Under the pines

Learn to love brown – midsummer brunch in an Algarve garden

A very successful first Midsummer Brunch was organised for the Mediterranean Gardening Association Portugal (MGAP) members and friends on June 25 by our events coordinator, Tessa Hearn.

Brunch was decided on rather than lunch as it was thought that by lunchtime we would all be burnt to a crisp by the summer sun. As it turned out, it was a perfect morning, overcast to begin with and even some spots of rain.

The event was held in the natural-style country garden of Rob and Rosie Peddle, very relevant in summer as the garden was filled with plants in all shades of biscuit browns, silver and gold and demonstrated our theme for the day of ‘learning to love brown’. Everything was provided by our hosts and all we had to do was bring a plate of food and talk about plants.

There were enough tables both inside and out for everyone, with drinks available on arrival.

There were about 35 enthusiastic members and guests attending, some of whom had travelled to the brunch from the western Algarve. As a result, the kitchen table groaned with a wonderful array of food from quiches to salads.

Before our brunch, a guided walk through the garden was given by Rosie who pointed out and identified various interesting native and aromatic plants. Members had been given a map of the garden and a sheet with a list of plant names which they could use for reference or for notes.

There were lots of questions and comments during the walk. An interesting observation made by some was the very blackened aspect to the bark of the almond trees. This is completely natural and not the result of fires – it also does not mean that the tree is dead.

There are various strategies adopted by plants, shrubs and trees to cope with the summer heat and drought. Phlomis purpurea puts leaves upright showing only the silver backs to reflect the heat until the cooler, more humid days allow it to unfurl and show once again the fresh green top surfaces. The many cistus species in the garden made a lovely show of their bronze basket-shaped seed heads, contrasting with the silver grey of the foliage. Part of the walk demonstrated that soil conditions can be easily determined by the cistus species found growing on the land.

We were shown an area under pines which was filled with interest: bronze, silver and gold seed heads of Phagnalon saxatile, Cistus crispus and the lovely tall native grass Hyparrhenia hirta.

Brunch went very well and in no time we had settled down to eating and discussing the day. Those present representing, and sharing, their great range from experienced to new gardeners on the Algarve. The long hot days of summer are an opportunity to plan for the more active gardening year which starts with the first autumn rains.

Our event was also an opportunity to update everyone on exciting plans for the Mediterranean Garden Fair on Saturday, October 28 in São Brás. Sourcing appropriate plants that will survive the summer heat is always a big topic of conversation at events. After the meal, members were invited to identify 20 plants in jars on a nearby table, all of which we had seen on our earlier walk. This certainly encouraged everyone to participate and talk to one another. The answers were then checked and prizes awarded.

Everyone was also invited to help themselves from a selection of plants before they left. All in all this was a very successful and pleasant morning spent with members and friends of MGAP. Time once again to congratulate all those who helped make the brunch such an interesting and entertaining occasion. It is to be hoped that this will become an annual summer event and we will come to love our brown summer gardens.

Burford Hurry
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Burford Hurry has been gardening in the Algarve for 23 years and comes from an African background where heat, drought and cold are not uncommon factors in gardening. He is president of the Mediterranean Gardening Association Portugal.

Cistus albidus seed heads

Group walk
Phagnalon seed heads
Phlomis purpurea foliage
Under the pines