Surprised to hear we can grow olives in Portland, Oregon? I was.
Before we moved here from San Francisco 9 years ago, I had purchased a potted olive tree (Olea europaea ‘Arbequina’) from an olive oil retailer (Stonehouse? McEvoy Ranch? I can’t remember) in the Ferry Building. We kept it in the little enclosed patio space in our rental — here’s a photo of it as a baby:
I purchased it because it was so emblematic of that part of California to me — olives seemed to be everywhere, including as street trees all over our neighborhood. Growing up in Connecticut, then living near Washington DC, then in London, olive trees weren’t part of my horticultural lexicon, but I found them exquisitely beautiful. The silvery underside of each leaf, the gnarled branches as they matured, and their human scale all made them attractive to me. So I got myself one.
Then we up & moved to Portland, Oregon. As we were figuring out which of our possessions we’d need to re-home and what would come with us, I did a little research into whether my little olive would survive in our new home. I was surprised to read that it would!
So it got packed into the car with us, our cat, and our most precious possessions as we made our way north. Once here, I planted it up into a larger pot and it took up residence in our back garden.
It stayed in that pot for many years, and then was repotted into a larger pot with fresh soil, where it remained for many more years. It survived frigid winters no problem. And I limbed it up and up so that its branching would start above our heads. And then last year, after we replaced the foundation of our house, I decided to plant it in the ground. I gave it plenty of drainage, and we’ll see how it does in its new home. It put on lots of appreciative growth this past summer with warm temps, lots of sun, and plenty of space for its roots.
It’s self-fertile, so it’s been flowering & fruiting since the beginning, but we’ve never gotten ripe olives. This year, with warm temps extended well into autumn, this is the most ripe they’ve ever been. If there’s an upside to climate change (and there isn’t) it’s that we may be able to ripen olives, and grow citrus & avocados here in Portland in the future.