The Olive tree instantly came to mind when designing our Mediterranean-flavoured Glen Iris project. The Olive, known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning “European olive”, is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae.
The oldest cultivated tree in existence, the Olive tree can live for thousands of years.
Olives are widely planted in gardens but are not always grown for their fruit. This productive, long-lived evergreen tree from the Mediterranean is also valued in gardens for its good looks and heat and drought tolerance. Young Olive trees have slender trunks and silver green leaves. Reaching 5 to 7 metres high they are used as shade trees or as hedges or espalier and can be grown as potted plants or as topiary specimens.
Ideally suited to a Mediterranean climate, Olives are versatile and can grow in cool zones and also in parts of the subtropics. That being said, severe frosts can damage Olives and in humid areas they are more prone to pest and disease problems. Most Olives require around 200 hours of seasonal chilling before flowering and fruiting occurs.
Olives grow best with a slightly alkaline (pH 7-8) well-draining soil. Olives can be grown in large containers but pot-grown plants are not as productive as those grown and managed in the ground.
Olives flower in early spring. Trees take three to five years of growth until they produce their first harvest and most only become fully productive after eight or nine years.
The most widely grown varieties for gardens are ‘Kalamata’, a dual purpose black olive suited to either pickling or pressing, ‘Manzanillo’ a large green fruiting olive, ‘Verdale’ which is used either for pickling or pressing, and ‘Nevadillo Blanco,’ a heavy cropping black olive that’s the widest grown oil-producing olive in Spain.
As stunning as they are practical, the Olive tree brings a much needed Mediterranean panache to our Glen Iris garden design project. A plant we would definitely recommend for those looking for a hearty, attractive tree to add some international culture and spice to their landscape.