Participants including keen amateur gardeners and professionals from South Africa, Australia, California and Chile gathered early in April – all with a Mediterranean climate in common. For many, this was their first visit to the Algarve and to Portugal, and we were keen to show them some of the best private and historic gardens and landscapes in the south of the country.
An Algarve pre-tour group spent four days visiting gardens and wildflower hotspots including in Messines, Monchique and the west coast. Private garden visits guided by the owners are always a great treat and very special.
The tour included the MGAP Barrocal Botanic Garden near Silves and some convivial lunches in spectacular locations overlooking the Algarve hills and coastline.
Finding Paeonia broteroi in flower was a highlight and, despite the dry winter, there was a good show from Cistus ladanifer in the hills and some orchids on the coast.
The theme of the event was to highlight new trends in garden design and landscaping for more natural style and sustainable gardens. We were lucky to have Olivier Filippi and James and Helen Basson as our keynote speakers. They were ably supported by talks on the ‘montados’ (cork oak forests), the use of native plants in Porto Botanic Garden and new methods of teaching about, and creating, low-maintenance natural-style gardens.
The Évora section of the week-long event was well supported, with 140 attending the Saturday morning talks. It was very pleasing to have with us students of landscape architecture, professional landscape architects and gardeners from around the Mediterranean who gathered together in the university auditorium on April 6. The talks were filmed and we hope to make them available online so that many more may benefit from the inspiring and authoritative presentations.
A discussion session following the talks gave an opportunity to ask questions of our speakers and inevitably this included the recent advice for total land-clearance around houses in Portugal. The wholesale removal of fire-resistant plants was condemned as native hardwoods can be protective in many situations.
The global book launch for Olivier Filippi’s new book in English also took place and he was there to sign copies for our visitors. The new book is available in the Algarve exclusively from [email protected] and will also be for sale at future MGAP events.
The book is called “Bringing the Mediterranean into your Garden – How to capture the natural beauty of the garrigue” and costs €40. It is lavishly illustrated throughout the 288 pages, with 400 photos by the author from around the Mediterranean showing the landscapes and gardens that have inspired him.
Olivier says: “Some understanding of plant ecology is essential for success – how a plant interacts with its environment indicates what it needs to flourish in a garden setting.” He shares his expert knowledge acquired from decades of research.
There is much in the book about the special plant communities of the Algarve’s west coast and how to use them in a garden setting. Olivier Filippi’s pioneering approach makes for a much closer relationship between gardener and nature that puts few demands on natural resources. His first book “The Dry Gardening Handbook” is due to be issued in a new English edition in June and will also be available from MGAP, as is his second book “Planting Design for Dry Gardens”.
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Mediterranean Gardening Association – Portugal