The five best gardening clubs to join

Martyn Cox

Are you fanatical about gardening and keen to meet like-minded people? If the answer is yes, then why not join a gardening club?

There are hundreds of friendly groups and societies around the UK, whether you’re interested in cacti, perennials, vegetables or want to learn more about the history of gardening.

Most national societies have local branches, which meet monthly and hold shows, demonstrations and invite renowned specialists to speak. Apart from giving you the opportunity to socialise with lots of like-minded people, membership often brings other benefits, including a free magazine, newsletter and a chance to buy seeds or plants at a discounted rate. Here are five of the best groups, but if you have an interest in a specific plants, search the internet and the chances are that you’ll find a club that suits you.

Hardy Plant Society

If plants are your passion, this is the society for you. Formed in 1957, the Hardy Plant Society is split into 40 local groups across England, Scotland and Wales, with members meeting regularly to hear specialist speakers, to arrange visits to gardens or to swap seeds or plants grown in their own gardens. National events are held several times a year, and include study days or visits to see a plant collection, housed in a garden not normally open to the public.

Members: 10,000

Joining fee: Please check their website for membership fees.

Garden History Society

With its aim of promoting the study of the history of gardening, landscape gardening and horticulture, don't join the Garden History Society and expect to make idle chit-chat over a cup of tea. Members are fanatical about history and the society's meetings are generally cerebral events. There are no regional meetings, but there is an AGM and summer conference held outside of London, while the capital hosts a summer garden party and a winter lecture series. So what else do you get for your money? A copy of the excellent Garden History journal, which is published twice a year and several newsletters.

Members: 1700

Joining fee: Please check their website for membership fees.

British Cactus and Succulent Society

There is a certain degree of machismo about growing cactus, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to find out that the majority of members of this society are male. However, the only requirement to join is an interest in these fascinating plants. So, if you have a collection of rare mammillaria or just a few assorted specimens on the windowsill, it may be worth visiting one of the 90 local groups across the country. Most have monthly meetings with a guest speaker, demonstrations and a chance to buy new plants. You get a copy of Cactus World magazine, which is published four times a year.

Members: 3,500

Joining fee: Please check their website for membership fees.

National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG)

The NCCPG manages the National Plant Collections scheme, looking after 660 specific plant collections and according to a spokeswoman, the average member is a 45-year old female who can identify plants by their Latin names. If that sounds like you, then why not visit one of its 40 local groups? As a member you will help to organise plant sales, have the chance to buy some unusual specimens and visit some of the many collections. The twice yearly Plant Heritage magazine and a copy of the NCCPG plant collections directory come as part of the subscription package.

Members: 5,000

Joining fee: Please check their website for membership fees.

Garden Organic

Want to find out how to grow hole free hostas without resorting to slug pellets? Well join Garden Organic (there are 70 local groups) and take advantage of its email and telephone advice line that operates from the society's headquarters at Ryton Organic Gardens, near Coventry - as a member you will also get unlimited free access to this garden, along with the society's other gardens at Audley End in Essex and Yalding in Kent. As a member you can save 10 per cent off products in its Organic Gardening Catalogue and will receive the quarterly Organic Way magazine.

Members: 40,500

Joining fee: Please check their website for membership fees.

Other gardening clubs

If none of these clubs appeal, don't worry. There are hundreds of other groups dedicated to particular plants or style of gardening, such as The British Clematis Society, Alpine Garden Society, National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, British Fuchsia Society and The Cyclamen Society. Alternatively, why not consider joining your local gardening club. Most towns and villages have a club that meets regularly, holding shows, demonstrations or inviting guest speakers along to share their knowledge.

For more ways to meet new people, read our guide to staying social in later life.

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