This weekend I bought twenty-five seed potatoes, a bottle of Armillatox, 400g of shallot bulbs and 5lbs of bird seed, and still had change from a tenner. How come? Because my local horticultural society runs a shop with very advantageous prices. Membership costs £3 a year, so, given that small packets of seed potatoes at the local garden centre cost around £3 each, I'm quids in already.
Horticultural societies are much overlooked by people starting out in gardening. Perhaps it's because they picture turgid lectures on growing orchids, and fussy, cloth-capped fellows entering the produce show.
Consequently, they're missing a treat. I have two local societies - one arranges lectures (yes, on orchid growing too), and ensnared Tom Hart-Dyke to visit last year; the other runs biannual shows (yes, with prizes for fruit cake, just like The Archers) and the aforesaid weekly shop.
Show up frequently and you'll inevitably be invited to help, but it's a great way to get to know fellow gardeners, and share advice and mutual bewailment when things go wrong. Some societies have members across Britain, such as Lambeth with a Hampshire and a Northern correspondent contributing to their newsletter. Some, like the Norfolk and Norwich (over 180 years old) organise holidays, fully reported in their magazine.
As many of the societies are affiliated to the RHS (with the badge above displayed) it seemed a natural assumption that a list of societies would be on the RHS website. If you can find it, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din, although this list might point the way for some of you.
Better, if you don't know if you have a local society, Google "Horticultural Society" or "Gardening Club" for places in your area and find out what you're missing.