Originating from the Mediterranean.
- A small to medium-sized tree, fully hardy in most of the UK.
- Architectural in shape and suitable for contemporary, Mediterranean, or formal gardens.
- Very easy to grow and adaptable to different pruning styles.
This iconic Mediterranean tree is evocative of ancient groves growing in the sun-baked Spanish or Italian countryside, in courtyards or public spaces, Greek town squares, or Balearic plazas. Its value to UK gardeners is much more than Mediterranean pastiche though. The olive tree’s adaptability to different roles in the garden is indispensable; it can be clipped to make formal potted specimens, it can form cloud-pruned oriental shapes, or left to grow wild to develop its natural gnarled character.
The leaves of different olive varieties range from silver grey to mid-green, but all have a slightly glossy sheen, giving them a unique appearance in strong sun, glinting slightly due to their reflective leaf surfaces. Although this effect is more pronounced in the silver-leafed trees, all olives have this quality to some degree. Sitting under an olive crown, in its dappled shade and reflected light, is a good way to appreciate this effect, as the crowns seem incapable of casting deep shade, in part due to the leaves’ sheen, but also due to their crowns’ branching habit, which is fairly open, meaning underplanting is easy under the partially filtered sunlight below their canopy.
Our customers are always surprised at the hardiness of Olea Europaea. We are able to tell them about this based on our experience of many specimens growing in different locations in Norfolk. We know many plants that survived the severe winters of 2009 – 2010. The worst affected trees dropped most of their leaves, like a deciduous species, and re-grew their crowns immediately the following spring, and are now healthy vigorous specimens.
It’s easy for us to see how tough these plants are when we visit our suppliers – the truckloads of ancient plants arrive from the groves where they have been grubbed out, (to be replaced with younger, or more heavily fruiting varieties). They are transported to our suppliers with no branches and hardly any roots. Some of the specimens are truly ancient, with massive twisted and gnarled trunks. All are potted into tiny containers relative to their age and size, and eventually loaded onto another lorry to be exported. The trees bear this treatment and regenerate to form thriving trees for our customers’ gardens, rescued by the horticultural trade, from being burned as an agricultural waste product, or maybe cut for timber.
This toughness is a good indication of how hard an olive tree can be pruned, if a dense and compact crown is required, rather than the billowing and soft swaying natural one. They can be pruned hard, resulting in dense regrowth. They’re also great topiary subjects and can form many shapes with regular trimming.
Grow in well-drained soil in full sun.
Suitable for containers with copious amounts of water during the growing season.
Height and spread after 3 – 4 years 1.5m x 1.5m
Semi-mature height and spread after 8 – 10 years, if not pruned 3m x 2m
Potential semi-mature height after 20 – 50 years 6m x 4m