This year the Mediterranean Garden Fair was a little different from previous ones. For one thing, it was held for the first time in the leafy courtyard of the museum gardens in São Brás de Alportel and, for another, gardeners could sit and have a coffee or a meal surrounded by the fabulous selection of plants brought along by the nurseries.
We were also fortunate enough to have glorious weather both on the Friday and the Saturday, which meant setting up was made just that much easier and on the day gardeners could look at and buy plants under a blue sky and a warm autumn sun.
Thanks to the weather and splendid support provided by the São Brás town hall, the museum and the press, the turnout was exceptional – well over 1,200 visitors came through the gates. There was an excellent selection of nurseries who had plants to tempt the potential buyer for all kinds of mediterranean gardens.
It was interesting to see the great choice of drought-resistant succulents, shrubs and trees as well as different and rarely available plants such as Pachypodium lamerei and Monadenium magnificum. Equally satisfying for our volunteers was to see the plant crèche filled to overflowing with all the varied purchases and happy buyers leaving with bags full of plants.
An essential part of this event is the opportunity to learn more about mediterranean gardening and we were very grateful to have talks in Portuguese and English, all well attended with the speakers happy to share their knowledge and enthusiasm, and answer lots of questions.
The topics of medicinal and culinary herbs and sustainable gardening were all popular. The MGAP information centre expertly handled the gardening enquiries and new members were welcomed to the association while the books in our bookshop sold well with a growing demand for Algarve gardening books in French.
The catering supplied by the museum was varied and reasonably priced. The sight of happy gardeners sitting under the trees, relaxing and enjoying the food throughout the day, was wonderful. Many visitors commented on the new venue and the lovely atmosphere.
We have to thank the Amigos do Museu for their invaluable help and advice with the planning in the weeks and months leading up to the event. Their team of volunteers on the Friday and Saturday were fantastic and made a significant contribution to the success of the event in its new home. The local Bombeiros helped to manage the traffic flow outside and did an excellent job.
Since then the overall feedback from people who attended the fair has been extremely positive. Of course the success of the fair was in no small measure dependent on the volunteers who manned the gates and the crèche, and they rose to the occasion. Our thanks go to them.
The overall impression from visitors that was mentioned most frequently was the friendly and inviting atmosphere and that’s very gratifying because moving an established event to a new location can be a challenge. But it was very positive and there were lots of ideas for building on what we learnt this year to make it even better next time.
Most importantly, we would like to thank everyone who came along to support the event in the new location in São Brás. We and the nurseries and exhibitors are keen to see you again next year!
By Burford Hurry | Susan Finlay
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Mediterranean Gardening Association – Portugal