I purchased an overgrown lot in 2019 that sits on a very visible Colorado corner, with the intention of turning this eyesore into a community garden. As 2020 took its pandemic toll on everyone, and my neighborhood bookstore closed, I realized that I needed to make the space more literary-minded, to fill a gap and to keep books accessible to the downtown area of my small city. Thus was born a community literary garden, filled with benches, Little Free Libraries sorted by genre, a self-serve coffee carafe, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor stage, picnic tables … and gnomes.
The gnomes are popular with the neighborhood kids (especially the solar gnomes that light up in the evening), but the gnome names are already on their way to becoming local lore and legend. Let me introduce some of my favorites.
I have to start off with Genome (or G-nome … or G-gnome?) because he was my first gnome. He somehow managed to find his way back and forth across the U.S. with me, traveling from Seattle to Boston to San Francisco to Boulder, for no apparent reason. Eventually, it seemed I would never be rid of him, so I might as well get some mileage out of him. He’s a little faded and chipped these days, but he’s the one who started off the whole collection.
I have a plethora of solar-lit gnomes that light walkways at night. My favorite is Gnome N. Clature, shown above, keeping guard over the invasive, never-ending bindweeds (blargh). He collects sunlight during the day, and at night, his little lights skitter in his jar like tiny fireflies.
My other favorite solar-lit dude is Gnome de Plume, my French gnome guarding the wild rhubarb. He gathers sun during the day to light his adorable cut-out shapes at night.
And guarding the succulents is Gnomad, hitching a ride on Archimedes. I’m a huge fan of owls, so I have a special place in my heart for these two. Gnomad is probably my favorite gnome of all of them, though it’s hard to choose (and a mother should never choose favorites among her children!).
Throughout the garden, everywhere that I’ve planted bulbs, I stick watering spikes into the ground. These terra cotta spikes catch rain and sprinkler water, fill up, and then release the water in a slow drip into the bulb roots to keep them moist throughout a very dry, hot summer day. Among the watering spikes are many gnome spikes, including (in the picture on the above left) Gnome Chomsky, and on the right: Gnoman Bates in the rear and Gnomer Pyle in the forefront. (I do apologize that my little guys are rather U.S.-centric for this U.K. blog, but hey!, gnome love is universal! They are named after Noam Chomsky, Norman Bates, and Gomer Pyle, respectively.)
And last for now, guarding the corner of the community vegetable greenhouse, is The Great Catsby, keeping the naughty gnomes in check. Here, trying to steal my cucumbers, are Gnomer Simpson, Abby Gnomal, Joey Ragnome, and Sherlock Gnomes. (The U.S.-centric names come from Homer Simpson, Abby Normal, and Joey Ramone.) Just out of sight is my only female gnome (I know, I know!), Miss Gnomer. I’m working on adding more ladies to the bunch, though I’ve been told by my partner that I can’t add any more gnomes to the garden until I actually add some flowers. Sigh. We’ll see how long that arrangement lasts.
Massive thanks to Leah for sharing this amazing garden with us, a wonderful way to bring Gnomes to the community and to help with their rather slow takeover of planet Earth. Leah Angstman is the author of the debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA (Regal House, January 2022), and the editor-in-chief of Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine. Find her at leahangstman.com and all over social media as @leahangstman.