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Olive trees are migrating north

In the early 2000s, I was very much involved in gardening, both my own and visiting other gardens, but I did not know olive trees being planted in Oregon. Not only were they not seen in local gardens, but they were also not readily available in local garden centers.

Olive trees were considered a Mediterranean plant that could grow in California and Arizona, but not in Oregon. Our winters were too cold and too wet — those were the commonly heard objections.

My opinion on growing olive trees in Oregon changed in 2008 on a visit to Red Ridge Farms in Dayton, Oregon. Olive trees were being planted as a commercial crop and there was even a state-of-the-art olive mill to press the olives for their oil, process it, and then offer it for sale.

Today, almost 20 years later, Durant at Red Ridge Farms has 17 acres of olive trees. They also now sell olive trees so that visitors can take one home and plant in their home garden. Olive trees are now available at most local garden centers, including Al’s Garden & Home in Sherwood. In most cases, they have seemed to grow well in our local conditions.

Many local gardeners have planted olive trees, including me. My garden has three ‘Arbequina’ olive trees. They have thrived in a location that receives very hot summer sun and very little supplemental water.

Actually, in the past few years, local garden centers have begun to offer more cultivars for home gardens. The cultivar ‘Albequina’ has been the standard, but more cultivars are becoming available. Since most home gardeners are probably more interested in treating an olive as an ornamental tree, fruit production is less of a concern. With their soft gray green foliage, an olive tree can provide a striking evergreen winter foliage plant in the garden.

Planting evergreen olive trees is a newer trend in planting ornamental trees, but one that local gardeners can take advantage of in a big way. Various cultivars of olive trees have been readily available in California for years. Now it is time for them to migrate to Oregon.


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