

But one misty fall morning, an alarm was raised in the gnome community. The lookout gnome on the morning shift was the first to hear the terrible news,

and messenger gnomes ran to all corners of the garden colony

to spread the word that an assembly was to be held to discuss reports of sordid crimes right here in River City the garden colony.

Something unthinkable had happened. While performing her morning chores, Snow White had been accosted by an exhibitionist gnome. To make matters worse, he had dressed up in the most sacred of gnome costumes.

But much much worse than this was the discovery of Johann Wichtel, stabbed with a kitchen knife right in his own allotment.

Now while big folk had occasionally been known to commit immoral acts towards little folk, crimes within the gnome community itself were hitherto unheard of.

It was an outrage. Fathers feared for their children,

Many started taking up arms and forming vigilante committees.

Rumors were rampant as to who the perpetrators might be. Could it be one of the reclusive giant gnomes who preferred the company of big folk to those of their own race?

Could it have been one of the many immigrant gnomes now entering the country under the new labor mobility laws of the EU? Who knew what they might be capable of.

Perhaps one of the economic refugee gnomes from Greece,

or one of the strange race of Belgian gnomes seen more and more frequently?

Would these immigrants ever be able to assimilate and adopt German gnome customs as their own?

To be sure, some of the native gnome habits had their dark side, and there were increasing instances of binge drinking among gnome youth, perhaps leading to crime??

The situation is grave. At the end of this sorry report we'd like to make this appeal to all gardeners: please consider giving your gnome a place in your home, perhaps among the houseplants, where he can be safe and happy. After all, we wouldn't want yet another magical race to disappear from the face of Middle Earth Europe.

All photos taken on original location in the garden colony Kleingärtnerverein Mannheim-Süd e.V.


  1. Dear Barbara, Can you be certain that there is not a gnome amongst these who is up to no good? I would not be so sure - those rather wistful smiles seem to hide dark thoughts methinks!!

    My Maida Vale garden is a gnome free zone and I do not have any houseplants. I am sure, however, that there are thriving colonies in Hackney.

  2. Barbara, what a fabulously imaginative post! I always wondered how poisonous mushrooms got their spots. I do hope Snow White has recovered from her shock. Poor Johann Wichtel, personally I suspect the Smurfs...they always look shifty to me :P

  3. Hello Barbara..
    Gartenzwerge? Once condsidered cute and decorative, now banned in many german gardens.
    Just visit german garden blogs and you'll find beautiful decorations, wreath and flower arrangements.
    Thank you for visiting my blog in Canada.
    I use this site for my quotes.
    - Cheers Gisela.

  4. Hysterical! I can't believe all those gnomes. What a cute story.

    I decided to answer your question about mosquitofish here so you don't have to go back to see if I've answered yet. Mosquitofish are a species in the genus Gambusia. They look like guppies, only they're voracious predators of mosquito larvae. I think they come from Africa. Not sure. They're a great addition to fresh water garden ponds. An alternative is to use pellets with Bacillus thuringiensis israelii added to them. The bacteria are specific to mosquitos and don't affect other larvae.

  5. I am truly LOL after this post! Thanks for the laugh and I will be on the lookout for errant gnomes committing heinous crimes.

  6. Liebe Barbara, na da habt Ihr aber eine sehr große Anzahl von Gartenzwergen in Eurer Anlage. Mir gefällt der Exibithionist am besten, denn mit ihm kann man die Nachbarn so schön erschrecken;-)) Am letzen Wochenende war ich ganz früh im Luisenpark und habe die schönen Herbstszenen genossen. Es ist nicht nur in der Ferne schön im Herbst:-)) Ich wünsche Dir noch viele Herbstsonnenstunden im Garten und schicke liebe Grüße von Luzia.

  7. I'm feeling guilty about neglecting my one gnome now.

  8. Thank you for that amazing post Barbara! That was quite possibly the funniest thing I have read this week...and at the same time such a perceptive and pertinent reflection of German society and media discourse.

  9. Dear Barbara, You are too funny ... I am laughing so much! Knowing that garden gnomes are sneered at in most gardening circles, I have been embarrassed to admit I own one. Mine is a tribute to my mother's garden in England (she blatantly displays several). It is not painted and is not plastic, but is a nicely carved stone gnome. As a result of your post, I am going to display it proudly. Pam x

  10. Thank you for all your most welcome comments.

    I confess that the pondering gnome belongs to me and I'm sort of fond of it. I also have a birdbath with a rather kitschy fairy on it. Every garden needs a little kitsch! There aren't many garden gnomes in German gardens these days either, but in a colony as large as ours I was able to find enough to photograph for the story.

    Lou, thanks for the info on the fish. And Gisela, thanks for the link to your quote site.

    Pam and Laura, please do display your gnomes!

  11. I was smiling all the time that I was reading your post! What an imagination you have! Great story!
    Thanks for commenting on my calendula. I'll write you on your blotanical lot.

  12. Your post reminds me of the posts of JeeBee, an Dutch lady blogging on 'Sprokkels Weblog'. Under the categorie 'Kabouters', she writes posts about her 'KOC', 'Kabouter opvang Center', which might be translated as 'Gnomes asyllum'... But one of her last post in that category was about her gnomes leaving for Iceland, so I don't know if there will be further posts about her KOC.

  13. Oh so cute Barbara and the horror! I have my gnomes safely tucked away in my greenhouse. They aren't in any danger but if I leave them out one young dog thinks she must chew on them:( I hope all the German gnomes are doing well!! They are adorable!

  14. Thank you Barbara for the early morning smiles, a delightful and clever post. We only have 2 gnomes in our garden (actually only one now since the little guy who guarded the entrance to our home was of concrete and has since deteriorated to the point of having only a lower body. The other is close by, tucked at the base of a row of boxwood. He sees all. ;)

  15. Tatyana, so glad you got a laugh out of this.

    Anne, I took a look at that Dutch blog about the gnome asylum - what a hilarious idea to send them all to Iceland. The gnomes she shows look a little different from the standard German ones.

    Tina and Diana, I'm glad you don't seem to belong to those who think all gnome owners are hopelessly bourgeois.

  16. A most amusing and imaginative post Barbara and what fun you must have had taking photos of all those fine little fellows. I am off now singing David Bowie's 'Laughing Gnome' to myself :)

  17. Thanks to Curbstone Valley Farms I located your blog. I am still laughing at this wonderful post!


  18. Delightful post, Barbara. Those poor little gnomes sure bring a good laugh.

  19. What a cute story. I really enjoyed it.
    Here's to gnome power.