17 Mar

An English olive…. but don’t mix the Martinis just yet

Soaring spring temperatures have created a boom in sales of olive trees in Britain.

With parts of the country enjoying highs of up to 16C (61F), there is a growing demand from gardeners for Mediterranean plants usually found in warmer climates.

But don’t start mixing the Martinis in celebration quite yet – the great British weather is famously unpredictable and, if it turns bad, our olives will suffer.

Dutch distribution company Plant Line has imported about 400 trees to the UK this year. It delivers to 200 garden centres, mostly in the south.

One garden centre proprietor, Paul Kennett, alone has sold 50 this year. He said:

“The trees are really popular because they thrive in the warmer conditions we are seeing more and more in Britain today.

“Gardeners are demanding the kinds of Mediterranean plants which are more associated with parts of southern Italy, France, and Spain.

“But if we get a bad summer, the trees will produce fewer olives and of a poorer quality.”

Mr Kennett, who has run his garden centre in Blean, Kent, for 40 years, started selling the Olea europea trees three years ago.

For the tree to produce a good crop it needs to have at least three months of warm, sunny weather.

The season has started earlier this year because of higher temperatures.

The trees grow to 30ft tall and olives – the perfect finishing touch to Martinis – start appearing by mid-June. Fruiting continues until September.

Mr Kennett says the trees – which cost £20 for a three-year-old, 3ft-tall half-standard size – produce a large crop in their first year during a ‘good’ summer.

More established trees – aged five – are sold for £70. He has also seen an increase in sales of other Mediterranean plants, including bougainvillaea and oleander.

This year was the second mildest winter since records began in 1914, although a cold snap is expected. Met Office spokesman Keith Fenwick said:

“Broadly speaking, winters have been getting milder but we have had no really cold winters since 1991.

“Temperatures have been above average in recent days but it is not unusual for March to have extreme weather. It is fairly notorious for throwing up a mixed bag.”

[Source] Click here

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