Gnome sweet gnome?
Like 'em or not, gnome statuettes appear permanently entrenched in American gardens. From the tasteful to the tacky, the bearded little men with pointy red hats are as revered as they are reviled. The decorative gnome owes its origins to 19th-century Germany, where craftsmen Phillip Griebel and August Heissner first cast these would-be icons in ceramic. The fanciful creatures became wildly popular throughout Germany, England and France, to the delight or horror of all concerned. Some gardeners found them cute, while others found them common. The English gardening elite has officially soured on gnomes—the creatures are banned from the gardens competing in the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. A neutral zone for gnomes may best be the bookshelf—specifically amid the pages of the many endearing, illustrated histories of these whimsical ornaments. The vivid photographs in Vivian Russell's "Gnomes" (2006, 136 pp.) arguably earn her book a place on the gardener's coffee table. "Gnomeland: An Introduction to the Little People" (2008, 160 pp.) by Margaret Egleton is equally deserving of a spot in the open.