How to Make a Garden Gnome
I like to add a bit of whimsy to the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden whenever possible, especially during the winter months. Last year I created a gnome that I named LeRoy. I had seen a similar idea when I visited a garden center in North Carolina and figured out how to make one of my own for the Ripley Garden. LeRoy greeted visitors all winter long and turned out to be an all-star “staff member” for Smithsonian Gardens. Many wondered how he was constructed so I thought I would share the step-by-step process so you can make a gnome for your own garden. You can also watch a quick video of the process here.
Supplies (most can be found at your local nursery or home improvement store):
- Large bucket, pot, or container
- Conical wire frame
- Mixture of cut evergreen branches (cedar, false cypress, white pine, etc.)
- Floral wire or twine
- Wire cutters
- Accessories (hat, gloves, scarf, nose, etc.)
1. Start your gnome with a 5-gallon bucket or large pot, with drainage holes added if needed. Add some stones or gravel for weight. I used an upside-down conical hanging basket as the frame, but you can also use an upturned round tomato cage as your basic frame, or sturdy chicken wire. Attach the frame securely to the bucket; I used zip-ties.
2. Use thin floral wire, twist-ties, or twine to attach a mixture of evergreen foliage and branches to the frame to cover it completely. I made sure to keep the branches pointing downwards and lightly overlapped for a full, flowing appearance. Harvest branches from your own garden or from your neighbors if you have permission. Never harvest from public areas like parks, roadsides, or public gardens. Christmas tree lots will often give away branches that have been removed from the bottom of trees for free.
3. I created felt mittens and a hat and used old nylons stuffed with some cotton batting to devise a nose. A store-bought hat and children’s gloves work well too if you don’t have time to craft your gnome’s wardrobe. This is your chance to get creative! Maybe your gnome needs a scarf or little shoes poking out from the bottom. Use wire to secure his hat, gloves, and nose in place to the frame.
4. At this point last year, my gnome was almost done…but he was missing something. Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ made the perfect flowing beard! Spanish moss would also create that same effect.
5. Set your bucket in a decorative pot or wrap with fabric or burlap and your gnome is ready to greet visitors to your garden!
Enjoy getting creative and bringing your own garden gnome to life!