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A Tribute to Garden Gnomes

Look among the greenery of Germany's lush gardens and you might spot a red-headed gartenzwerg, or garden gnome. These little statues play an important role in German history, they are an important garden tradition and many North American households now love them, bringing life to their gardens.

Garden gnomes first appeared in the 13th century in Anatolia (a vast territory stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea) and reappeared in the 16th century in Italy. The garden gnome first became popular in the 19th century in Germany, in the mining region of Thuringia. Spurred by local myths and increased leisure time, these little gnomes began to find refuge in gardens all over Germany.

Local craftsmen are responsible for the handmade gnomes as we know them, with their shaggy beards and pointed hats. Mass production also comes from Germany. The most famous manufacturers are Philipp Gribel and August Heissner, the latter being known all over the world for his garden gnomes.

Legend has it that they protect gardens and bring them good luck. They also protect the treasures and minerals buried in the ground.