Splendid but Soggy – a Grand Day Out at the Palace

A couple of days before this year’s Garden Fair we were consulting the weather forecast with increasing regularity, but our hopes for a small window of dry weather were not to be fulfilled.

 

We were, however, very lucky indeed that the weather did not break in the days before the garden fair. The big clean up needed in the gardens was accomplished in dry conditions. When a small group of us visited the gardens for the first time before the fair it was heartbreaking to see the utter neglect and lack of maintenance.  The desperate need to clean the large car park, all around the building, and to make the avenues fit for public access was a daunting prospect.  We could only make the call for helpers and speak to some professionals for the specialist work required. The response was immediate and unhesitating and we had our heroic work crew. It was very rewarding to see the obvious affection and respect that many have for this special site.

 

We are very grateful to the management of the Pousada de Palaçio de Estoi for generously giving unlimited access to these historic gardens. They have gained a car park and we pressed on with plans for our annual fund raising bash.

As the day itself approached garden brollies, gazebos and any kind of shelter were investigated, patched up and set up around the site ‘just in case’ ….. We had cancellations and last minute changes had to be made but, despite the sudden and sharp showers of rain predicted, most of those who had promised their participation did come along. Volunteers, nurseries and exhibitors all made huge efforts and deserve our very grateful thanks for all their hard work.

 

Our car parking and entrance volunteers in particular had to take whatever the weather threw at them, and came up smiling. It was so rewarding to see the cars arrive with everyone well prepared, brollies and wellies at the ready.  As one volunteer so accurately expressed it “You all succeeded in getting most of the Algarve and Alentejo gardeners – and perhaps even further afield – to come to the Fair DESPITE the weather ! They were all there – even the ones that usually look like models – under raincoats and umbrellas and hoods, hair-on-end  –  no make-up but all determined to buy plants and to be there.”

Highlights for many were discovering the nurseries new to this event, from as far afield as Lagos and Tavira. The chosen theme for this year seemed extremely popular, despite the wet day, and the talks and displays on succulents were very popular. We had a magnificent display of 50 different Aloes and a specialist collector brought along crates of his own plants to share with visitors. Nurseries had picked up the theme and brought wonderful plants for sale. On the members plants sales tables there were delights such as Sanseveira cylindrica, Plumeria rubra (Frangipani), fifteen different kinds of ornamental grasses and five different kinds of Kniphofias. The axe swinging lecturer demonstrating propagation by division was theatre at it´s best. Did anyone get a photo ?

This year we have used funds to pay for some professional help, alongside the wonderful volunteers, who have completed the extensive work required to get the site ready for our event. We certainly plan on holding other events at Estoi but, hopefully, in better weather. We also plan to help a young professional horticulturist coming to the Algarve to gain experience of Mediterranean gardening, and have funded the production of Mediterranean Garden Society gardening advice leaflets (now available in three languages) as well as supporting our events throughout the year. For example the Spring Conference in March 2013 with Roy Lancaster and Jim Gardiner as speakers. This will be held 1st to 3rd March and will look at the global contribution of plants from the Mediterranean climate zones of the world, including crop plants, garden cultivars and, of course, drought tolerant planting.

 

We have also been able to take the plunge into using the internet to share with everyone the impressive lecture on the Ecology of the Mediterranean by Dr Oliver Rackham at this years Spring Conference. This is now available to all on the web at https://vimeo.com/48385302

You can follow news of events on www.gardeninginportugal.com and also our new public access facebook page  Mediterranean Gardeners – Portugal, isn´t technology marvellous ….