Olive Trees a Popular Choice in the Gardens of Italy's Country Homes

Whether it is a single, monumental tree or an entire plantation, olive trees are the most requested addition to Alice Collantoni's residential landscape designs.

May. 20, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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In my expe­ri­ence with inter­na­tional cus­tomers, I can say that the olive tree is one of the most loved plants and is undoubt­edly at the top of the requests for use in the com­po­si­tion of a gar­den,” said Alice Collantoni, an archi­tect who spe­cial­izes in gar­den and land­scape design.

We met Collantoni on the south­ern coast of Tuscany, in the sea­port town of Porto Santo Stefano, on the promon­tory of Monte Argentario, whose name, accord­ing to a leg­end, derives from the sil­ver (‘argento’ in Italian) shad­ings of leaves of the olive trees wide­spread in the area.

A land­mark with a prac­ti­cal use thanks to the shade that it pro­vides dur­ing the warmer months.- Alice Collantoni

In Tuscany, an olive grove is fre­quently requested on large prop­er­ties, planted with tra­di­tional spac­ing or high-den­sity, often flanked by a vine­yard and cypresses. The olive tree is requested not only for oil pro­duc­tion, but also for a purely aes­thetic func­tion.

The olive grove is a must,” the archi­tect explained. When it is not pos­si­ble to include a plan­ta­tion in the project, a unique plant, sec­u­lar if pos­si­ble, is indi­vid­u­ally planted as a totem’ of the house.”

The most used vari­ety is Leccino for the great resis­tance to pathogens com­bined with its aes­thetic qual­i­ties, but some cus­tomers require cul­ti­vars for table olives, like Ascolana, Bella di Spagna and Santa Caterina, due to the visual impact of their larger fruits.

The olive tree has a good weather adapt­abil­ity,” the archi­tect explained. It does not have prob­lems of salt aerosol or defo­li­a­tion, thanks to great resis­tance to the warm Mediterranean Sirocco’ wind, which can dry up the foliage of fruit trees.”

The sin­gle olive tree is usu­ally asso­ci­ated with plants of the Mediterranean scrub, like rose­mary, broom, lentisque and myr­tle,” Collantoni explained. It can be dis­posed on a pre-exis­tent hill or a high ground can be cre­ated with earth­mov­ing to adapt to the land­scape. Thanks to build-ups and depres­sions, the olive tree pro­vides the focus of the gar­den, a land­mark with a prac­ti­cal use thanks to the shade that it pro­vides dur­ing the warmer months.”

Alice Collantoni

If for aes­thetic pur­poses, the plant requires a kind of dif­fer­ent prun­ing than would be needed for pro­duc­tion, it is car­ried out in the same period, from December to March. Keeping one-to-two ratio between the canopy and the trunk, the crown should be har­mo­nious, round, pleas­ing to the eye,” she sug­gested.

There is a great demand, from Italian and American clients, for sin­gle olive trees or small plan­ta­tions ded­i­cated to lim­ited pro­duc­tion, often flanked by a veg­etable gar­den. A lower demand comes from Eastern European and Russian cus­tomers, less used to the cul­ture of olive oil.

The olive tree is not widely used in the so-called Italian gar­den,’ typ­i­cal of the vil­las near Florence, with the top­i­ary hedge cut into spe­cific shapes. Due to less reg­u­lar and less com­pact foliage than plants like box, myr­tle and cypress, it is rarely requested,” Collantoni explained.

Our plant is widely used in the English Gardens,’ in Italy. Characterized by curved lines and trails through flow­er­ing shrubs, wild and nat­ural, it is ideal for this.”

It is also requested in the French Garden,’ iden­ti­fied by a plant­ing logic based on the height of the plants and a nat­ural com­po­si­tional style made of sin­u­ous shapes, and of course in the Mediterranean gar­den,’ which Collantoni described as a kind of com­po­si­tion in which var­i­ous styles are used, such as English and French, but with typ­i­cal Mediterranean species which require low water con­sump­tion, par­tic­u­larly plants with gray’ leaves, like olives, myr­tle, sil­ver rag­wort and laven­der, for their adapt­abil­ity to this spe­cific cli­matic con­di­tion.”

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