The Bath Gardening Club (BGC) was formed by Alex and Jennie Wilson in November 1990 with the objective to beautify the Village of Bath. One of the first initiatives was to designate an official flower for Bath. Together with Fred Williams, a Kingston botanist, the members chose the pink or white annual Vinca Catharanthus roseus. With its drought resistant properties, this plant proved very successful in a trial planting in 1990. The Village Council proclaimed Vinca the official flower of Bath in 1993, and incorporated this flower in the Bath Coat of Arms.
For their initial project, Alex Wilson formed a committee with Stuart Winn and Marg Paine to design a garden plan for the Village. At that time the Department of Highways offered the Village a selection of 160 trees to plant along Main Street. As a result, the Club organized a tree planting project with help from residents, Village employees, children and teachers from Bath Public School, and Bath Institution inmates. The team planted the trees at various locations in the Village, and a reception to celebrate the accomplishment was held in the Old Town Hall on Arbour Day.
In 1992 the Village of Bath officially opened Hawley Park, named after descendants of one of the first families to settle in Bath, and invited members of the Hawley family to the ceremony. Bath Institution inmates built the park sign, and the Club planted two flowering crab apple trees, one red and one white, at the entrance. Later that year Alex Wilson passed away, and Jennie Wilson asked Jack and Audrey Cowell if they would take over the leadership of the Club. In the spring of 1993 the Club designed a memorial garden in Alex’s memory in Hawley Park and planted the beds with perennials. Over the years other trees have been planted in Hawley Park.
In 1992 the BGC embarked on a plan to beautify Bath by planting flowers along Main Street. At that time, the distillery in Corbyville north of Belleville was closing and selling barrels. Paul Lloyd made three trips in his pick-up truck to load up the whisky barrels. When sawed in half, the Club had 24 sweetly smelling barrels! At the former Bath Garage, Audrey Cowell, Rita and Roger Lemieux and others planted the barrels with colourful annuals. The volunteers were treated to coffee by Kay and Dennis Rodrigues, Club members.
Planting flowers for Main Street became an annual spring tradition that continues today. During the first few summers, Jack and Audrey Cowell, and Rita and Roger Lemieux, carried large pails of water in their vehicles to the barrels, and hand watered all the plants. Another method was devised by Garth Dingman who built a wagon to hold a large container, pump, hose and wand, that he used to wheel water from the Township building to each of the barrels.
Now every spring, the BGC maintains flowering plants in about fifty barrels along Main Street, and in five iron planters owned by Loyalist Township. The volunteers water and weed the flowers in keeping with the main objective of the BGC – to beautify the Village of Bath.
By 1993 the BGC members were eager to create more garden spaces. The garden in Centennial Park was started by Jack Cowell, and was planted with annuals and the roses pink Fairy and the hardy Pavement variety. The garden at the entrance to Country Club Drive was initially a Club project and was maintained by residents for many years.
In 1994, the BGC embarked on another garden project to plant shrubs and annuals on the east side of Bath at the top of the hill beside the welcome sign to the Village. The Club also built the garden boxes at the entrance to the Bath Museum, formerly the Town Hall. Flowering annuals, shrubs and two evergreens were planted. Club members continue to maintain this garden.
A rewarding challenge undertaken by the BGC members was to restore the garden on the Fairfield-Gutzeit heritage property. When volunteers discovered an overgrown circular garden containing small shrubs and perennials, they decided to move these plants to the north side of the house facing Main Street. One of the new Fairfield-Gutzeit gardens was suggested by Audrey Cowell, who was inspired by a yellow garden design by Gertrude Jekyll, the famous British horticulturalist. It called for Stella Doro lilies, and these were available from Linda William’s Nursery in Glenburnie. A hedge was planted with yellow Potentilla, a gift from Roy Johnson, a Bath resident. Coneflower Goldsturm and Blanket Flower Goblin were also added to the yellow garden. Clare Rogers, a Club member, spent many hours pruning the trees and shrubs at the Fairfield-Gutzeit House, and other members would also care for those gardens. Eventually Loyalist Township took over the maintenance of some of these gardens.
The founding Club members continued to meet and exchange helpful tips about gardening and to hear talks by invited speakers. The Club often held a potluck Christmas dinner at the former Town Hall. Over the years things have changed, but the goal of the BGC has never altered. The Bath Gardening Club is still working to keep the Village as beautiful as ever.
Since 2010 the BGC has provided support and care for the maintenance of the Denys Mailhiot Memorial Garden located on Main Street along the bridge at the western entrance to Bath. Denys was one of the first members of the Bath Community Revitalization Committee.
The Bath Sunday Market in Centennial Park that operates from May to September has been organized and managed by the Club for several years. In 2019 the Club also managed a Saturday community market in Amherstview. In addition, the annual spring plant and fertilizer sale held in Centennial Park is very popular, as is the fall plant sale that is sometimes presented.
In 2013 the BGC joined the prestigious Ontario Horticultural Association, and to coincide with that event the Club launched its website. Shirley Miller, an artist from Amherst Island, designed and sketched the wonderful collage of Bath landmarks depicted on the website.
In 2017 the BGC built an insect hotel on Loyalist Township property behind the Bath Public School. The students were invited to provide a name for the structure, and the winning submission was from Mrs. Hay’s Grade 1 class who dubbed it the “Bath Bugtel”. A pollinator garden was planted around the Bugtel and a rain barrel was donated by a Club member for watering the garden.
During the holiday season, members of the BGC help to decorate the planters on Main Street with greenery and bows, and Township staff hang wreaths on the light standards along Main Street. Carol singing continues to be an annual December tradition hosted by the Club in Centennial Park. Carollers are encouraged to bring donations for the Bath Food Bank.
The first edition of our Club’s online newsletter appeared in Summer 2020. Issued seasonally, the newsletter presents current gardening trends and events, gardening tips, recipes and colourful photographs.
The Club boasts a fabulous Facebook page and a revised website that was launched in January 2021.
The Bath Gardening Club has continued to flourish for more than thirty years as a volunteer organization.
With about 100 members from Bath and surrounding areas, we welcome others to join the Club for the pleasures of gardening and sharing the enjoyment of learning.