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Battle of the Gnomes


A 100-year wait… but Chelsea Flower Show finally says: Welcome gnome!

By Valerie Elliott
First published in the Daily Mail on February 10, 2013
Garden Gnome

Freedom of movement: Royal Horticultural Society has agreed to lift its ban on garden gnomes at the Chelsea Flower Show

IT IS a controversial and flagrant display of discrimination that has plagued one of Britain’s most august institutions for decades.

But now the 208-year-old Royal Horticultural Society has caved in to public pressure – and finally agreed to lift its ban on garden gnomes at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Officials had previously been accused of taking a snobbish attitude to the ornaments, which many deride as ‘tacky’. But this year, on the 100th anniversaryof the show, gnomes are not only to be allowed into the grounds– but will be positively celebrated. Celebrities will be invited to decorate the diminutive gentlemen . . .and a parade of 150 of them will be lined up for official inspection by the Queen.

The U-turn marks a victory for green-fingered rebels who had taken to smuggling gnomes into their displays at the prestigious event. RHS director-general Sue Biggs admitted ‘there were a few raised eyebrows’ when the rules were overturned last month, explaining: ‘We are a learned society and a purveyor of excellence in horticulture.’

But she said that the society’s 17-member ruling council was unanimous in voting through the change, adding: ‘It is important for people to realise we have got a sense of humour and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There was not one gnomophobe on the council.’
Once unloved: Gnome protestors outside the Royal Hospital after being denied access to the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show

Once unloved: Gnome protestors outside the Royal Hospital after being denied access to the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show

Previous years have seen placard bearing protesters at the gates of the flower show, demanding ‘equal rights for gnomes’.

The most high-profile dissident was Jekka McVicar, a 13-time Chelsea gold medallist who was rebuked for sneaking her 8in lucky mascot, Borage, into her display in 2009, defying the ban on ‘brightly coloured creatures’.

On hearing the rule had been overturned, a delighted Mrs McVicar
said: ‘It’s great news. I am so excited I’m going to give Borage a new
jacket. It’s beige at the moment but it’s going to be bright green with pink
spots. There’s no need for camouflage any more.

‘It really shows how far the RHS has evolved. When Borage was spotted
in my garden, it caused a real stir and I was met with a lot of stony silences from colleagues. But it really is harmless fun. At last the RHS has grown up and recognised that garden gnomes are for all.’

Ann Atkin, who owns 2,000 gnomes at her Gnome Reserve in Devon,
added: ‘It’s about time Chelsea allowed them. I’ve seen plastic
windmills at Chelsea, so why not gnomes? They’re much nicer.
Some people are so snobbish about gnomes.’ RHS officials were previously branded ‘stuffy old gits’ for the ban. The official explanation was that the ornaments might distract from the horticultural displays– although the suspicion was always that they were considered too tacky.
Chelsea Flower Show

Gnome celebration: On the Chelsea Flower Show’s 100th anniversary of the show gnomes will be positively celebrated

However, gnomes were not always held in such low regard.

When first introduced to Britain they were expensive collectors’ items. They are believed to have been brought to Britain in 1867, when gardener Sir Charles Isham brought 21 earthenware figurines from Germany for the grounds of Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire. Sir Charles was a spiritualist who believed they had protective powers. But gnomes lost their cachet when they were made from plastic.

Although the RHS has relaxed its ’no gnomes’ rule for this year’s flower show – which runs from May 21 to 25 – other items will remain on its prohibited list, including fairies and pixies, balloons and flags.

Stars decorating gnomes at the show include Downton Abbey writer Lord Fellowes. They will be sold in aid of the RHS campaign to install more gardens in schools.

Is this the Mooning gnome as mentioned in the comments

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Added to GoYpedia Gnomes :o)

8 May, 2013


I have a gnome-free garden myself but that's only because I haven't found the right gnome yet. I'm sure he's out there somewhere waiting for me to find him. Maybe I need to kiss a few more frogs?, snails?, something else before I find The One.

8 May, 2013


I wonder how many people will be dressing up as gnomes to attend chelsea?!!

are you going mick?

balloons are not allowed? didnt dermott gavin have something like balloons a couple of years ago in his garden ~ or is it ok if they are made of a more durable substance?

8 May, 2013


Pretty sure you're right about D. G. and the balloons, Sticki.

8 May, 2013


There used to be a garden in Marlow that contained a gnome who was mooning. As Marlow considers itself 'posh', I doubt if it's still there

8 May, 2013


My garden is gnome less...and I will not be going to Chelsea dressed as a gnome as Mavis says I'm more off a Hippie than a gnome ....Hippie ...Happy days

8 May, 2013


I have posted the Marlow Mooning gnome That I nicked for your viewing pleasure in the blog

8 May, 2013


Its a well gnome fact that you either love em or hate em.

9 May, 2013


I like to see a bit of humour in a garden .... the odd amusing sign or topiary, quirky statue or ornament etc ... but I am not a fan of plots where they outnumber the plants.
I have a gnome that was in my parents garden for as long as I can remember, a small stone cricketer and his golfing mate who remind me of my late husband and Father, and a stone teddy knitting in an armchair who must have been modelled on my Mother. I also have a fairly realistic heron and two or three bunnies.However, all are in the back garden placed so that they are not the first thing to catch the eye. I enjoyed siting them where they entertain me, and hopefully visitors to the garden too, but my garden is not an amusement park, rather a place to relax and enjoy through all the senses.

9 May, 2013

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