There is now an association in Portugal dedicated to plants and gardens of the mediterranean climate zones: the Mediterranean Gardening Association Portugal (MGAP).
MGAP was created and is maintained by an international group of enthusiastic volunteers – plant lovers, amateur and professional gardeners, landscape architects and botanists. All are united by their shared interest and love for mediterranean plants, gardens and horticulture.
There are international links with similar associations in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Chile that also provide information on gardens to visit and good nurseries. An important bonus is a shared seed scheme giving the possibility for members to cultivate many unusual plants with donations from gardens appropriate to our conditions.
The association also conducts periodic meetings based on sharing knowledge on gardening for mediterranean climates. A new project is the first Botanic Garden for the plants of the important Barrocal region of the Algarve and the opportunity to demonstrate their ornamental beauty for the truly sustainable garden.
One of the early established aims is to encourage nurseries to cultivate those hard-to-find plants which are the best species for our gardens and that deserve our attention. To this end, the association organises the popular Mediterranean Gardening Fair in the Algarve.
The ninth annual autumn fair will take place on Saturday, October 28 in the historic, leafy and spacious courtyard in the Museu do Trajo complex in São Brás de Alportel, open to the public from 11am to 4pm.
This is an opportunity to meet other gardeners, shop at the small specialist plant nurseries and learn from the following free programme of lectures and workshops in Portuguese and English.
■ 11.30am – “Potential of Barrocal native plants as ornamentals” by Ricardo Canas of the University of the Algarve.
■ 1pm – “Keeping your home and garden safe from fire” by José Filipe, with advice on garden planning to resist wildfires and a rolling slide show on the native flowers of the Algarve
■ 2.30pm – “Medicinal gardens” by João Beles, a qualified Naturopath, talking on plants in our gardens which have beauty and medicinal qualities.
■ 12.30pm and 2pm – “Nature Printing Workshops” with renowned local Olhão artist and Life Member of the Nature Printing Society, Rachel Ramirez. Rachel will demonstrate how to make fascinating prints directly from nature and you will be able to try out the techniques for yourself. Places are limited so book on arrival at the event or via [email protected]
On offer at this event will also be a full range of climate-appropriate plants from the 15 nurseries attending – including Sigmetum from Lisbon, specialising in native plants of Portugal. Nurseries will be offering succulents for ground cover, robust garden shrubs and trees, container plants and fruit trees, as well as advice and information on how to get the most out of your mediterranean garden in the Algarve.
There will also be a selected range of specialist bulbs for sale at the garden fair, suitable for naturalising in your Algarve garden.
For example, Iris unguicularis, a tough plant that will grow in difficult conditions, is a Mediterranean native from Algeria producing lovely blue flowers in winter. It has been in cultivation for a very long time and can be planted under trees (even pine trees) in partial shade or full sun.
Amaryllis belladonna, a native to the south-west Cape of Africa, is a common sight in Algarve gardens although rarely offered for sale. The tall, showy soft-to-deep pink flowers appear in September, symbolising the end of summer.
Ipheion uniflorum is a small spring flowering species with blue star-shaped flowers. It is a super-increaser and will fill a large pot after three to four seasons. It is an excellent plant for dry areas near a path and needs no irrigation during the hot season.
Lilium candidum, the Madonna lily, is highly scented and a beautiful bulb for the garden or container.
There will be local organic produce and products available to buy as well as refreshments from a variety of vendors.
The very popular MGAP bookshop with titles covering all aspects of gardening in the Mediterranean climate, and native plant seed sales as well as the Plant Crèche service with a car collection point will all be in operation as usual. There will be a drop-off point for less able visitors to the event.
Entry this year remains at €1 per person (under-16s free), and there will be signposted parking areas a short walk from the museum.
The support of the Friends of the Museum and the São Brás de Alportel town hall is essential to the organisers who say the venue is almost purpose built for the Algarve’s only specialist Mediterranean Garden Fair. Perhaps the most important and enjoyable aspect is the opportunity to meet others and to talk about gardening – there is always something new to learn.