April 2014

Saturday 5th April 2014 and hosted at Quinta da Figueirinha near Silves

There was an excellent turnout with approx. 70 people attending for the launch of the long-awaited Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Algarve.  Organised by the Algarve Branch of the newly-formed Mediterranean Gardening Association for Portugal, the launch was attended by both authors, Simon Hiscock and Chris Thorogood. They are here with a study group of students from Bristol University to have their annual field botany trip to the west coast of Portugal. These annual study trips and the students involved have contributed over the past 15 years to the enormous amount of work and research required to produce this invaluable resource dedicated to the wildflowers of this region.


This is the first comprehensive identification guide to the rich Mediterranean flora of the Algarve region of southern Portugal, including the Cape St. Vincent Peninsula National Park, an area of immense botanical importance with numerous endemic and rare species. The Algarve is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe (it receives more than 7 million tourists per annum), and this guide is the essential companion for wildlife tourists, and the first comprehensive easy-to-use identification guide to its wild flowers.

Information is provided on where and when to see plants with information on their habitat and vegetation types. In addition rare and unusual plants of the region are highlighted, including orchids and parasitic plants. With over 1,000 species descriptions, the book is abundantly illustrated throughout with over 650 stunning colour photographs, 780 line drawings and distribution maps.


Simon and Chris acknowledged their gratitude to the inspiring work of the late Peter Placito in introducing them to the flora and natural history of the Algarve when students at Oxford.


The book launch was followed by guided walks around the Quinta with many wildflowers and ancient trees to see as well as a botanical collection of fruit trees suitable for Algarve gardens.

The event resulted in a complete sell out of all the books available, but a new batch has been ordered and we have copies for sale, and to order, at a special discounted price of 36 euros.    Books can be obtained through the new Mediterranean Gardening Association by contacting the secretary Rosie Peddle at:  rosie@thebf.net


Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Algarve, by Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock (Kew Publishing 2014) ISBN 978 1 84246 497 7 www.kewbooks.com



This years spring gathering took place once again at the Pine Cliffs hotel near Albufeira on the Algarve following a very successful event held there in 2013. Our focus this year was very much on the succulents of the plant kingdom and the organising group had come up with some very knowledgeable speakers to take us on a global tour with suggestions for our mediterranean gardens along the way.

The weekend started with timely wildflower walks and garden visits on Friday and Monday, neatly sandwiching the more intense talks programme of Saturday and Sunday. Sue Parker and Pat O’Reilly took a group along the Algibre River on Friday morning and Marilyn Medina Ribeiro followed this up with a guided walk at Fonte De Benemola on Monday, just missing the worst of the heavy downpairs of the day. Both walks were described by one participant as an ‘orchidfest’ and there was some competition to see who had spotted the most species during the visit.

A special treat on Friday afternoon was the inauguration of the Botanic Tour of the Hotel Gardens to celebrate the new self-guided tour and brochure. A first for a hotel and resort on the Algarve. This was well attended by conference delegates and a good introduction to the huge range of plants from many parts of the works that grow here on the Algarve. If you would like to make the garden tour, just ask at the hotel reception at Pine Cliffs.





I would like to take the opportunity to thank the kind garden owners who opened their own private gardens to visitors to the conference. This is always a very popular part of the programme and I know visitors really appreciate the chance to visit and talk with gardeners in this area. This year visitors had the choice of newly planted succulent gardens, more established general interest gardens and a visit to Quinta da Figueirinha for encounters with fruit trees, ancient olives and carobs and plant trials.


Our specialist speakers took us on tours of Central America, South Africa and the Siskiyou Mountains of the western United States. All had excellent suggestions for plants and trees that should perform well for us in mediterranean climates. Derek Tribble took us to South Africa and showed us Aloe brevifolia and Aloe plicatis among many other interesting plants from this botanically rich area. Paul Spracklin shared the photos of his many visits to Mexico hunting out rare Agave species in their native habitat, including Agave potatorum and Agave titanoa.

Our keynote speaker on Saturday morning was Roy Lancaster. He shared with us his visit to the spectacular Siskiyou Mountains, his visit was guided by the well known nurseryman Sean Hogan and Roy recommended his book to us for hints on arid zone gardening. The magnificent specimens of pines and drought resistant shrubs included Pinus lambertii, Arbutus menzeisii and Rhamnus californica.


Marilyn Medina Ribeiro covered making gardens in the varied range of soil types of the Algarve, and Gerald Luckhurst told us the fascinating story of the restoration of the historic Mexico garden at Monserrate Palace in Sintra near Lisbon.


This was also an opportunity for getting to know other gardeners, and the talking went on throughout the weekend, friendships formed, gardens visited, diversity of plants well demonstrated – all in all a great way to spend a weekend !