Borage the garden gnome

Garden fashion is a strange thing. Perhaps the classic case of a fad that fell from grace, garden gnomes were imported from Germany by Sir Charles Isham to decorate his rockery in the 1840s. Apparently he thought they would encourage the real “little people” to come out of hiding and make themselves known.

Over time they would become the most despised and ridiculed garden ornaments of the modern era. Just as Alexander Pope sneered at the amateur topiarists of his time, it became de rigueur to regard gnome enthusiasts with disdain, and they have been banned at the Chelsea Flower Show since the early 1990s.

Jekka McVicar, who has a herb farm near Bristol (, is a member of the RHS council, but chooses to have a bit of fun at Chelsea by including the tiny gnome Borage in her herb garden. In the picture below he is half hidden in the Alchemilla mollis to circumvent the rules, but nonetheless peeps out to make fun of the occasion. Jekka tells me that Borage has been a regular, unobserved feature of her displays over the years. On this occasion, he apparently stayed for the queen’s visit, before being sent home for misbehaviour.

This is nothing to do with hedges, as my editor patiently pointed out to me when I mentioned it in the first draft of the book. But I still like the story, and the great thing about having a blog is that I can talk about whatever I feel like…


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Filed under Garden History, Historical Hedges

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