Friday, December 11, 2009

Garden Gnomes: A History, by Twigs Way

I've mentioned Shire in the past. This is a British publisher of brilliant little books on antiques, archaeology, architecture, and even military history. The style of the books—accessibility to the general reader, with detail for the specialist—is quite similar to Osprey Publishing's books. In fact, Osprey purchased this press in 2007. A very good fit, I think. (See the article about Shire on The Times website.)

A Lovely Gnome Tome
Published in June, 2009, Garden Gnomes: A History by Twigs Way is another of Shire's nicely designed books. A historian of gardening, the author tells the story of these European garden accents. She explores their origins (beliefs of dwarfs, nisser, and tomtar), studies the craft of their production, and charts their rise and fall in popularity. The text is illustrated with pages from period catalogs and photographs of gnomes in gardens throughout history. The book ends with a view of garden gnomes' affect on modern pop culture, with a mention of the trend in gnome liberation (stealing and relocating the ornaments as a prank).

My family's past is dotted with appearances by garden gnomes. There are currently three or four in my mother's garden. These were made by a family friend in the 1950s by pouring concrete into molds. In the 1980s I remember joining my grandparents as they visited their friend, Mr. Heiner. His father was from Germany, and he had created an extensive backyard scene with little gnomes digging, fishing, moving earth, etc. There were even diminutive doorways set into the roots of the trees. It was very magical to a kid. When vacationing on Lake George, NY we would motor up the lake to see "Gnome Island." This was actually someone's rock-covered backyard, projecting into the lake as a shallow peninsula. There were always a cluster of garden gnomes there. Sometimes they were r-arranged from the last time we saw them. My dad told us kids that they were the real thing, standing still to trick us. I bought this book for my mom's Christmas present this year. I'm thinking I should get myself a copy—and maybe a gnome for the front yard too.


Eli Arndt said...

Thanks for the heads-up. I love this sorts of stuff and having a good source for them would be spledid.

Kael Hunt said...

We love gnomes! We have 3 in the back yard by the pool. I told our kids that makes us a tri-gnomial family, but they didn't get it.