It’s been a coon’s age since I last posted, I’m sure some of you might be thinking I gave it up. I was one of the unfortunate that got the flu this winter and a rather nasty strain of it too; this came with a cough that just refused to go away! Now it is completely gone in time for the spring re-potting season here in Portland. But I wanted to share with you today some of the small olives I’ve been working on through the years as they become the center of attention here in the winter. I have a room with a south-facing window in the house that I winter all my tropical and Mediterranean species. Another reason for posting is that some of the older photos of some of these trees have come up recently on my facebook page as friends check out my albums there. It’s surprising how much some of them have changed, so I’ll begin with one that I potted into an old pulley that came from a farm implement from my Grandfather’s farm:

oleawrkshp2010 022


This picture was taken early summer of  2010 right after I re-potted it into the pulley; it was never styled and you can see what these olives like to do–shoot their branches straight up and reach for the sky! Next shot was in November 2010 and hopefully you can see the result of a complete wiring of all the branches and some pruning off of the suckers at the base of the tree…still in the pulley:

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Next is the image I took yesterday in a different pot and completely re-wired. I re-potted it to this Mardella Brock pot last summer and re-wired the tree last fall (2012) Summertime is the best time to re-pot the heat-loving Mediterranean trees in the Northwest. It’ nice having something to do in the summer when we normally don’t do much work on our trees except water, water and water some more 😉



It really likes the new pot because it’s deeper and some of the vigor of the tree has been restored. I liked the rusty pulley and may put it in that one again, we’ll see. What do you think?  The next tree up was the largest of the olives I’ve got and I don’t have a photo of it when it was in its plastic pot. It looked very similar to the first tree posted, with lots of branches sprouting from all over the trunk and growing ram-rod straight. Here is the tree back in 2010:

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The tree is 8″ high and the trunk at the base is 4″ in diameter…a little large for shohin. They are calling them Kifu now, I believe. This is not a ‘Sumo’ as the dimensions would have to be wider than it is tall. I have one that might qualify as a Sumo to post later on. I removed a lot of branches from the tree and shortened and wired the remaining ones that were important for the design. And here’s how it looks as of yesterday:

large olive


The tree was completely re-wired last fall and I turned it slightly counter-clockwise for a little more movement in the trunk. It’s starting to fill in a bit and is one step closer to the final image. I’m thinking about a different pot for it–one with the sides curving convexly…what do you think? Coming up next is one that we might consider to be ‘Sumo’–defined as being wider than it is tall. The first shot is from when I first potted the tree. It is in an unusual pot made by my friend Mardella Brock, a potter living in Bozeman, MT:

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You can see that the tree was wired but you can’t see the trunk very well. This little spud presented a problem for me to solve as it was this little lump of a trunk with very little going on regarding movement or flow. Kind of static, if you will. So I was playing around with the pot last summer and lit on a solution; there was a dip in Mardella’s pot that accommodated the trunk if I tilted the tree to the left:



This is a case for the pot influencing the design of the tree, when sometimes a tree just doesn’t give us much to work with. And while I’m showcasing Mardella’s pots, this next little tree is in a fantastic pot she made–very ‘Chihuly-esque’ in feeling. First image is from summer of 2010:

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This little tree had some styling from the previous owner, so I let it go for a while…but I just had to do something with it because these little suckers really take off  in the heat of the summer. Yesterday’s image is of the tree in at least its second wiring by my hand:

Olea europa


A little note about wiring here. You probably have noticed I use copper wire on these trees and not aluminum as most do on non-conifers. If I used aluminum, I could not have set the branches where I wanted or put the kind of movement into them I can with copper. My feeling about whether to use copper or not has to do with whether you feel confident with it or not. I just know that if I put wire on any tree–especially non-conifers–I need to watch the branches very carefully so that the wire does’nt bite in and remove it at the first sign it might be. Also with the olives, I wire them in the fall, when the new shoots have lignified or hardened off; October and November is a good time here in the Portland area for that. The little planting that’s next has no before photo, I’m afraid, but has been together since the summer of 2010, when I first potted it. It’s a little ‘Sumo’ stump I planted into a black lava rock and that was placed on a ‘plate pot’ Mardella Brock made especially for this planting. She really laughed out loud when she first saw it and it made me feel good 😉



The height of the lava is 6″ to give you a sense of scale. It just might qualify for a shohin. And next is one of my favorites of them all…it’s so ugly it’s cute, like a little pug:



Dimensions on this are 4″ wide by 4″  high. Sorry there’s no before shot on this one. Up next is another for which there is no before. It is a root cutting and one of the most peculiar of the bunch. I potted it in a tuna can and am thinking of putting it into a Sara Raynor pot this summer…what do you think of the tuna can?

Tuna can


That does it for the European olives and now for some Olea oleaster. First is the one I’ve had the longest, it was given to me by a friend when I was in Tucson in 2001. I planted it on the lava shortly after I moved to Oregon in 2006. It’s been on that piece of lava for 7 years and is happy as a clam there:

Olea oleaster


I wired it last fall; those branches are starting to get stiff but they’re still flexible. I made a number of cuttings from this tree over the years and sold most of them at a workshop held at my friend Mardella Brock’s annual Summer Garden Sale in 2010; the rest I gave away but I held on to this little cutting I planted to a lava rock in the summer of 2011 and wired last fall:

Olea oleaster cutting


The dimensions of this planting are: 10″ wide by 7″ high including the rock. That does it for the olives for now, how about a dwarf orange with fruit?

Dwarf orange


The trunk is 2″ at the base and the tree is 9″ high; the fruits are the size of blueberries and very tasty with a single seed at the center. I purchased this tree from Loveda Petrie in Tucson around 2003 as a seedling she had grown from seed. She got the original tree from a bonsai trip to Japan, it was part of the table decorations at a banquet. I have a small forest of these I grew from seed off of this tree. Not ready for prime time yet, but I’ll post a photo of it when it is. This tree blooms in the heat of the summer and the small white flowers are very fragrant. What’s not to like about a tree like this? That’s all I’ve got for you today but stay tuned as there has been some activity outdoors and surely some posts will follow!