Meet Brits decorating gardens with gnomes and fighting back over ‘naff’ tag

They’re friendly little fellas who happily fish, dig or snooze all day in leafy corners of gardens across the nation.

Yet recent news is threatening to wipe the smile off their faces and turn their rosy cheeks pale.

A survey by a retirement property developer found gnomes are naff.

The shocking, heartless findings sent ructions through Britain’s rockeries. And those who have given gnomes a home are having none of it.

“Anyone who doesn’t like gnomes isn’t a happy person,” says Lorna Serna, a partner of the Merry Harriers garden center in Bideford, Devon, where The Gnome Reserve is home to 2,100 of the adorable ornaments.

In June she opened the gnomes to the public, not expecting much interest.

Brits who have gnomes in their garden say they are a good decoration


Eleanor Daniels)

Anne Yeomans’ gnomes in Yetholm


Anne Yeomans)

She said: “I was wrong. We have an amazing amount of visitors, of all ages, all the time and they come back repeatedly. And we’re inundated with phone calls about them, too. It’s crazy.

“It’s such a nice sight to see the gnomes all enjoying themselves.”

As well as fishing, some are kissing, eating ice creams, enjoying tea, riding motorbikes, climbing toadstools and abseiling trees. Naughty ones are pulling moonies and having a wee.

Lorna said: “We want people to be happy and gnomes are great cheerer uppers. Catch sight of one, and I bet you smile. And don’t we all need that at the moment?”

Lorna and Chris, owners of Merry Harriers


Dilantha Dissanayake / CATERS NE)

They have brightened up our gardens since 1847, when Sir Charles Isham decorated his rockery at Lamport Hall, Northampton, with 21 figures from Nuremberg, Germany, where they are considered lucky.

But Sir Charles’s daughters were not fans and did away with all of the gnomes except one.

When “Lampy” was found he was crowned the oldest known garden gnome in the world and is now safely behind glass at the Hall.

Lampy, the most venerated of those Guarding Naturally Over Mother Earth (GNOME), is said to be insured for £1million.

Lampy is thought to be the oldest garden gnome in the world


Lamport Hall))

Gnome Front 1

Eleanor Daniels, 24, became enamored with gnomes the moment she watched Gnomeo & Juliet, a 2011 animated film of two lovers separated by a garden fence.

And she won’t hear a word against them.

“Anyone who says gnomes are naff, they must have an attitude of superiority,” she says.

“We can learn quite a lot from gnomes in the way they love their lives. They’re connected to nature, they teach us to enjoy relaxation and have a low stress lifestyle. And they can live for 400 years so have a lot of wisdom.”

Eleanor’s adoration for gnomes is obvious to anyone visiting her @gnomezone_ social media accounts. It shows her de ella gnomes on their travels de ella as she refuses to leave them gnome alone – although her bag full of them often raises eyebrows at security. Her devotion to her is just as clear in her house to her in South West London, where 130 gnomes peek out from plant pots, behind the TV and on bookshelves.

Each is meticulously cared for, imaginatively named and profiled on a special spreadsheet.

“There’s a culinary gnome, Paul Gnollywood, in the kitchen. Key worker Florence Gnightinggnome who sees me off to work in NHS mental health services every day. And a royal gnome, Queen Elizagnome II, who sits pride of place in the sitting room.

“I have a Yoga-gnome who’s in to mediation and wellbeing, a gym boss gnome who is pretty buff. Clever gnome Albert Gnomestein accompanied me to my graduation in 2019.

“My favorite is Engelbert Ragitello. When my mum found him he was very low in himself, which was reflected in his gray color. But then he had therapy and now he’s a brilliant, colorful new version of himself. He’s inspiring.

“The naughtiest is Gaz GazzaG-dog. He’s a partyholic who is out of control. I have to keep him behind closed doors in my wardrobe.”

Eleanor’s boyfriend James welcomes sharing their home ‑ to a point. She says: “He wouldn’t be happy if the house was completely overrun by them. But I gradually sneak them in to various places so the sight of them becomes normal. He has a 3D printer and in the early days of wooing he printed me gnomes.”

Gnome Front 2

Ten years ago Karen Forward and sister Suzanne Egleton inherited their late mother Margaret’s business

Margaret, from Bradford, West Yorks, established the business in 2005 and became known in her local parcel depot as The Gnome Lady.

Karen points to the extra post-pandemic demand for gnomes globally as concrete proof our bearded buddies are still in vogue.

She says: “Most of our customers are from Britain and across Europe, but we’re seeing increased sales in Australia and America especially since the start of lockdown – perhaps because more people were spending time in their gardens and needed brightening up.

“Gnomes move with the times. So as well as traditional, modern gnomes and sporty gnomes which are really popular, we now see sustainable gnomes. Eco Bob is a solar powered gnome who sits on your driveway or doorstep being warmed by the sun all day and when you come home in the evening he’ll light up to guide you indoors.

Margaret Egleton founded Gnomelands

Cheeky gnomes at the seaside in Bournemouth

“Finding loving homes for gnomes is our purpose, and we send them off in cozy little sleeping bags for safe delivery.

“People all over the world cherish these special characters and we don’t see it ending any time soon.”

Gnome Front 3

There’s a steady flow of daily visitors to Anne Yeamans’ home, where the front garden is covered by 671 gnomes.

She says: “I started with one stone rabbit, which was joined by a few gnomes – and before long there were more ornaments than flowers out there.”

They are so popular people leave money, which Anne puts to a good cause.

She says: “We started using the garden to raise money for Children’s Hospice Association Scotland. So far we’ve raised £6,000.”

Anne, of Yetholm, in the Scottish Borders, strives to look after the wellbeing of her gnomes, named after family members and villagers.

Her husband Raymond paints and glues them each year. She puts them in a shed at the end of October because frost can crack them – and she says they party until they come outside again at Easter.

Anne adds: “I’m always so happy to see them again because each time I look out I see something new. Real gardeners hate them. But there is so much sadness around at the moment, so if my garden brings people joy, I’m all for it.”

Claire Brown owns the Isle of Wight Gnome Sanctuary


Claire Brown)

Gnome Front 4

Claire Brown is doing all she can to ensure a display of gnomes on the Isle of Wight – established in the 20s as part of Britain’s oldest theme park Blackgang Chine – never dies out.

In the past decade she has re-homed over 500 to turn her back garden in Shanklin in to the Gnome Sanctuary.

“Gnomes are not naff,” says Claire, 42, who is a mixologist. “They can’t fall out of fashion because they were never in fashion. Instead they’re quirky, happy, jolly and belong together making others feel uplifted.

“I loved seeing lucky gnomes on the Isle of Wight when I was a child and still do. Love or hate them, you can’t help but smile when you see one.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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