Yes, Bob Dylan, you are correct. The times, they are indeed a-changin’: the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is launching a men’s fashion line, an accomplished screen actor is eschewing indoor plumbing, and your grandmother in Spokane is legally devouring a plate of pot brownies at this very moment. It’s a lot to digest, I know, but let us also consider the radical changes afoot at the stuffiest/most celebrated annual garden show in the U.K. and perhaps the entire world:

Following decades of strife and indignation, the Royal Horticultural Society has decided at long last to allow the common garden gnome to partake in the Chelsea Flower Show. Throughout the 100-year history of the prestigious event, the slightly terrifying ceramic figurines of German extraction have been officially banned, their very presence verboten.

wooden gnomeShunned from the Chelsea Flower Show because of their lowly and "distracting" status, generations of pipe-smoking humanoids in pointy red caps have been forced to take up other occupations outside of the garden such as serving as travel website mascots or acting in children's films. Some have turned to erotic literature (I’ll let you search for that one yourselves) while countless others have been liberated or migrated to Italy. A select few have gone completely insane. Most have opted just to stroke their long white beards, go fishing, or simply nap it out.

At the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show, however, garden gnomes won’t only be welcomed for the first time ever — they’ll be celebrated. In fact, 150 of the previously dismissed “brightly coloured mythical creatures” will be lined up for inspection by the queen. Others will be decorated by a host of celebrities including the Dowager Countess herself, Maggie Smith, before being auctioned off to benefit the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

Sue Biggs, director-general of the Royal Horticultural Society, tells the Daily Mail that although the acceptance of garden gnomes in the show's displays has managed to “raise a few eyebrows,” the decision to lift the long-standing ban was unanimously approved by a 17-member council: “It is important for people to realise we have got a sense of humour and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There was not one gnomophobe on the council.’

Naturally, garden gnomes themselves are delighted with this change of heart as are the gnome-loving gardeners that participate in the Chelsea Flower Show. This includes Jekka McVicar, a multiple medal-winning horticulturist and pro-gnome activist who caused a bit of a fuss when she snunk a contraband piece of statuary named Borage into her 2009 display.

A jubilant McVicar — she's somewhat of a big deal in the world of organic herb gardening — tells the Daily Mail: “It’s great news. I am so excited I’m going to give Borage a new jacket. It’s beige at the moment but it’s going to be bright green with pink spots. There’s no need for camouflage any more. It really shows how far the RHS has evolved. When Borage was spotted in my garden, it caused a real stir and I was met with a lot of stony silences from colleagues. But it really is harmless fun. At last the RHS has grown up and recognised that garden gnomes are for all."

Although garden gnomes have scored a major triumph at the Chelsea Flower Show, other magical woodland creatures — namely fairies and pixies — are still prohibited from appearing in displays at the event.

The centenary Chelsea Flower Show runs May 21–25 on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.

Related post on MNN: What can a garden gnome tell us about shifts in Earth's gravity?

Via [The Daily Mail]

Inset photo of wooden gnome: Shutterstock

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Gnome hard feelings: Wee humanoids finally allowed at Chelsea Flower Show
After decades of getting the cold shoulder, garden gnomes will at long last be recognized at the world's most famous garden show.