What does gnarly mean? How long does an olive tree live? How do you move an olive tree? Can I plant an olive tree indoors?… Here are many of the frequent questions we get asked about olive trees – along with the answers.

GENERAL

Olive tree specialist, Villaggio Verde has been promoting Olive trees in the UK for more than 20 years and are now the specialist Olive tree suppliers with more than 2000 Olive trees available. Villaggio Verde are comitted to supplying ‘best value’ by keeping costs to a minimum. No ‘flashy’ expensive display areas means we simply offer quality and value Olive trees direct from ‘our door’ to ‘your door’.  All you need to do is drop us an email. info@villaggioverde.co.uk   And here’s a whole page on how to buy your olive tree...

Villaggio Verde supply Olive trees to a diverse group of plant users including the general public, garden centres, plants nurseries, mail order companies, garden design companies, construction companies, local authorities, country estates, high profile personalites and celebrities, television companies, film sets and some very important households!

We offer a daily olive tree delivery, and the way your tree will be delivered will depend entirely upon the size of the tree and its final destination.  For many properties in cities, particularly London, access is limited and the only way into a garden can be either taking the tree (well wrapped) through the house or using a crane to take the tree up and over!

Of course this is a well-rehearsed operation, as we deliver hundreds of olive trees in the city every year.

Other more rural destinations may not require such a specialised service, in which case your tree may be delivered on a pallet to your home address, ready for you to place in a container, or to plant.

Yes! It’s certainly possible, although it will depend on the load-bearing of your balcony.  Many of our deliveries in London require special logistics and this is no different.  For a balcony tree, if the tree is too large for stairs and lift, we can employ cranes to lift it into place.

Absolutely yes!  Please make sure that there’s adequate drainage and that you’ve sited the container where you want it.  Make sure the container is big enough to house the rootball of the olive tree.

Think of a greek hillside!  Poor soil, little water, great drainage, not damp.  Olive trees can exist in the scrubbiest of places, in environments that many other trees would simply hate.  So you can see they are hardy and tough, capable of finding water and clinging onto a mountain.   Ensure your olive tree is placed in a well-drained environment, make sure there’s no possiblity of water-logging, and it should be quite happy. Of course remember to water it, but not too much.

Olive trees live hundreds of years, so if you want a mature olive tree you may be best considering an old tree with a beautiful gnarly trunk.  For younger trees, the trunk is smooth, but you can choose from some glorious shapes including spiral trunks and cloud-clipped trees.

In the wild they don’t grow terribly tall, but in the UK they tend to be a lot shorter.  Remember you can (in fact you should) prune your tree, so you can keep it under control size-wise.

Given enough light and the correct watering, olive trees thrive indoors.  Large olive trees look fantastic in hotels, restaurants, shops and offices. Stunning in art galleries, and make a lovely backdrop to shopping malls.  Olive trees make glorious container trees for the home.

Olive trees have been grown in the UK since at least Roman times.  The trees we most usually supply are usually Oleo Europaea and these are very well adapted to UK climate.   Olive trees are very happy in UK climate.  Remember too that the Mediterranean winter can sometimes be as harsh as ours, so olive trees are not strangers to cold or even snow.

MAINTENANCE

This is the number one question in the UK and there is a definative answer – Yes.

Olive trees are incredibly robust and can cope with a wide range of extremes.  Villaggio Verde Olive trees are hard grown.  All our trees are grown outdoors, not a poly-tunnel to be seen which means stength.  No matter what the weather, our Olive trees experience it and that goes for a week of full hot sun right through to heavy snow.

There are, however certain things to consider.

Do not let your potted Olive tree dry out in Winter.

Here, at Villaggio Verde, we have seen very low temperatures in the UK over the past few Winters.  It has given us the opportunity to further research how the Olive trees react to sub zero temperatures.  Villaggio Verde have studied this at our facility based in Worcestershire, middle England, and a few years ago saw the lowest temperatures for 100 years, minus 19.2! What we learnt from this was that the roots of an Olive tree can withstand being deep frozen for 2 weeks, providing the tree was hydrated prior to the freeze.  In other words, the trees we left dry suffered more than the trees which were watered.  During these extreme in low temperatures, we observed that the ‘dry’ trees suffered frost damage into the main branches and occasionally into the trunk, whereas the hydrated trees suffered less.  A good hard prune the following spring encouraged the trees to bounce back.  Olive trees are a little like Willow trees.  Pollard or even chainsaw straight through the middle of the trunk, and the trees will start to shoot from the point where the tree was cut.

Olive trees do extremely well in pots and can cope with being pot bound providing the crowns is kept cropped and in shape.  You must also remember to water your Olive trees more frequently when in pots.  Consider building a simple bottomless box around the base of your trees.  This can be simply done using new sleepers (not old contaminated railway sleepers), purchased from your local builders merchant.  They are cost effective and easy to cut and put together creating a very attractive container. Make the sleeper container as large as you wish in order to balance the crown of the Olive trees.  This also provides soil areas inwhich to under-plant with a herbs for example.  After one season, the sleepers ‘silver’ providing a super and cost effective planter.

Olive trees thrive when planted directly into the ground.  They prefer alkaline soils and are happiest in poor soils, sandy, gravel types and chalk.  They are also fine in any free draining soil.  The trees also grown well in clay, however, our wet UK climate means if you have clay soils, you should consider how long it takes for the water to drain.  This is easy to test, as you simply need to dig a hole, fill it with water, and see how quickly the water drains away.  If it is still full of water after a few hours then imagine the roots of the Olive tree during the winter, probably too wet.  You can help this problem, by only half planting the root-ball and then grading a more free draining soil from the existing ground level  to the top of the Olive tree root-ball.  If you choose to plant this graded soil with lavender, for example, then the tree will appear natural.  Only part planting the Olive tree also means you retain some height so the Olive tree is viewed and enjoyed even more.

Pruning is simple!  We are asked many times each day, how shall I prune my Olive trees? The important thing is to keep the tree pruned back each year to encourage good leaf growth.  Imagine a single shoot, pruned.  At the point where you prune the shoot, two or three new shoots will spur, which means the shoot suddenly becomes a multi-shoot.  Imagine pruning 100 shoots all over the tree to produce 300 new shoots.  This is how you develop the crown.  In the UK we are less concerned about open centre as Olive fruit is not the priority in the UK.  The message is to prune the Olive tree in order to produce a crown to suit your space.  There is no science to pruning a tree outside of the commercial environment and the Olive trees do not suffer from die back.  This means you can prune anywhere and not worry about pruning just above a shoot.

Remember that if you do not prune the tree, then the single shoots will continue to head for the skies.  As the shoot matures and thickens into a branch, the mature wood stops producing leaves.  If you have seen an Olive tree with all the leaves on the outer branches, and looking rather thin and woody in the centre, then this is the reason!

Olive trees are incredibly drought tolerant and when living happily on a hillside in Italy or Greece, the roots will travel into the mountain side to find humidity in the soil, enough to keep them happy.  However,commercial groves are often irrigated in order to ensure the flower is maintained and the Olive fruit reaches its optimum.  Serious drought can sometimes affect the quality and yeild of the fruit – disaster if you are an Olive fruit farmer!  The situation in the UK is different.  If the tree in planted in the ground, after intial watering for the first growing season, the Olive tree will be completly drought tolerant.  If the Olive trees are displayed in containers, the trees roots are not able to find water other than the water we or nature add.  Rain falling onto a pot surface provides little benefit.  It is important to keep the Olive trees watered during their growing season when in containers, and ensure they do not dry out completly during the winter.  No plant on this planet can live without any water!

Olive trees survive with little nutrients, but again, if the tree is in a container, provide it with a ‘tonic’ of Tomato food in May as the tree is waking up and then again every 6 weeks through the growing period.  It is not essential but we have found this to be a benefit to the trees.

Olive trees are incredible strong.  They are even fire resistant!  Often the leaves of an Olive trees appear ‘nibbled’.  This is caused by a leaf beatle and is nothing to be concerned about.  It is not deterimental to the trees health and hardly noticable.

Peacock spot on Olive trees becomes apparant after wet winters and continued wet springs.  It is not serious unless you are in the business of harvesting fruit on a large scale.  Peacock spot, however, should be treated if possible to maintain good leaf cover and avoid excessive leaf drop.  Peacock spot can be treated with a copper solution, preferably after a long dry period (easier said than done in the UK!).

Mealy Bugs – now these are a pain, especailly if the trees are indoors.  It is easier to remove this pest by detecting it early.  Look for white ‘fluffy’ powder under the leaves and at the leaf axis.  The ‘bug’ operates by sucking the sap from the trees (not only olive trees but any plants that are placed indoors).  They can be blasted off with a stream of water or a cloth with Alcohol can be used to wipe of the pest.  Soap solution also works and it effectively sufficates the little pests.

Olive trees will bounce back from most things.  Even if the tree loses all it’s leaves, with a little care, the tree will be back and flourishing in no time.