During a weekend of glorious spring sunshine, the Spring Mediterranean Garden Fair took place in Silves on March 25 and 26.
We estimate 3,000 visitors attended over two days. This has prompted some number crunching: our marvellous volunteers have been involved in 13 autumn fairs since 2009 and our first spring fair was held in 2015, which means 2023 was our seventh spring fair. With the inevitable disruptions due to Covid, no fairs were held in 2020 and only an autumn fair was held in 2021.
In addition to these public events, international conferences have been held in Portugal for our friends in the wider Mediterranean gardening community since 2012, a total of six gatherings. Specialist speakers such as Roy Lancaster and Olivier Filippi have shared their enthusiasm and knowledge to the benefit of all attending. None of these events would be possible without the volunteers who have given their time.
The Mediterranean Gardening Association for Portugal was created in 2014 following initial events organised as part of the Mediterranean Garden Society (based in Greece and with no legal status in Portugal). As a result of an increasing interest in making sustainable gardens and landscapes, the public events have always aimed to provide good quality, independent advice free of charge to all. Fundraising has, therefore, provided the opportunity to print basic information leaflets and books for distribution and for sale.
Alongside the larger public events, there have also been initiatives such as the Barrocal Botanic Garden (2016 to 2022), creating a space to highlight native plants and where group visits and training could take place. Current research is ongoing to find a new home for this project.
Over recent years, MGAP has been invited to participate in helping schools to plan and create their own native plant gardens in Lagos and Portimão. Currently, we are working with a school near Olhão on their plans for this autumn season to remove irrigation and use local plants in their grounds. Is this a topic you would like to help us develop?
Another development during 2022 was an approach from an established garden maintenance and landscaping company to provide certified training for their team (10 people) in the Portimão area. This can be replicated for other professional businesses wishing to change their practices and provide a more sustainable gardening service to clients.
Training was also provided for the ‘Green Team’ of Junta de Freguesia de Quelfes. A large and troublesome area of grass (1500m2) was made into a native and dry plant garden over the last 18 months. The resulting reduction in water use, costs and maintenance gave the Junta ‘First Prize’ in a national competition for environmental initiatives – and MGAP gained a medal in recognition of its contribution which was both financial and advisory.
As changing circumstances due to the climate crisis become more obvious, it is vital to share our experiences of making dry gardens using climate-appropriate plants, trees and shrubs. There is now no acceptable reason for having lawns and large areas of grass which need constant irrigation and intervention.
Visitors to the Algarve are now very sensitive to outdated water-wasting landscapes and are actively seeking out the rich natural diversity of this region. The proven beauty and diversity of Mediterranean flora is there for all to see, and it can be welcomed into our gardens.
MGAP is run by a small, dedicated team of unpaid volunteers and depends on supportive volunteers to continue and develop into the future. Every euro of our income is spent in delivering our objectives. Our members also provide a much valued and stable support for all the activities, but, as the saying goes, “many hands make light work”, and we welcome new members and volunteers for any aspect of MGAP activities.
You do not need to be a gardening guru to enjoy time spent with like-minded people, and, as we saw at the Spring Garden Fair, 3,000 visitors over the weekend were an amazing return for all the effort.
Are you interested in knowing more about how to join our group of champion volunteers? Email [email protected]
By Rosie Peddle
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