Decoration, Garden Design, Jenny

History of garden gnomes

There’s no Place like Gnome

Once upon a time in the surprisingly not fictional village of Gräfenroda in the genuinely not made up free state of Thuringia, there lived a man named Phillip Griebel. To narrow that down a bit, we’re talking about the mid-nineteenth century in central Germany. Philip was a sculptor by trade who specialised in the crafting of terracotta animals. At some point Philip decided to branch out and sculpt mythical creatures. European folklore is abundant with fabulous little homunculi and beasties but Philip was charmed most by the kaukis. Depending on where you’re from you might know them as ‘leprechauns’ and ‘clurichauns’ in Ireland, ‘saunatonttu’ in Finland, ‘nisse’ or ‘tomte’ in Scandinavia, ‘barbegazi’ in Switzerland and France, and ‘voettir’ in Iceland. Today we know them best as gnomes.

Philip wasn’t alone in his love of gnomes as of all his mythical beast sculptures it was the gnome that endured as favourite. While this is all charming we do have to point out that the company Baehr and Maresch based in Dresden would claim earlier creation of garden gnomes as they had stock of “little folk” statues as early as 1841. If you want to get really picky about it you can credit the origins of garden gnomes to the Romans who placed stone representations of the Greco-Roman fertility god Priapus in their gardens to help plants grow. Wherever they came from they are here to stay.

The popularity of garden gnomes declined during the first World War and most of the second World War as, understandably, people had far more on their minds than garden ornamentation and folklore. It wasn’t until the 1930s that popularity of these little garden guardians soared after the release of Disney’s ground breaking feature length animation Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. In the 1970s, presumably aided by the popularity of experimentation with certain substances, gnomes became even more fantastical, whimsical and downright weird. There was one more big surge in the popularity of garden gnomes in the 1990s with the popularity of “roaming gnome”, a practical joke where gnomes were stolen from gardens and the owners were posted photos of the gnome in humorous situations and/or exotic locations.

Dwarf gnome

Jenny at PrimroseJenny works in the Primrose Product Loading team working on adding new and exciting products to the website. When she’s not writing, proofreading or drinking the strongest coffee possible Jenny loves to climb and can often be found halfway up a wall at the local climbing centre.

See all of Jenny’s posts.

Jenny, Spiders, Wildlife

Spiders are cute.

Wait, hear me out! Ok, “cute” might have been pushing it a little but spiders are essential little creatures you should be thrilled to have about.

why spiders are good for your garden
Look at this little guy. Oh, or don’t. Sorry!

Here are the ten best reasons to love having spiders around your home and garden.

  1. They might make you rich. According to legend, finding a money spider in your hair means you will gain riches beyond your wildest dreams. According to my own experience, finding a spider in my hair meant lots of flailing and screaming beyond my previously wildest screams but hey, who am I to question folklore?
  2. MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR SPIDER’S FAVOUR! They fight to the death. They aren’t fond of each other as they are territorial. If another spider gets in your spider’s space they fight. Winner eats the loser. The best way to control spider numbers? Use more spiders. Like fighting fire with fire but with more legs.
  3. Fancy having royalty in your home? Spider blood contains a chemical called haemocyanin which turns blue when it carries oxygen so they have “blue blood”. Basically like having the Queen round for tea right?
  4. Spiders are efficient predators and prey on all manner of insects. They protect your garden from a variety of pests that would otherwise feast on your flowers and other delicate plants.
  5. Spiders protect you too. They hunt and eat many household pests that can transmit diseases to humans such as mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches and a host of other disease-carrying little beasties. You’re welcome!
  6. Forget the bee’s knees. Spiders are fascinating little creatures which most of us know have eight legs and eight eyes. Did you know that a spider has six joints on each leg? That gives them a whopping forty eight knees.
  7. Full of festive cheer! Eastern European legends tell of a poor family who had no money to decorate their Christmas tree. They put up the tree anyway and when they woke on Christmas morning the tree was full of sparkles from the sun’s early rays caught on beautiful spider webs. I can’t tell if this is magical or horrifying but either way you’ll probably feel a little different about tinsel from now on.
  8. Spiders are super strong. They can carry up to 170 times their own body weight while scuttling across a ceiling. That would be like a human being carrying a double decker bus… upside down… Think comic book heroes but more ridiculous.
  9. Most spiders are not capable of biting through human skin. They can chomp away on household and garden pests but trust me! You’re safe.
  10. You might as well like them, they have us seriously outnumbered. With approximately 670 species of spiders in the UK alone it is estimated that for every individual in Britain there are 500,000 spiders.
cute spider
Cute or creepy, they do have their charms

Convinced? Great! Now how do you go about encouraging spiders to come stay in your garden? Fill your garden with tall plants for spiders to cast their webs on. Flowers will also encourage spiders to settle in your garden. Leaving a small portion of the garden mulched, for moisture and cover and will create a place for the spiders to lay their eggs, a great way to achieve this is to start composting. A great way to encourage spiders to stay in your garden is to plant a beneficial insect border or row in early spring. You can encourage a host of beneficial bugs, from teeny tiny predators to big and beautiful pollinators, there are lots of habitats on the market to help encourage these beneficial bugs to set up shop in your garden.

Not convinced? Don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Studies have shown that up to 18% of Brits admit to being afraid of spiders. Really afraid! Fear not, we have alternative solutions too.

Jenny at PrimroseJenny works in the Primrose Product Loading team working on adding new and exciting products to the website. When she’s not writing, proofreading or drinking the strongest coffee possible Jenny loves to climb and can often be found halfway up a wall at the local climbing centre.

See all of Jenny’s posts.

Share!