Landscape Design with Olive Trees
Landscape Design with Olive Trees
A Guide for Designing Olive Trees
Landscaping with olive trees can create a beautiful visual impact as well as enhance surroundings for a lasting impression. But how do you know where to place the trees? How many would look best in your landscape? And what criteria should you consider in planning your landscape design with olive trees?
What Are Your Landscape Goals?
Your first step is determining what you are going to achieve with your new landscape. Are you hoping to craft a grand entrance to your property with placement of olive trees flanking your driveway or walkway leading up to the home?
Are you envisioning making a single olive tree the focal point of a courtyard, with all other landscape materials distributed around the tree to create focus? Are you hoping to create a specific mood evoking ancient Greece or Italy?
Is your landscape going to be themed with a focus on peace (extending the proverbially olive branch)? Or is your landscape’s focus food grown in the Mediterranean?
Given their long lives (up to 1,000s of years), olive trees can represent prosperity, durability, persistence, longevity and even fertility when producing fruit. What statement do you want to make with your olive tree?
A newly planted olive orchard we were contracted to install for a client
Feature ancient olive trees, flanking a home
The Visual Impact of Olive Trees
Olive trees have a unique appearance that makes them stand out in any landscape:
- TRUNK SHAPE & SURFACE Olive trees sport a distinct, gnarly trunk shape that often looks knotted. This becomes more and more pronounced with age as seen in many ancient olive trees.
- LEAF SHAPE Unique, elliptical leaf shape is easily recognizable as belonging to the olea family of trees.
Knotty and gnarly trunk of an ancient olive tree
Leaf closeup of Frantoio cultivar olive tree
- COLOR It’s so distinct, it’s called “olive green”! But that green can range of gray-green to dark green foliage. If you are attempting to match or contrast foliage color with the surroundings, be sure you select the appropriate cultivar to achieve this goal.
- TEXTURE Different cultivars provide a variety of textural impressions, from rough to smoothe. The density of foliage can also convey a more or less solid to wispy texture to the tree.
A Coratina olive tree, which grows in an inverse conical shape
Pendolino has a weepy branch formation
- SHAPE & SIZE Coratina grows in the shape of an inverted cone (see above), which is somewhat the opposite of most cultivars. Pendolino is known for its wispy, weeping branch shape, reminiscent of weeping willows. Little Ollie remains small and compact, perfect for shrubs or container accents.
- SIZE OVER TIME An important distinction when planting olives in your landscape is understanding their speed of growth and ultimate, mature size. Are you content to wait for a young specimen to mature over X number of years? Or do you seek a fully mature specimen now? What is your preference? (And know that younger trees will be less expensive than mature ones.)
Olive trees can be planted and grown from any size tree. What size do you want to start with?
Little Ollie is a non-fruiting, low-growing, dwarf olive tree shrub, making it ideal for containers and low hedges.
The Role of the Surrounding Landscaping
Are you adding an olive tree to an existing landscape? Designing a landscape around one or more olive trees? Or are you designing in a specific style: Mediterranean? Modern? Japanese Zen? Formal Italian? Or whimsical English garden? Your choices for the surrounding landscape can either enhance and draw focus to your olive tree(s), or, make the tree(s) seem out of place. Choose wisely!
Our installation crew installs a mature olive tree at a private home as a centerpiece to their landscape
The mature olive tree has been pruned into a box shape, providing a modern approach to the landscape’s impact.
Apply the Principles of Landscape Design to Your Olive Trees
Landscape designers may list a number of principles they use to guide their design development. They may include:
How do they work? And how can you put them to best use? Much depends upon your unique design challenges. In general, you won’t have to worry about all of these principles because the majority of them will take care of themselves within any given design.
Here are a few tips about incorporating these principles when landscaping with olive trees:
Click the ” + ” below to expand the selection.
A balanced allee of olive trees
Not a Zen garden, but the simplicity of the single olive tree evokes the serenity of a Japanese garden.
Massing olive trees together, whether in containers or planted in-ground, creates maximum impact.
Olive Tree Landscape Design Limitations
Now that your imagination is running wild, here are a few criteria that may help hone your idea down to fit your exact needs:
Tips for Olive Tree Landscape Design
Challenges abound in ensuring your olive tree is given an optimal life in your landscape, but there are numerous tricks you can employ to ensure success.
Olive trees do well in containers with lots of bright sunshine.
Started when young, olive trees make excellent tabletop decor, which you can transfer to larger pots as they grow.
Pools, Allees, Walkways…
Single or Multi-trunk
Shrubs, Topiary & Other Uses
Our nursery of olive trees, with an ancient olive in foreground with many young olive trees in background
The most common comment we hear is, “I didn’t know there were so many cultivars with such a wide array of growing characteristics!” The best news we can hear is that the olive specimen is growing well, exactly as expected in its new home.
If you would like assistance in designing, installing or maintaining your olive trees, please ask us for assistance. Our services for olive trees are…unlimited!
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