In autumn, we look forward to good rainfall to bring our second spring of the year and make our green Algarve winter landscape. For the last 10 years, the end of October has also been the time for the Mediterranean Garden Fair in the Algarve.
Starting from small beginnings in 2008 and our first public event in 2009, over the years we have had visitors and nurseries from Spain and France, and speakers from other regions of Portugal as well as the UK. The programme of free talks has always been popular, topics have been focussed on sustainable gardening with workshops on propagating from seed and cuttings, mulches and compost and on pests and diseases. Sharing knowledge and experiences is a great part of the day.
We have received tremendous support from the plant nurseries, and small specialist growers have benefitted from the increasing trend towards using climate-appropriate plants. A range of indoor exhibitors contribute to the variety of products on offer, such as spices and herbs, organic products, nest boxes, ceramics and yummy cakes.
Nurseries have been positively encouraged to promote native and drought-tolerant plants. Invasive plants and their promotion or sale are banned. There now seems to be a better selection available for visitors to the fair and the variety of plants is increasing. So popular is the autumn event that, since 2015, MGAP has also organised a Spring Garden Fair early in the year. This allows us to have a different selection of plants and take our event to another venue so that all the Algarve can be included.
Various venues have been used but, whatever we did, there never seemed to be enough car-parking. Another area that was always a problem was the catering; it was a standing joke that the plants were good, but the food and drinks were hit and miss. The first venue we used ran out of beer and their microwave blew up!
We certainly hope that everyone who has supported these events over the years has had fun and learned something along the way. It is good to have this opportunity to thank everyone who has come along, rain or shine, to take part in these special and unique garden fairs in Portugal. It is also good to have the opportunity to thank the many volunteers who, over the years, have made this event possible. We could not do it without them, and their participation is essential.
To continue the tradition in 2019, there was once again an Autumn Mediterranean Garden Fair in the Algarve, on Saturday, October 26 and also on Sunday October 27 – the first time the event has been held over two days. We were very grateful to have the ongoing support and cooperation of the Junta de Freguesia de Silves, with the help of the Câmara de Silves.
The FISSUL exhibition space in Silves is a wonderful, all-weather venue for the event, with ample car-parking and easy access for everyone. The nurseries love being able to drive straight in and drop off heavy plant crates directly onto their stand area. This year we also had some lovely old olive trees and comfy straw bales providing plenty of seating to rest weary legs before another look round all the stalls.
As an additional attraction we had live music with easy listening and classic songs from The Eccentric Jukebox – at lunchtime and later in the afternoon, and yes, there was some dancing!
This year there was an increased number of nurseries, making it our biggest fair to date. They were offering native plants and seeds, organic vegetable plants for your garden, colourful container plants and fruit trees as well as robust dry landscape plants and shrubs.
Our usual programme of free talks included talks on Wild Edible Plants from Fernanda Botelho, on Orchids for Growing Outside from Orchid Club of Portugal and Tillandsias by a specialist nursery. There was a huge and particularly good selection of succulents on offer, from the very small to the very large. Also available were some very rare caudiciform (thick stem) succulent plants from various regions of Africa and the coastal islands such as Madagascar.
We have been lucky enough to have the support of some exhibitors at virtually every garden fair. It certainly would not be the same without the cheerful presence of Prof. Celestino Ruivo from Algarve University in his large straw hat providing a lunch cooked on his solar ovens – even if it was overcast, he would bring ‘solar cake’ he had made earlier!
The popular plant crèche and the MGAP bookshop were available, and special for this year were MGAP bulb and plant sales. With the invaluable help of the Silves Junta, we were also able to contact local caterers and so, for this year, the food was definitely worth sampling!
By Rosie Peddle
email@example.com | 289 791 869
Mediterranean Gardening Association – Portugal