The great olive: An essential part of early Mediterranean civilazations. It was featured generously in both the Bible (mentioned 30 times) and the Koran (12 times and referred to by Mohammad as "a blessed tree"). It's a symbol of peace and steadfastness (some trees are known to be over 2,000 years old; one 1,600 year old Croatian tree still produces fruit) as well as strength and sustenance. Its colors are otherworldy and evergreen and its stubbornness against inhospitable heat and dryness have all made it venerated in poetry and metaphor.
There's an old saying, you plant a grapevine for yourself but you plant an olive tree for your grandchildren.
Below, two plantings by northern California designer Andrea Cochran:
The Greeks believe it was Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who gave mankind the divine fruit. The Romans also coveted the precious crop, and later the Venetians shipped it around the Mediterranean from Palestine to Morocco and Spain.
It was olive oil that supplied the fuel that lighted lamps throughout the Middle East during Biblical times and the Nativity. It shouldn't be surprising that olives and their oil have a spiritual significance throughout the Middle East, the oil itself is mentioned in the bible 140 times, the Qur’an and Torah also recording it as symbol of life and fertility.
Two wonderfully symetrical trees stand like sentries on pedestals. Their exquisite backdrop will remain steadfast long after the pool has turned to dust.
Two more Andrea Cochran treatments, below:
Wizened olive nobility decorates this uncovered dining room, and below, the grand dame and her supporting cast:
Olives do well in pots, too. As Mediterranean creatures they prefer warmer climes but for those that live in other zones you'll need to be moved inside during the winter months. They'll need to be acclimated gradually to full sun when returned to the outdoors. In the ground olives will grow 1 - 2 feet a year. Even in a pot they'll need to replanted into larger vessels every couple of years to prevent root overcrowding.
The mini European Olive:
Some poppies providing an understory to the majestic crowns of the olive.
Even when seen from near, the olive shows
A hue of far away. Perhaps for this
The dove brought the olive back, a tree which grows
unearthly pale, which ever dims and dries,
And whose great thirst, exceeding all excess,
Teaches the South it is not paradise.
Richard Wilbur, 1948 (excerpt for Grasse: The Olive Trees where the title of this post also comes)