One of my favourite trees to use in designs are Olive Trees, they have never lost their appeal and their classic look makes them so easy to use but with the different styles of this beautiful tree you can create lots of different looks.
Our climate is perfect for growing Olive trees as they are hardy to around -15C and can be grown in Ireland without a fleece to this temperature. In fact they need at least three months of the year at a cold temperature to flower and in turn fruit. They don’t mind the wind and can tolerate some drought so they are the perfect tree for gardens where low maintenance is a priority.
They are slow growing and reasonably compact so are ideal for a small garden or on a terrace and their evergreen green-grey foliage is a great lift to a garden. Being drought resistant they are great in pots too but do need a good fertiliser to help them create the energy to flower.
Now you have been sold on the Olive tree it is time to decide which shape and size you would like, the options are numerous; from old trees with large really wide old trunks so big that it isn’t possible to get your arms right around them. They are amazingly mature looking and we have these available up to 4metres tall but still with a relatively compact head so these work nice in a large planter surrounded by low growing lavender. We also have the same kind of size tree but slightly more gnarly with a higher root bulb and a real quirkinesses to them, they give great maturity and character to a garden.
The next options is a medium sized tree so a good sized stem but not as ‘trunky’ as the two above but the heads on these tend to be wider and looser and give really depth of foliage, great for lining along a smaller garden and giving texture without too much height, so not blocking light. I was in a garden this morning that we planted last Autumn, a city garden that we used Olives as the main tree foliage against a dark grey pained background and lit from underneath they create a stunning look and can then be under planted with pops of contrasting colours of blues and whites or go a bit bolder with some real pops of colour.
Another option is smaller trees that work well at a door or entrance or in a smaller pot, the heads on these tend to be pruned tightly to create a small ball shape but will grow and loosen if you allow them. The last option is the bonsai or Niwaki cloud pruned trees and these really do need to be seen to be appreciated. Several stems come from the base and have cloud pruned foliage all the way up, they are a work of art and a stunning specimen in your garden.
Your Olive trees will benefit from a good feed which is high in Potassium, phosphate & magnesium which will enrich the soil and encourage good growth and flowering, use in May and then again in October and water in well. If the winter has been a harsh one then a fast release fertiliser like a simple tomato food will have them looking good as new and replacing any lost leaves. They need good watering in the summer months to keep them in their optimum health and especially if they are pot grown.
Like most evergreen trees Olives do well if pruned well although avoid pruning until the last of the Spring frosts and don’t leave to late in the year either as this could leave the tree exposed to early frosty mornings. Pruning increases that chances of fruiting and in a good summer and the right conditions you may get Olives but as we don’t get quite enough summer heat you will need to pick them in September/October before the first frosts.