That is why gnomes are banned at the Chelsea Flower Show – they fall into that magical, mystical realm of unicorns and dragons and sprites.
But this year, for Chelsea’s 100th birthday, the Royal Horticultural Society has thrown open its figurative arms to welcome these plump little behatted, pipe-smoking fellows, and all for a good cause. They’ve been decorated by celebrities and will be auctioned off on eBay with proceeds going to the RHS Chelsea Centenary Appeal and to benefit the Campaign for School Gardening. Today, on press day at the Chelsea Flower Show, I visited the gnomes – and I wasn’t the only one.
Groups of people continually form and re-form on press day – first, a cluster to the left, then it dissolves and one forms on the right – the place is awash with celebrities. Who could be the cause of this latest crowd? A hot young actress? A recently retired world-famous footballer?
No. It is, in fact, a parade of gnomes brought out of their glass cupboard for this photo-op and lined up in front of an RHS installation that contained a sculpture by Marc Quinn. Whose gnomes are they?
I like the blue and red spots on the hat and wellies of Joanna Lumley’s gnome.
Miranda Richardson – Rita Skeeter to Harry Potter fans, but also Rose Arbuthnot in “Enchanted April,” one of my favorite movies – added a quote to her gnome, which can be read only if you’re handling the guy and can turn him around.
Dame Maggie Smith splashed a lot of color – love the ginger beard – and John Hurt thoughtfully included a flower for his gnome. THIS JUST IN – some eager RHS worker misplaced one of the gnomes. The gnome with the “g” design was not done by Maggie Smith, but by Helen Mirren. I certainly hope someone has corrected the arrangement by now.