Spring is a great time of year to see plants looking their best and temptations aplenty were on offer at the Spring Garden Fair on Saturday 4 March at Quinta da Figueirinha. The garden fairs, organised by the Mediterranean Garden Association for Portugal (MGAP), are popular fixtures in the gardening calendar and the hard working volunteers involved in the planning and organising really excelled themselves this time.
We were very pleased to have the support of Silves Camara and some great helpers from the local school (ESPAMOL), they are now all experts at organising a car park !
But, all the planning in the world does not alter the weather on the day. The previous day and the night immediately before the event were notable for the violence of the wind and rain which hit the Algarve, bringing down trees and causing flooding in some areas. The forecast was closely scrutinised and a decision made to ´carry on regardless´ as it looked as if we would be lucky and the worst weather would occur overnight – a gamble which paid off.
The rural setting of the Quinta was ideal for the plant nurseries and other exhibitors were able to use the large barn, which had been especially cleared for our event. Unfortunately, some plant nurseries did not attend as planned but those who did make the effort to support the event had a great response from our 600 visitors. The theme for this year was ´The Edible Garden` and we had plenty of vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and organic seeds available.
A unique offering at MGAP events is the free access to talks by experts on their topics. This year was no exception with the rare chance to hear from Jean-Paul Brigand on his recommendations of fruit to grow here in the south west of Europe. His top ten list held some surprises, such as one of his personal favourites, the pomelo, and the talk was packed out. We plan to make the slides available on our web site for all to see. The topic of sustainable gardening was supported with a talk on Permaculture by Julia de Jesus Palma, information on designing gardens to provide food and relevant to our conditions here on the Algarve. We were also very lucky to have Fernanda Botelho with us giving an enthusiastic and informative presentation on the Herbs of Portugal. This talk sent many back to the plant stalls to buy more herbs.
There was also information on soil types and testing and tours of the new project for MGAP, the Barrocal Botanic Garden. This area is still being created but it is possible to see the various themed planting zones and the first flowering orchids and wildflowers were showing their colours on the land.
As well as the MGAP gardening and natural history bookshop, we had Sementes de Portugal range of native plant seeds for sale – at least the recent rains had been good for preparing ground for seeds and plants !
Unfortunately the planned Solar Lunch had to be postponed for another day but the sun did shine for our special Spring Fair and we would like to pass on our grateful thanks to the 600 visitors who did come along to support the event – come rain or come shine.
It was great to see lots of smiling faces and happy gardeners of many nationalities, brought together by their interest in Mediterranean gardening on the Algarve.