The Autumn Mediterranean Garden Fair

On Saturday, 28 October, volunteers came together to celebrate a proactive garden association’s vision for the future. There were those with green fingers, not-so-green fingers and well-intentioned observers filling Silves’ exhibition centre. 

Their objective was to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and the need to adapt with gardens requiring less water, a reduction in pesticides and chemical fertilisers, and the use of plants with longer life spans. 

Rob Peddle and his wife, Rosie, are founding members of the Mediterranean Gardening Association of Portugal. Rosie Peddle is the secretary of the association and a Fellow of The Linnean Society of London. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded her a Veitch Memorial Medal in their 2020 People Awards. The medal is awarded annually to persons of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the science and practice of horticulture.

Rob, the present treasurer, explained some details of the event and its objectives. “We’re a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers. We are fortunate to have the support of the Junta de Freguesia of Silves and Câmara of Silves and we are most grateful to them for the use of the Fissul Exhibition Centre. We are supported by over a hundred volunteers and donors who realise the importance of sustainability. We are very involved with education, research and environmentally friendly practices. Our volunteers include teachers, horticulturists, ecologists, climatologists and landscape architects.” 

The giant undercover space was filled with exhibitors and at 11 am a happy throng of eager visitors were buying everything from exotic orchids, succulents, cacti and other drought-resistant plants typical of Mediterranean climates, like Portugal.  

A new botanical garden exhibit, Orchard of Flavours, highlighted a diverse selection of warm weather fruit trees, of which over 300 varieties are being cultivated. Miguel Cotton founded the not-for-profit educational garden four years ago close to Luz de Tavira and it’s already recognised by Botanic Garden Conservation International. Guided tours described as ‘fruit tree safaris’ concentrate on learning and development. They offer workshops on propagation techniques and adjustment to climate change. Water-saving and drought-resistant methods are emphasised. 

The exhibition hosted close to 50 participants. Verda Perdal had an impressive display of plants and succulents as well as aromatic/culinary herbs and vegetable varieties. “It started as a hobby,” explained Andrea Martins, “but our small enterprise created so much interest that it has evolved into a family business. We offer landscaping services, including irrigation systems, maintenance of large green spaces, and consultations.” 

Besides plants, there were exhibits of plant-based products like olive oil, specialised vinegar, chilli peppers and the resulting sauces. Plant-based soaps and cosmetics were also featured by Árvore do Sabão. And if you really wanted a plant or flower-themed memento, gift or treasured keepsake of this wonderful event, without the weeding and watering, perhaps a painting or a wall mural would suffice. Samantha van Westhuizen was showcasing her work, as was Toni Dade from Messines, who offers painting classes.

Possibly the least glamorous but most significant exhibit was the one informing us of the importance of water and how we must be more conscious of how we use the world’s most valuable resource. Paula Vaz, a senior technician from the Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente, was on hand to explain their work and advise on water conservation. 

The fair, with its emphasis on Mediterranean-type gardens, had climate change and planned management of water, a natural resource, firmly in its sights.

On both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, talks and interactive discussions took place, with everyone welcome to attend. Horticultural advisor Jessica Gomes joined the association in 2020 with expertise in architectural landscaping. Her talk on ‘Starting from Scratch – Your First Sustainable Garden’ was well received. She explained that there are alternatives to a thirsty lawn.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Robert explained his further ambitions. “We’re actively looking for about two hectares of barrocal land (with clay soil) for an all-purpose botanical garden. Our requirement is for land not previously used for agriculture to give plants a ‘clean start’ for research purposes.”

The fair was a huge success and everyone is looking forward to a spring event. Keep your eyes peeled in Tomorrow’s What’s On column.

Saving Water

At the autumn Mediterranean Garden Fair, a dedicated exhibit on water and its sustainability was managed by Paula Vaz from the Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente. The exhibit demonstrated the various excessive and wasteful water usage and how this can be corrected.

Golf courses are often fingered as being the culprit of the worst water waste but this is not the case, since they use recycled water from domestic sources. Private gardens and lawns are the biggest offenders along with humans and their many domestic uses. 

There were some interesting statistics that we should be aware of:

  • According to the United Nations a person needs 110 litres of water per day. In Portugal a person uses, on average, 184 litres.
  • Dishwashers use about 12 litres but only after items have been hand washed first. Dish washing under a running tap can easily use 150 litres. Instead, fill the sink, turn off the tap then wash the dishes. Rinse under a slow running tap. 
  • Brushing your teeth under a running tap for 3 minutes can waste 36 litres of water. 
  • A continuous five-minute shower can use 60 litres. When showering wet yourself, turn off the water, wash yourself, rinse off, this will use just 20 litres. 
  • Wash your car with a bucket of water and a leather instead of a running hose. 
  • Water your plants after sunset to avoid evaporation. 
  • Fix a dripping tap. It can easily use 30 litres a day.

We take water for granted in Portugal but it’s time to become more aware of this indispensable resource. We won’t realise just how valuable water is until we don’t have any. 


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