The Bath Gardening School

It’s the news that all gardeners in and around the South West of England have been waiting for. The Bath Gardening School is opening this spring, and it is going to be offering a whole range of interesting and diverse gardening courses, suitable for all levels, from beginners to more advanced practitioners. I went along to The Bath Garden Design studio, off of Walcot Street, to meet the founder of the school, Emma Bond.

For those who imagine the attainment of a beautiful and productive garden  to be a fraught endeavour filled with grim, back breaking digging, requiring years of technical know-how and the riches of Croesus to accomplish, Emma is about to bust all the myths attached to what, she feels, should be a pleasurable, life-enhancing and fun activity. After over a decade as a successful garden designer, she decided that Bath needed a gardening school that would be educational and joyful, engaging as many people as possible .

Emma negotiated with the council to use as the school’s base the Minerva Temple, now called The Interpretation Centre, in Royal Victoria Park right in the centre of this wonderful World Heritage City. All around the building are the inspirational Botanical Gardens of Bath, and during each course there will be a tour of them by Glen Humphreys, who has over 30 years experience of their planting and maintenance. Above all, the courses at The Bath Gardening School are about people: each speaker has been chosen for their passion and ability to convey enthusiasm and energy about the wonders of growing your own food, plotting your own borders, keeping bees, photographing gardens and designing that special outdoor space you always wanted, but never thought you were capable of achieving.

Priced at an extremely reasonable £99, the course includes delicious cakes and drinks provided by Made by Ben in Walcot Street, a pub lunch at the nearby Marlborough Tavern, a notebook to take away ideas and plans, and a priceless community spirit. In each course there will be up to 25 keen gardeners and specialists spending a whole day together, beginning at 10.00 a.m and finishing at around 4.00 p.m., chatting about their garden, their experience and their outlook on everything from growing salads, to pruning shrubs, to dealing with gardens pests.

I was personally in a great quandry as to which course I would book myself on. A day with Helen Jermyn, the renowned garden photographer, surely could not be missed? But then I really wanted to learn from the exhuberant James Alexander-Sinclair, who would teach us all about “The English Country Garden”. Should I plump for “Kitchen Gardens for Beginners” with Gillian Carson (the blogger at “My tiny plot”) and Emma herself, or surrender to my apiary yearnings and meet Louis Hodgkin on his “Beekeeping for beginners”? In the end I bought a day with the brilliant Mark Diacono, owner of Britain’s only climate change farm, Otter Farm in Devon, and author of “A taste of the unexpected” (see my earlier book review), as I was so captivated by his exotic, eclectic account of fruit and vegetable growing without geographical boundaries.

Leaving Emma’s studio I could not help but be fired by her infectious excitement and energy. Her talents have been put to such good use in this seminal project, and with the enormous support and following The Bath Gardening School will surely attract, a new chapter has opened in gardening education, a platform for excellence and exchange.

For further details:

Emma Bond

Helen Jermyn

Gillian Carson

Louis Hodgkin

Mark Diacono

James Alexander-Sinclair

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