Garden decor wars, garden gnome battle ragesby Christopher C. Wuensch on May. 26, 2010, under Sports
There are many times in a man’s life when he’s forced to choose sides.
Democrat or Republican? Sharks or Jets?
Fries or Cole slaw?
We spend the entire ‘schoolyard-kickball game’ that is our lives choosing sides.
When it comes to either enslaving a dwarfish race of garish Earth-dwellers or abetting their trollish ways, one is best to choose wisely.
And so it was with cautious tread that I ventured out into the world of Zen Xeriscape. My target: a University of Arizona garden gnome.
Next week, the family and I will move into a brand new house, where I’ll inherit the responsibility of ensuring the protection of its front yard.
The tiny question can only be asked in Shakespearean prose: to gnome or not to gnome?
There are two sides to gnome owning. And each side is more fanatical and radical than the other.
One school of thought suggests that it’s good luck if your garden has a gnome.
The pro-gnome website ‘Gnome Frenzy’ boasts:
“Once you watch a few games with your new collegiate gnome you may just realize that it was (the) most important purchase you ever made.”
All right, you’ve got my attention. But I’m not completely sold on showing off an 11 1/4-inch tall, durable-resin dwarf-holding-a-football figurine to my neighbors.
Perhaps Jeff Schalau can convince me. Schalau is an associate agent for the University of Arizona Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension in Yavapai County and the authority on garden gnomes.
Says Schalau via his gnome dissertation, which he first published in the Cottonwood Journal Extra:
“It takes a special person (that’s me), usually someone with uncommon fortitude (check), to successfully incorporate garden gnomes into their home landscape.”
If I do decide to go gnome, I’d embed it in a flower bed close to the front door. That way it can spring upon any Arizona State trespassers.
Any vitriol my dwarf harbors, however, will be reserved solely for Sun Devil malevolence.
Garden gnomes are generally docile and inviting in nature — and always the life of an outdoor party.
My elfish entity, the one the French and Swiss refer to as “barbegazi,” will direct guests to the backyard, where we’ll be throwing shrimp on the barbeque-zi.
Nowhere in the world is the delicate balance of gnome life more scrutinized than in France and its neighbor Germany, the birthplace of the garden ghoul.
There’s an estimated 25 million lawn gnomes inhabiting yards and gardens in Deutschland alone.
Millions of united Germans can’t be wrong, right?
Apparently, not everyone believes a gnome’s place in the world should be ornamental. It’s Europe where the hot(flower)bed issue takes root.
There’s a French faction that’s beginning to wrap its global influence around young, impressionable minds like a fuzzy, green Santa Claus hat.
They call themselves the Garden Gnome Liberation Front and vehemently assert that it’s wrong to domesticate these woodland denizens.
This is no mushroom-size militia. It has branches in Italy and an internationally-read website with strong ties to the United States.
They’re a band of curly-toed-shoed foot soldiers, who aren’t timid about trampling an oppressive garden in the name of gnome-knapping — better known to these stealth assailants as “gnoming.”
Of course, ransom notes are never left. The gnomes usually re-appear en masse somewhere “free” in the wild, along a river bed or forest edge.
In late 2006, the organization took responsibility for pilfering up to 150 gnomes in two separate elf jihads from yards in Limousin, France.
It didn’t take long before their influence inspired others.
Two years later, a 53-year-old man was arrested in connection to the disappearance of 170 French gnomes. The Brittany, France, resident claims he is not connected to the GGLF.
Now the sensation is making its way across the ponds of the world. In December, roughly 60 missing gnomes were discovered in a Mount Vernon, Wash., backyard.
A by-product of this ‘gnoming’ movement sprang up in Australia in the ’80s in a phenomenon known as the “traveling gnome prank,” in which a kidnapped gnome is taken and photographed at locations across the globe. The photos are then anonymously sent to the former enslaver.
The movement inspired Travelocity’s recent ad campaign where a gnome hawks vacation deals.
GGLF members are not the kind of people you want to anger; which I fear I may have already done by using improper gnomenclature such as “troll” and “elf.”
Who’s to say that the gnomes displaced by the GGLF aren’t encroaching on the sacred land of wood nymphs, igniting a powder keg of miniscule proportions?
The displaced gnomes would be easy prey. All the wood nymphs would have to do is find the tree that smells like cookies.
So, again, the question at tiny hand is: to gnome or not?
Do I dare flaunt a garden goblin in the flinty face of an impish terror cell of sprites?
Will their pointy little ears even be able to hear me nestling my garden gnome in the mulch between the azaleas and the hibiscus?
So to answer the initial query: Yes. I’m going gnome.
Come find me, GGLF.
It’s every man for him-elf.