Four years ago Holden Arboretum's Dave Desimone was driving back from a trip to Philadelphia's Longwood Gardens when he started talking to a co-worker about how fun it would be to have life-size garden gnomes at the Holden Arboretum.
"We want to get kids excited about coming out and spending time in the gardens, so we were looking for something more on the whimsical side," says Desimone, director of guest relations and communications.
That car ride conversation evolved into Gnome and Garden, which opens June 19 and features 20 5-foot gnomes created by local artists.
Ron and Margie Hill, for example, drew inspiration from their love of the outdoors and their son's Halloween costume to create Johnny Applegnome — a gnome rendition of the folklore icon.
"We wanted our gnome to be tree and environmental related because the [Holden] Arboretum is all about preserving the trees," Ron says.
Ron and Margie worked for about three weeks between their full-time jobs and other freelance art projects (he's an illustrator, she's a painter) to create Johnny Applegnome. Once the wire frame was set, the gnome was sculpted with putty and then sanded. Margie knocked out the painting in two days.
"We were home on spring break, and she stayed up until 2 a.m. on a Sunday night," Ron says. "I woke up the next morning, and it was like the shoemaker elves were here."
Other gnomes on display include Angela Oster's Oompa Loompa Gnome, a green-bearded, orange-skinned rendition inspired by Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Chris Dillon's Astro-Gnomi is a blue-bearded gnome dressed in an astronaut's suit.
"Garden gnomes are kind of quirky," Desimone says. "To have these 5-foot-tall statues in our garden is comical."