Bath Gardening Club and Horticultural Society - History

Our History from 1990 to the present

In 1990 Alex and Jennie Wilson started the Bath Gardening Club (BGC). Together with Fred Williams, Kingston Botanical Flower Beds, they chose as the official flower of Bath, the Annual Vinca (pink or white). They wanted a drought resistant, small, and pretty flower. That year a test bed was planted and was very successful. The Vinca was acclaimed as the official flower of Bath and Jennie Wilson has the official letter from the council. Later the Vinca was incorporated in the Bath Coat of Arms.

The first meeting of the BGC was in November, 1990, and was held at the home of Alex and Jennie Wilson. The next meeting was held at Marg Paine's home, by the newly formed BGC to determine the objective. Jack Cowell suggested that it be to beautify Bath, seconded by Stuart Winn. Alex Wilson formed a committee with Stuart Winn and Marg Paine to plan a design for Lions Club Park. About that time the Department of Highways offered the Village 160 trees for planting along Main Street. The stipulation was that the BGC had to plant the trees. As a result, the club, neighbours, prisoners from the Bath Institution, Village employees, and children and teachers from the school organized the job, and the planting was completed on Arbour Day. It was a team effort, with teams working at different locations in the Village. Refreshments were later served in the Old Town Hall.

The Village of Bath had an official opening for Hawley Park, to which some of the Hawley family were invited. The men from the Bath Institution made a wooden sign for the entrance. The BGC purchased two flowering crab apple trees, which were planted on either side of the path. One was white and one was red. Shortly afterwards, Alex Wilson passed away.

Jennie Wilson asked Jack Cowell and his wife Audrey if they would take over the BGC which they agreed to do. In the spring of the following year the BGC designed a memorial garden in Alex's memory in Hawley Park, which was planted with shrubbery.

In 1992 the BGC decided to plant barrels along the highway in the Village. The brewery at Corbyville just north of Belleville was closing at this time, and had some barrels for sale. Paul Lloyd, a neighbour of the Cowells, offered his pick-up truck and made three trips to the brewery to obtain the barrels. They had to be sawed in half and holes drilled in the bottom of each barrel. There were then 24 half barrels which smelled great! Jack and Audrey Cowell, and Rita and Roger Lemieux, collected rocks which they placed in the bottom to keep them in place. The barrels were prepared at the old Bath Garage. They were filled with soil and manure and planted with lovely annuals from Simple Country Pleasures. The workers were treated to coffee and muffins from a couple who were BGC members, Kay and Dennis Rodrigues, who lived near the Cowells. This planting became a tradition from then onwards. 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 their car trunks, and watered the barrels throughout the summer. Over the years, the original wooden barrels have weathered and disintegrated and have been replaced. As of 2018, the BGC maintains 38 barrels along Main Street as well as five iron planters owned by Loyalist Township. Each year the barrels are filled and placed on Main Street, watered and weeded, and maintained all in keeping with the main objectives of the BGC, that of beautifying the Village of Bath.

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 help from the neighbours. Pink and white Vinca were also planted (which had become the official flower of the Village in 1993).

In the same year the BGC also ventured into the idea of building more gardens. The one in Lions Park was started and built by Jack Cowell. It was planted with annuals the first year, and then planted with the Fairy and Pavement roses. The garden was watered by pulling hoses across the highway from the Gutzeit House. The house at that time belonged to the Village of Bath.

In 1994 the BGC's next project was the garden at the top of the hill around the Bath sign. Shrubs were purchased and planted, and a few annuals were added for colour. Two brothers from Bath, Keith and Garth Orchard, repainted the sign.

Another project was the garden at the Old Town Hall, which belonged to the Village of Bath. The BGC built boxes to keep it tidy, and they were planted with annuals. Eventually two flowering shrubs and two evergreens were planted in the boxes.

Eventually Loyalist Township took over the care and maintenance of many of the gardens.

Last but not least, the BGC decided to take on the gardens at the Gutzeit House which had been neglected for many years. The workers uncovered the circular garden which was planted with a number of small trees and perennials. It was decided to move all from this garden and start the garden on the north side of the house. This was quite a chore as some huge boulders were found. The town helped to move these with their heavy equipment. Audrey Cowell found a design in a book of hers, written by Gertrude Jekyll. Gertrude wrote: “Suddenly entering the gold garden, even on the dullest day, will be like coming into sunshine.” It was a yellow garden, and called for Stella Doro lilies. They were eventually located at Linda William's Nursery at Glenburnie. The hedge was yellow potentilla. Roy Johnson, who lived at the west end of Bath gave the BGC some of these shrubs, and the club bought the rest. As well as the Stellas, coneflower “Goldsturm”, and Blanket Flower “Goblin” were used. That same year, a few more trees were planted in Hawley Park by BGC members.

One of the members, Clare Rogers, spent many hours pruning the trees and shrubs at the Gutzeit House. Tuesdays were when members met to care for the gardens, which continues on to the present. Another member, Joan Grimes, painted a banner which was used at BGC meetings, and in the Canada Day Parade. The BGC floats which were entered in the Parade were lots of fun to assemble, and the club was fortunate to win a couple of trophies as a result.

These projects were all a labour of love, and with many dedicated members and lots of fun, the group felt that the members were the forerunners of the Bath Gardening Club today.

The group met once a month to exchange helpful tips from each other, about their gardens. There was the annual planting day for the barrels. An open meeting was held once a year and a speaker was invited. The annual Christmas dinner was held at the Old Town Hall, as a potluck dinner. Wreaths, tablecloths, and other decorations were made. Also a Christmas Tree was decorated.

Over the years things have changed somewhat, but the goal of the BGC has never altered. The Bath Gardening Club is still working on keeping the Village as beautiful as ever.

In 2013 we joined the prestigious Ontario Horticultural Association. In 2013 we also completed the creation of our own website to coincide with that event. We commissioned talented local artist, Shirley Miller of Amherst Island to create the wonderful collage of Bath landmarks that you see depicted in the graphics on the homepage.

In 2017, with the permission of Loyalist Township, the BGC built an insect hotel on Township property behind Bath Public School. The school was invited to name the construction and Mrs. Hay’s Grade 1 class named it the “Bath Bugtel”. A pollinator garden was planted around the insect hotel and is maintained by volunteer members of the BGC. A rain barrel, donated by a member of the BGC, was placed nearby and used for watering the garden.

Over the years and continues today during the holiday season, members of the BGC make holiday wreaths or swags with large red bows that are installed by the Township staff on the telephone poles up and down Main Street. The members of the BGC also decorate the storefronts with greenery and boughs with large red bows.