Bath Gardening Club and Horticultural Society - History

Our History - from 1990 to the present

The Bath Gardening Club (BGC) was formed by Alex and Jennie Wilson in 1990. One of their first initiatives was to designate an official flower for Bath. Together with Fred Williams, a Kingston botanist, they chose the pink or white annual Vinca as the official flower. With its drought resistant properties, this pretty flowering plant proved very successful in a trial planting in 1990. The Village Council proclaimed Vinca the official flower of Bath in 1993, and later incorporated a design of the flower in the Coat of Arms.

The first meeting of the newly formed BGC was held in November 1990 at the home of Alex and Jennie Wilson. The main purpose was to determine the Club’s objective, and Jack Cowell’s proposal to beautify the Village of Bath was adopted as the goal.

For their initial project, Alex Wilson formed a committee with Stuart Winn and Marg Paine to design a plan for Lions Club Park. At that time the Department of Highways offered the Village a selection of 160 trees with the understanding that the BGC would plant the trees along Main Street. As a result, the Club organized a major tree planting project with help from participating residents, Village employees, children and teachers from Bath Public School, and Bath Institution inmates. The team successfully planted trees at different 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, and invited members of the Hawley family, descendants of one of the first families to settle in Bath, to attend the ceremony. Inmates from the Bath Institution built a sign for the park entrance, and the BGC donated two flowering crab apple trees, one red and one white, that were planted on either side of the path.

Later that year, Alex Wilson passed away, and Jennie Wilson asked Jack and Audrey Cowell if they would take over the leadership of the BGC. In the spring of 1993 the BGC designed a memorial garden in Alex's memory in Hawley Park and planted the beds with perennial shrubs. Over the years, a few more trees were planted in Hawley Park by BGC members.

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 offered his pick-up truck and made three trips to the site to obtain the barrels. The barrels were sawed in half, resulting in 24 sweetly smelling half barrels! At the old Bath Garage the barrels were prepared for planting. Audrey Cowell and Rita and Roger Lemieux collected and placed rocks in the barrels to keep them stable, and the barrels were filled with soil and planted with colourful annuals. The volunteers were treated to coffee and muffins by Kay and Dennis Rodrigues, BGC members.

The Main Street barrel planting became an annual spring tradition. For the first couple of years, Jack and Audrey Cowell, as well as Rita and Roger Lemieux, filled large pails of water at their homes, put them in the trunks of their vehicles, and watered the barrels throughout the summer.

A later enterprise was devised by Garth Dingman who built a wagon with a large container that could be filled at the Township’s water tap. The four-wheeled water wagon also comprised a pump, water hoses and watering wand. A similar wagon was built to water the gardens at the Fairfield-Gutzeit House. Over the years, the original barrels disintegrated and have been replaced with resin barrels.

Water WagonMain Street Water Wagon

Currently, the BGC plants flowers in 44 barrels along Main Street and in five iron planters owned by Loyalist Township. Every spring the barrels are filled and placed on Main Street by BGC volunteers, and watered, weeded and maintained in keeping with the main objectives of the BGC - beautifying the Village of Bath.

In 1993 the BGC members were eager to create more garden spaces. The garden in Lions Park was started by Jack Cowell. It was planted with annuals the first year, and later with roses, featuring the pink Fairy and hardy Pavement rose varieties.

The garden at the entrance to Country Club Drive was also a project of the BGC. It was planted with annuals for many years and cared for with the help of residents.

In 1994, the BGC's next project was to build a garden at the east entrance to Bath at the top of the hill near the welcome sign to Bath. Shrubs and colourful annuals were planted, and Keith and Garth Orchard repainted the Village sign.

Another project was the building of garden boxes on either side of the entrance to the Bath Museum, the former Town Hall on Main Street. Flowering annuals, and later flowering shrubs and two evergreens were planted in the boxes. Eventually Loyalist Township took over the care and maintenance of this plot and other gardens that had been started by the BGC.

A rewarding challenge undertaken by the BGC members was the restoration of gardens at the Fairfield-Gutzeit House. Volunteer workers uncovered a circular garden containing small trees and perennials. It was decided to move this garden and replant it on the north side of the house. This was a major effort and the Township helped by providing heavy equipment to move huge boulders that were uncovered in the process.

Audrey Cowell discovered an appealing garden design in a book by Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist. Gertrude wrote: “Suddenly entering the gold garden, even on the dullest day, will be like coming into sunshine.” It was a yellow garden, and it called for Stella Doro lilies. These plants were located at Linda William's Nursery in Glenburnie, and a hedge was planted with yellow Potentilla, a gift from Roy Johnson, a Bath resident. In addition, coneflower “Goldsturm” and Blanket Flower “Goblin” were incorporated into the yellow garden.

Clare Rogers, a BGC member, spent many hours pruning the trees and shrubs at the Fairfield-Gutzeit House. Eventually members began to meet on Tuesdays to care for the gardens, and this tradition continues today.

Joan Grimes, a BGC member, painted a banner that was displayed at meetings and on BGC parade floats in Bath’s Canada Day parades. BGC members enjoyed their teamwork in assembling parade floats over the years, and many of the Club’s impressive floats were awarded trophies.

The group continued to meet once a month to exchange helpful tips about gardening and to hear talks by invited speakers. In past years the Club also hosted an annual potluck Christmas dinner at the former Town Hall. Over the years things have changed somewhat, but the goal of the BGC has never altered. The Bath Gardening Club is still working to keep the Village as beautiful as ever.

The BGC supports the care and maintenance of the Denys Mailhiot Bridge Garden located on Main Street along the bridge on the western entrance to Bath. In addition, the Bath Sunday Market in Centennial Park is organized by the Club from May to September, and the Club holds an annual Plant and Fertilizer Sale every spring in Centennial Park.

In 2013 the BGC joined the prestigious Ontario Horticultural Association, and to coincide with that event the Club launched its website. Shirley Miller, a local artist from Amherst Island, designed the wonderful collage of Bath landmarks depicted on the homepage.

In 2017 the BGC built an innovative insect hotel on Loyalist Township property behind Bath Public School, with the permission of the Township. The students were invited to provide a name for the structure, and Mrs. Hay’s Grade 1 class dubbed it the “Bath Bugtel”, the name that was chosen. A pollinator garden was planted around the insect hotel that is maintained by volunteer members of the BGC. A rain barrel, donated by a member of the BGC, was placed nearby and is used 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 a team puts together boughs of pine and spruce with large red bows that Township staff hang on the light standards along Main Street. Carol singing continues to be an annual December tradition hosted by the BGC in Centennial Park.

The Bath Gardening Club is a volunteer organization with about 100 members who welcome others to join and share in the enjoyment of gardening and related activities.