Bath and the surrounding area is home to an array of gardens and beauty spots, from sweeping landscaped gardens in stately homes and luxury hotels to community parks and blooming city-centre flower boxes. With many currently closed to the public, we’ve asked the designers and horticulturalists who look after them for some gardening tips and inspiration so that you can get out into your gardens and balconies and 'keep gardening'...
Grow Your Own
Located at the heart of fashionable Milsom Street and set within a series of beautiful Georgian buildings, terraces and open courtyards, Milsom Place is a sophisticated city-centre shopping and dining destination.
Jon Wheatley, who plans, creates and maintains Milsom Place’s award-winning planting throughout the year recommends choosing plants with more than one purpose:
“Many plants are edible, but check first and select for flower and culinary use. You can grow your own green salads – I am enjoying eating lots of greens grown in a variety of pots and pans in the garden. Watercress, lettuce and even salad onions grown at home taste so good.
"Involve children in the growing process – the skills they learn will stay with them for life. It’s good for the climate and personal wellbeing as well, but most of all, it’s fun!
"Finally, with those potato peelings with growth eyes on, save them, plant them out and watch them grow – look out for the flowers, and save your own seeds.”
Image: Mark Bolton/Andrew Brownsword Hotels
The Bath Priory Hotel is set in four spacious acres of beautiful grounds, including billowing borders, meadow, ancient trees and lawns, that have been carefully and lovingly cultivated by Head Gardener Jane Moore and her team. Considered a country house hotel, but in the centre of Bath, it’s a popular choice for garden-lovers, keen to relax in its extensive grounds, but retains easy access to the city’s sights, reached via a beautiful walk through Royal Victoria Park.
It’s Jane’s top priority to make sure the garden keeps evolving though the seasons and looks good for each and every visitor. This summer, more than ever, our gardens at home need to deliver us cheer, so here are Jane’s top tips for plants and blooms to plant now, to last you through to the summer ahead:
"Now we’re all staying at home and undoubtedly cooking more often, sow a few herbs to add some extra interest to your dishes. Most of the best ‘fines herbs’ grow easily from seed and the perennial favourites in my home garden such as rosemary and sage are supplemented in summer with parsley, basil and dill. Sow in situ or in bedding plant cells and then plant out.
"There are always a few gaps in between plants in borders which weeds love to exploit. An easy fix – and one guaranteed to give you plenty of colour – is to sow some quick-growing annuals in the gaps. Pot marigold or calendula, or the beautifully named Love-in-a-Mist or Nigella are two of my favourites, and you’ll find them dotted all over the Priory gardens. Sow in situ or in bedding plant cells and then plant out once they’re big enough to look after themselves.
"Hardy geraniums are gifts that keep on giving, and they’re readily available online or by mail order. Many of them will bulk up beautifully in one season from a small plant, creating a dense mound of lush foliage topped by open, cheerful flowers in shades of blue, pink and white. My absolute all-time favourite is Rozanne, with its luminous purple-blue flowers which just keep on coming all summer long. Close seconds include pink Mavis Simpson and Kashmir White.
"Summer really isn’t summer at The Bath Priory without dahlias. We have lots of different colours, shapes and sizes and I have too many favourites to list here! Just remember that they need to have a sunny spot and that slugs and snails absolutely adore them so you need to protect them diligently. A great way to grow dahlias in smaller gardens is in pots and containers."
You can find out more about The Bath Priory's garden, along with lots of ideas to inspire your own kitchen garden or flower borders, on their website.
Keep on Top of Maintenance
Homewood is a rural and peaceful hotel with views over the Limpley Stoke valley. Set in ten acres of gardens and grounds but just 15 minutes from Bath, Homewood offers the perfect base to discover the city whilst also relaxing and rejuvenating in a countryside setting. Homewood's gardener Steve shares his tips for looking after your garden:
“The most important thing to do in the garden at present is to prepare for the coming months. Time would be wisely spent dead-heading and controlling weed growth, along with edging of beds and borders. Time spent now carrying out general maintenance will save you time and a lot of work when plant growth really take off in May/June."
Coming Up Roses
Lucknam Park is a magnificient listed Palladian mansion set in 500 acres of parkland. The perfect retreat, Lucknam offers an outstanding spa, glorious historic surroundings, classically designed gardens, a unique Equestrian Centre and an award-winning gourmet experience.
Consultant horticulturist and designer for Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Karen Knowlton, who also runs her own garden business in Bath – The Garden Goddess – gives her advice on growing roses:
"Bath and the surrounding area is a fabulous area for growing roses as the soil is mostly clay-based, and roses love the moisture and nutrients it holds.
"February is a good time to prune roses from the previous year’s growth and now you will start to see little buds appearing. Feed the plants with a compost or well-rotted manure and start giving them a monthly feed of seaweed extract and a weekly feed of organic rose food.
"When your roses do flower, remember to deadhead regularly and keep feeding – you will then have strong, healthy, gorgeous roses."
Take In Your Surroundings
William Cartwright-Hignett, owner of Iford Manor Gardens, an award-winning Grade I listed garden tucked away at the bottom of a tranquil valley just outside Bath, encourages us to stop for a minute and take in our surroundings:
"With such beautiful weather, it is eerily quiet in the gardens here at Iford just now. Gone the buzz of visitors on the terrace, the hum of scones being merrily consumed by walkers on a hot day; even the gentle snip of secateurs is diminished as we resort to a pared back team to keep the place alive as best we can. We really miss everyone!
"But since nature doesn’t respect a lockdown, if you stop awhile amidst the watering, weeding, and planting out, you cannot help but be overwhelmed as nature bursts out of its winter shell: a full-immersion of wisteria as one rounds a corner; the unfurling of fronds on ferns; the waves of a sea of tulips; and all the while the whole valley a choir of birdsong.
"So how best to bring the benefits of this refreshing, restorative beauty to people at this most needful of times? Why, the modern-day postcard, of course: through Instagram and, more recently for us, YouTube.
"We may not be able to do all five senses, but we try to offer a glimpe of the experience of being in the gardens at Iford – an escapist moment to break the cycle of lockdown and isolation. And when it’s all over, nature will still be there – doing its best to remind us of happier times, and better days."
Visit Iford Manor Gardens' YouTube channel to enjoy the wonderful gardens virtually.