Sunday, April 21, 2013

A traditional no-no, Gnomes will be welcomed this year at Chelsea

An American gnome reconsiders his plans to visit Britain

For the first time in its 100-year history, the Chelsea Flower Show has lifted its ban and will allow gnomes to be included in the prestigious 2013 garden displays.

As part of the centenary celebration, the Royal Horticultural Society will turn a blind eye and become gnome-friendly, but for this year and this year only.

For decades, gnome lovers in fancy dress have organized demonstrations outside the gates on opening day to protest the ban. This year their beloved garden statues will be welcomed with open arms.

Two nine-foot-tall white gnomes are slated to greet visitors at the show entrance. There will even be a celebrity gnome-painting competition with a star-studded list of participants including Maggie Smith and Julian Fellowes.

This gnome-tolerant policy is a far cry from what happened as recently as 2009.

A scandal was exposed at that year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show when a banned item was spotted in one of the lush display beds.

The illegal object was a garden gnome named Borage. Once spied, Royal Horticultural Society officials moved swiftly to have the gnome removed from the premises.

According to the Times of London, organizers were even more shocked to learn that one of the members of their own ruling council had been “implicated in the affair.”

Jekka McVicar, a 13-time gold medal winner at Chelsea had put together what was described as a stunning display of medicinal and culinary herbs in the Grand Pavilion.
2009 Fenland Alchemist Garden

Since this was to be her last appearance in the show she decided to place Borage, a tiny statue holding a fishing rod, behind some of the greenery.

A show official insisted that the “offending gnome be ejected” reminding the offender that gnomes are against the rules at the Chelsea Flower Show. 

The Times reported that the country’s gardening elite consider them to be taboo. (Is it just snobbery? asked The Guardian.)

Mrs. McVicar fought back saying her gnome was in “wonderfully good taste.” She went on to declare that he is “not brightly coloured… and is a subtle gnome.” She refused to extract Borage from the display but promised to cover him with foliage.

Apparently she was successful in her efforts since the Queen and other members of the royal family were able to view the often-spectacular displays without further incident, and without having to avert their eyes.

Even though Britain was (and is) suffering through a recession, almost 150,000 tickets were sold for that Chelsea show. It is not know if many of the visitors would have shied away had they known the outlawed gnome Borage was lurking in the basils.

Red carpet treatment this year, buh-bye again in 2014

Then again, I’m assuming many who love Chelsea don’t consider themselves to be among the gardening elite. They just enjoy seeing all those fabulous flowers and plants.

And like me, probably didn’t know about the ban, and therefore didn’t realize gnomes have been perennial no-nos.


Janneke said...

I am not of the gnomes in my garden, nevertheless I think it is too bad to ban them from Chelsea Fl.Show. Chelsea flower show should be all kinds of gardens for all kinds of people, I think. About one or two gnomes for the gnome lovers secretly among the flowers, herbs or grasses to avoid a gnome party (haha).

Lynn Hunt said...

Ha ha Janneke! I can just see those gnomes partying once the flower show gates are shut for the evening. That would be a sight to behold!

I have just visited your blog and your daffodils are gorgeous. Plus you found a lucky ladybug! That means a great gardening year ahead for you.

HolleyGarden said...

How funny! But I wonder if one year will be enough. Once the bans are lifted, I would think it would be hard to reinstate the bans again. I just may have to look for a "subtle" gnome myself!

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi HolleyGarden! Apparently it was made very plain that this was a one year exception. So in 2014 the gnome supporters will go back to their demonstrations outside the front gate!

My friend Joan wrote reading this posting made her want to go out and buy a gnome. Hopefully a subtle one like you are looking for (:

The Redneck Rosarian said...

I am not as gnome-friendly as some, but I do not object to them in other people's gardens. They seem like helpful and innocent creatures.... I just wish the gnome on that travel site could find my plane tickets......LOL Great post.

Lynn Hunt said...

Thanks Chris! Of course the gnome on the travel site has a British accent is is probably cross about all the years he was banned from Chelsea (:

Thank you for the walk through your beautiful garden ( Can't wait to see more of your blooms!

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, I knew Gnomes have been out of favour for a long time now, but I didn't know they were actually banned from Chelsea. I look forward to watching the coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show and seeing who has been brave enough to place Gnomes in their show gardens - taking the opportunity of this momentary ban. I'm not sure what to expect but that makes it all the more exciting!

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Sunil! I envy you being able to watch the coverage of the show. Have you ever attended? I did once in the 90's and it was an unforgettable experience. Perhaps I shall plan to go again and we can meet to see all the fabulous displays. But the gnomes will be gone ):

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I am not a fan of garden gnomes in my garden...but I am certainly not going to tell someone they can't have them in their garden. As for banning them from garden shows....silliness.

Lynn Hunt said...

I'm with you, Janet. Unless I had a very small, very subtle gnome down the trail, I wouldn't have one in my garden. They do have a huge fan base in the UK, however. I remember when we were living there, I saw some gardens that had gnomes as far as the eye could see. Quite extraordinary!

The Principal Undergardener said...

What a wonderful essay! Thank you, Lynn!

Lynn Hunt said...

You are so welcome, Neal. I'm delighted you enjoyed it!

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