This year marks the 40th anniversary of Memorial University's Botanical Garden.

As a way to recognize the occasion, the public is invited to come out and try to find 40 gnomes — and their little houses that are scattered throughout the park.

Botanical garden director Kim Shipp says she's totally immersed herself in the project.

"It turns out we've had, for the last 40 years, gnomes helping work in the garden. And this year they've decided to come out and celebrate with us," Shipp said.

"We've sort of seen traces of little red hats poking out in here, and the horticulturists have been trying to weed them out, but they kept going back into hiding. But then this winter we saw the tracks in the snow, and they decided it was their time."

Shipp said it's taken a lot of work by dedicated volunteers to bring the idea to fruition.

Linda Smith

Linda Smith has been a volunteer at the garden for 20 years. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

"We have an incredible group of volunteers here, and when we talked about the idea, and chatted with the gnomes, the volunteers got really excited and really creative."

Volunteer Barry Jeffries has been busy carving the gnomes.

 "I like to whittle away at wood and see what's inside of it. Sometimes you find a gnome," Jeffries said, adding the mythical creatures vary in size.

'It turns out we've had, for the last 40 years, gnomes helping work in the garden.' - MUN Botanical Garden's Kim Shipp

"The smallest ones are about three to four inches; the biggest ones are probably eight or nine. And gnomes sometimes have face issues, so I tend to prefer gnomes that are smaller."

Another volunteer, Toby Rivers, took on a different task. "I've been making gnome houses, and I knew nothing about this before I started," he said.

"So I went on the internet and there's masses of gnome houses there ... I got the idea of how to make them and I followed my own directions."

Linda Smith has been a volunteer at the garden for 20 years.

Little pink gnome home

This little pink gnome house is waiting to be discovered in the MUN Botanical Garden. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

Smith said she's part of the carpentry group of volunteers, and was asked to contribute something to the Gnome Quest.

She decided to add a Newfoundland touch to the project by commissioning a miniature fishing shed for a gnome to live in.

"If you think attaching clapboard to a house takes a lot of time, attaching it to a miniature house takes a ton of time," said Smith. 

"And the guys built this big wharf for it to float on because it's supposed to go into the pond."  

'I think I'm certifiable gnome nuts now.' - Linda Smith

She was also asked to make doors for the gnome houses and got a little carried away.

"I think I'm certifiable gnome nuts now."

Friends of the Garden

Gayle Piercey is president of The Friends of the Garden volunteer organization, and also a longtime member of the carpentry group.

"We meet during the fall and winter months, and we do projects for the garden as well as our own society," Piercey said.

"When Kim suggested that perhaps we could do some gnome doors we decided it would be a great opportunity to recycle all this unused material into something useful."

Gnome Quest is scheduled to take place Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Families are encouraged to search for the 40 gnome homes, and make gnome hats and doors to see if they can attract gnomes into their own gardens.

The gnomes and their homes will be residing in the garden all season.

With files from Alyson Samson