Sunday, 17 February 2013

1. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 21-25 May 2013: Gnomes’ Auction. Celebrity ‘Pot Art’ 2012.

Wood Gnome by Rien Poortvliet  
for Wil Huygen’s The Secret Book of Gnomes. 

Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, from Grimm's Fairy Tales 

Garden Gnome

At long last, for this year only, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has dropped the ban on gnomes for two reasons:  to mark the centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show, and raise money for the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Joan Collins, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, Julian Fellowes, Antonio Carluccio and other celebrities will paint 150 gnomes before they are auctioned off.

Last year celebrities painted flower pots for 'Pot Art' and raised £14,000 for the RHS Campaign at over 16,500 schools.  This year the gnomes will probably raise even more money for this worthy cause. 

Joanna Lumley
Joan Collins
Judi Dench

Mary Berry

Llewellyn Bowen

Julian Fellowes

Gnomes are supposed to be lucky in a garden, and have proliferated since they were made in plastic and became cheaper.  Gnomes are solitary creatures who live underground according to legend, whereas dwarfs, which are a kind of gnome, are gregarious and live above it.  

Gargoyle at Visby Cathedral, Sweden

The appearance of gnomes and dwarfs is somehow old-fashioned MittelEuropean: they are usually elderly or old, rotund, often with white beards, woollen caps and carry mining implements.The original illustrations by German artist Philipp Grot Johann for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  in 1812 give some idea. Gnomes are also reminiscent of gargoyles, which date back much further. The very first gnome is reputed to have been made in Germany in the 1800s by potter Philipp Griebel in Graeferoda, Thuringia.

While John Major was Prime Minister of this country, from 1990-1997, the press were greatly engaged by the fact that his father was a failed gnome manufacturer as well as a trapeze artist and music-hall performer.

Other than gnomes,  fairies, pixies, flags, whirligigs and balloons are still banned from RHS Shows as they distract from the plant displays.  If you want to see such things in abundance go to any British cemetery where they mark children’s graves.

Chelsea Flower Show 21-25 May
Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London
Tickets 0844 338 7546 or