Notes from the Potting Shed 2015

2015 centenary garden design

DSC_0001Bath Women’s Institute Centenary Edible Garden

It is an important year for the Bath Women’s Institute as we celebrate one hundred years of inspiring women. The Garden is looking forward to getting all dressed up and hoping to look its best for old friends and new.

Our 2015 garden of edible plants takes its creative lead from its roots in North Wales, and down through the years to today’s digital age. It is an exciting year, and the garden is going to be very busy playing its part. It will be welcoming the community to share and be inspired by the flowers, herbs and vegetables that grow there, or to sit peacefully on the lovely bench, a tranquil haven in a busy world. We hope the design brings memories of old embroidered pictures, framed, and hung on the sitting room walls.

The Women’s Institute began in Anglesey, and we hope that our little vegetable patch of potatoes represent those roots, and the leeks pay tribute to Wales.  Our hollyhocks bring back memories of cottage gardens, and the sweet peas’ pretty flowers and heady scent evocative of long summer days . Our tomato ‘grove’, a favourite with children, shows them where ‘tomatoes come from’, those tall plants, yellow flowers, and ripening fruit are fun to watch, as are the runner beans as they race each other up the wigwams. The WI bath is filled to the brim with camomile, which bubbles merrily away, and loves all the attention it gets from the many visitors. These same visitors like to name the many herbs that are growing here, such as fennel, rosemary, thyme, bay and sage, all with their ancient medicinal uses, and importance in cooking today.

     Our dahlias may surprise you, as until Victorian times , they were eaten as a vegetable, their tubers an alternative to carrots or potatoes. But now let’s be up to date with the lollo rosso lettuces, in deep purple and lime green, and the big smile of rainbow chard, a bit flashy, like the laptops and Xboxes of today! We end with a cheerful smile of nasturtiums, their flowers look lovely on salads, and their seeds delicious pickled as capers.

The Bath WI, and its garden, uphold the ethos of the Women’s Institute, with its inclusivity, involvement in the community, and inspiration mixed with fun. We hope that you will come and visit, the garden is excited about the new design, and loving having so much to look forward to.

Notes from the potting shed: January 2015

DSC_0001It’s January 2015, the weather is cold, the ground is wet and the Bath WI edible garden is very happy! It is having a lovely Winter break, relishing the period of frosts and enjoying the reviving West Country rain.

There is a busy year ahead, this being the centenary of the Women’s Institute in Britain, and the garden is looking forward to the new plans for its own part in the celebrations.

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One of the plants already on its starting blocks is the herb Angelica. So named after the Angel that appeared ti a monk in a dream many centuries ago, revealing to him that the herb could cure the plague, and thus being know as angelica ever since.


It is a peaceful time to be tending the garden, with a chance to trim the rosemary hedges without interference from those limelight loving marigolds or racy radishes! The rosemary now has a chance to grow and expand and show off its two horseshoe shapes that define each end of the garden.

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For the moment it’s a chance for rest and renewal and to let the frost settle on the remaining vegetables and herbs forming a glittering kaleidoscope in the Winter sunshine.


Notes from the Potting Shed – February 2015

It is February and the edible garden is wearing a soft fluffy white shawl, feeling rather glamorous and enjoying being tucked up to dream away the short Winter days. It is a peaceful time for the garden, a time to reflect on past glories and to plan future fun.

potting shed Feb 1

Our gardening guru planted the Women’s Institute centenary rose back in October and she has come to make sure it is cosy and comfortable and that it likes its new home. We are all looking forward to admiring the first blooms of this very special rose.

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The fennel is pleased that it was not trimmed back in the Autumn; it has stretched its long brittle arms skywards, and it is proud of how tall it grew, rivalling the nearby trees. It hopes to grow tall again next year.

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Fennel was well known to the ancients, who observed that serpents rubbed against the plant to sharpen their sight, and also ate it when casting off their old skins, and the herb has been used for medicinal purposes thereafter. Fennel was introduced to Britain during the Roman occupation and was cultivated for its aromatic fruit and succulent edible roots.


Spring may be just around the corner, but Winter has a special magic and beauty of its own and is one of the garden’s favourite times of the year.

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Notes from the Potting Shed – March 2015

It is March, the weather is warm and sunny, and the Bath WI Edible garden has woken refreshed from its winter slumbers, and is ready to get busy ! There is lots to do; the Garden Team have dug, cleared, tidied, and turned the soil, all ready for planting. A four legged friend has come to inspect their work, give advice, and try out the stepping stones that were laid last year.


Our Garden Gurus have created and planted our beautiful new sign.


The sign tells the visitors about the garden, welcomes them, invites them to relax on the lovely bench, and hopes that they enjoy the peace, and the plants.


Our Dahlia Diva is pleased with her new proteges; and has brought along one of her mature Dahlias from last year who is keen to show off her beautiful tubers and be an inspiration to the new arrivals.



Dahlias are natives of the high plains of Mexico, and were an important food source, tasting like a cross between carrots, celery and potatoes. The Aztecs used them to treat epilepsy, and the long hollow stalks of the tallest dahlias made useful water pipes. The plant came to Europe over 200 years ago and were then named after a famous botanist, Anders Dahl. The Victorians thought it was very beautiful, wanted it in their flower borders, and it has been used for its flowers ever since.


The garden is full of plans for the summer, and loving all the attention its getting; Spring is in the air!

Notes from the Potting Shed – April 2015

April in the garden is such a happy time, and our Gardening Gurus can’t wait to fill every corner with their colourful ‘happenings‘. The garden knew that it was going to get lots of attention, and loves the new arrivals; the sweet peas, leeks, potatoes, hollyhocks and lots more ! And now that the beautiful Ironart bench has been washed, scrubbed, and repainted, the haven feels even more special.

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Our Rainbow Chard Charmer has grown dozens of beautiful plants, which will form a stunning rainbow of colour in front of the bench. Chard is one of the most healthful vegetables available, has been around for centuries, being first written about in 1753, and is a cultivated descendant of the sea beet. Our visitors love to photograph its deeply ridged leaves, and glowing colourful stalks.

21 april 2

We are lucky that our friend Su, has arrived to weave a lovely necklace of willow crescents around the garden. Beauty and practicality, the perfect combination !


The Camomile in the bath is ready to send its pretty daisy-like flowers bubbling upwards. This very special herb was used in ancient Egypt as a cure for many ailments including fever, and the crushed flowers were rubbed on the skin as a cosmetic. It was brought to England by a botanist who found it growing wild in the Coliseum. It helps to ease stress and insomnia and many of us enjoy a cup of soothing camomile tea.

21 april 3

The Garden loves to be busy, and is relishing the hustle and bustle of new planting, the vigour of the herbs, who are loving this hot dry weather, and the feeling of renewal and anticipation that abounds at this time of year.


Notes from the Potting Shed – May 2015

Our garden has been having a busy time, with lots going on – it’s the growing season! In April we saw the dahlias in their little pots next to the mature tubers; well, our Diva has now planted them out and they look wonderful. What a difference a month makes! The nasturtiums have popped their heads up, the potatoes are ridged with lots of leaves growing atop the soil, the leeks are slowly bulking up, and peas and beans abound. Peas and beans are delicious, and have been getting lots of attention from the inquisitive wildlife in the Botanical Gardens! So we have replanted and replanted and now each little bean wears a protective tube of wire mesh. (very fetching!)

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Our friends are visiting the garden; the Hollyhock Heroine wants to check on the plants she started growing last Summer – they are doing well.


She is upholding a tradition that dates back to the beginnings of history, having been found on a grave that was more than 50,000 years old! Later on the Tudors used dried hollyhock roots in their wine to stave off blood clots, it was thought to protect against lung disease, and the Chinese used it in many of their recipes. It is a plant that is both beautiful and with such a long tradition.

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Our Pea Princess brings dozens of plants that she has grown, and that are now ready to be put in at the base of the willow domes. Peas were among the first crops cultivated by man; first found where they still grow wild, in North West India and Afghanistan. It has been an important staple throughout history, and we are looking forward to watching these climb upwards and hopefully crop well!

may potting shed3

George the spaniel loves his visits to the garden, he enjoys sniffing the herbs, and making himself useful keeping those furry nibblers at bay! Every day there are changes, the rainbow chard has grown, the angelica is positively stately, and the rose is romping away. We need the rain, but prefer the sunshine, and are lucky to be getting both!



Notes from the Potting Shed – June 2015

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June has been great fun for the Bath Women’s Institute Edible Garden, it seems as if everything that could happen, has happened ! Those little seedlings, the tiny hollyhocks, the gentle pillows of camomile all looked at the sun, drank in the showers of rain, and ‘ went for it ‘ ! Thus this month, the plants themselves take centre stage…

The Angelica is a real show woman!

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The Chard really is the colours of the rainbow

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Diva Dahlia, the bees favourite…

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Rosa New Dawn, everyone’s favourite !

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But the leeks and potatoes take centre stage !

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Our Garden is bursting with vegetables, herbs and flowers, such a happy sight on a warm summers day.

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Notes from the Potting Shed – July 2015


July has all been about the Garden putting on its ‘Best in Show’ face for the Bath Women’s Institute Centenary Garden Party. All that planning, planting, tying in and tending paid off, and what a colourful kaleidoscope of flowers, herbs and vegetables presented itself to the guests on that perfect hot evening in July.


On 9th July the Garden was judged as part of the RHS Bath in Bloom national competition. The famous plantsman and Chelsea 2015 Gold Medal Winner, Jon Wheatley, met Jean and Kitty from the Garden Team at the Garden as part of his judging. We were very lucky as he said some very kind things, and that our Garden was ‘ exactly what it should be’ full of wonderful plants, and with lots of vegetables that would be of particular interest to children. Sigh of relief, ( the hour and a half spent by three of the Team snipping every bit of dead thatch out of the chives had obviously paid off!)


Another happy Event ! The WI Centenary Rose, Inspiration, planted by Jess , was in full bloom ! And it’s a real beauty !


Everyone has a favourite plant, and its fun to look at everything growing in the WI garden and decide whats yours. Is mine the hollyhocks? or those wigwams of peas ? How can one choose when everything looks so lovely !



Notes from the Potting Shed – August 2015


August has been a fun month for the Bath WI Edible Garden! It’s been a ‘happening‘ month, and the garden has basked in summer sunshine, blossomed and bloomed, had lots of visitors, and another judging by the RHS as part of the Champion of Champions competition. Jess and Sally were there to meet the judges and tell them all about their work, and the ideas for the centenary garden.

Kitty photos4

One of our garden gurus has come to check on the tomatoes that she planted, but has been waylaid by this lovely hollyhock! Hollyhocks can easily have that effect on you! The bees have been loving them, and the dahlias; ours is an edible garden, and we know that the bees need feeding too.


Our little welsh vegetable patch, a tribute to the first Women’s Institute in 1915, has done really well! Those second earlies, Jardine, were ready for liberating – and what fun we had! Can you guess how many potatoes those two little rows yielded? A whopping 43 pounds! And as you can see, they were very beautiful indeed.

After that we sat on the lawn, had a glass of lemonade, and a yummy cupcake, and did what we should all do from time to time, relaxed. admired the plants, and just enjoyed being there.

Kitty Lambah and the Garden Team.


Notes from the Potting Shed – September 2015

September has been a magical month for the Bath Women’s Institute Edible Garden! It had a centre page spread in the September issue of WI Life Magazine, featuring our annual July Garden Party. There were glasses of fizz, delicious nibbles, and colourful yarn bombing setting the scene on a glorious hot summers’ evening. The beautiful photographs showed the garden in all its July glory, the nasturtiums sizzled, the beans bounced, and the guests relaxed on our bench in this sylvan setting .

WI Life

Our Garden is very photogenic, and we are so lucky that our talented photographer Guru has such a wonderful eye for catching the bees as they feast on the nectar, seeing the sunlight reflected on a bright red stalk of rainbow chard, or capturing the bath’s camomile bubbles as they float on the breeze. She puts her beautiful photographs on our websites for all to enjoy, and the Garden is thankful that because of her, all its loveliness is seen by so many who cannot visit the Garden in person.


The iconic BBC gardening programme Gardeners’ World featured Our Garden on September 11th ! Yes, our wonderful WI Edible Garden was chosen as part of a Gardeners’ World special feature on the Centenary of the Women’s Institute in Britain ! What an accolade, and what excitement! Our Gurus rose to the occasion, and the Garden was so proud to be filmed both in situ, and also, later, some of its runner beans were picked and pickled in true WI fashion! And of course, they were pronounced ‘ quite delicious ‘ by Rachel de Thame, the lovely presenter. A huge Well Done to every one of our talented Garden Team who have created this beautiful Garden; now “as seen on TV“!




Very Special Notes from the Potting Shed November 2015

It has been a wonderful Centenary Year for the Bath WI Edible Garden. And what a lovely time we at Bath WI have all had. Starting with our Centenary Design, our sowing of seeds, our planting and tending, and fun and laughter around the lovely Garden.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, with a few setbacks early on! But isn’t that all part of the joy of gardening? Nature showing us who is really in charge ? But our creative Garden Team (fondly known as The Gurus!) took the Centenary Design and turned it into 3D! (and you didn’t need special glasses to enjoy it!)
On 22nd October the Garden Team was invited by the wonderful Barry Cruse MBE, Chairman of Bath in Bloom, to attend the Awards Ceremony of the RHS Britain in Bloom ‘Its Your Neighbourhood’ scheme. We were lucky enough to achieve Outstanding, and our lovely Mayor Cllr. Will Sandry, handed us our framed certificate.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.00.21Barry Cruse had kind words to say about all the entries; but we were completely amazed and thrilled by his presentation to us! He told us that the RHS Judges, earlier in the summer, whilst judging our Garden as part of Britain in Bloom, had pronounced our Garden as becoming a regular feature for them, and that it would not be out of place at an RHS Show! (we couldn’t believe our ears and were glad we were sitting down at the time!) He went on to say that the judges were full of praise, they had seen similar gardens across the UK, but ours was the best and most innovative by a country mile! They continued; Its comparatively easy to put together an edible garden, but that we had done it in a way that is both artistic, practical, and unique! Barry wrote and told us that we should be justly proud of our Edible Garden, and that it had been an absolute joy to have been able to support us over the past four years. We feel the same about him! His friendship and kindness have been a constant, and we wish him luck in his new role with Bath in Bloom.


We are most thankful to everyone for their lovely comments, they mean a lot to us. Personally, I feel a little overwhelmed, but shouldn’t be surprised really, as the Garden Gurus are such a quietly clever and talented bunch! Full of support for each other, and always keen to embrace the ethos of the Women’s Institute, inclusivity, warmth and always a warm welcome to all our visitors, including our lovely friends, the bees and the butterflies! One hundred years, and still growing strong!



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