Olive Trees

Diaries Of Olive Tree Bonsai (Olea europaea) 


June 17, 2017
Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea europea)
Bellatrix


It has been quite some times since any updates were made.  The wiring has been taken off and some severe pruning has taken place, plus re-siting the pot to an all day sun location.

As it turns out, Bellatrix is not quite as wild and disorderly looking as I had imagined.  Also, once the wires were taken off, Bellatrix again worshipped the sun and arranged its own branches to do so.  Never underestimate a trees desire to worship the sun.  I think this one takes too long to lignify.

This reinforces my laziness and desire to just use the trees natural growth tendencies and sun loving nature to manipulate the form and shape.  Windblown will probably not happen where it is.

Revising the plan is to still keep the trees at an imperial size bonsai.  That would mean keeping the trees around 6' tall.  Bellatrix is about that height as of now.  From here on out, it will be about rotation and trimming.


"... wiring method practiced by Hiromi Tsukada..."

October 17, 2016


More research on wiring the trees.  I like the windswept took, but the olive tree branches/leaves can be sparse and don't always fit well into the traditional bonsai styles.

Some people prefer to shape olive tree bonsai into sculptural styles, which I can agree with.

I've been toying with the idea of wiring the branches into spiral formations,which will lend to the whole Harry Potter, wild, curly hair fantasy Bellatrix type look of the bonsai.

The end result will be something between windswept and spirals. Training started over the weekend and looks pretty meager at the moment. I've been hesitating on the spirals until I can get more information on doing so. It is possible the spiral patterns can weaken the branches, but Bellatrix hasn't kept much fruit.  I don't think Bellatrix will be affected by fruit weight.

October 8, 2016


Bellatrix has achieved good size, many trunk sprouts and some wayward branching.  She grows
Windswept Bonsai Trained Tree
towards the north with downward curved branches, which may lend well to the idea of shaping her to a windswept bonsai of imperial size.  

Bellatrix seems to stand a bit straight in comparison to inspirational bonsai image found.  I'm not sure the branches will respond and fork in the same way as the inspirational bonsai either.    The idea is to do something similar to the inspirational bonsai.

Bellatrix will likely respond to trimming with more lower trunk sprouts, which is great for making knobby, cragly looking trunk taper.  It may be flexible enough to curve the main trunk a bit still.  Unfortunately, we aren't going to do the natural grow and prune bonsai style, we will be mostly working with wiring to  manage the shape of the upper, windswept branches.  We will also need to pinch off the ends of the branch tips to encourage fuller branch growth.  This is a job for late winter when there is no likely rain and little to no chance of frost, but before buds and flowers are set.

Bellatrix Sacrifice Branches
However, the sacrifice branches had become taller than Bellatrix's main trunk and seemed to be overpowering the intended design.  Bellatrix's branches received a big trimming today and hopefully not a damaging one.

The large sacrifice branches were cut to half the size of the main
trunk so that any wounds would not be close to the main trunk.  This may encourage spurious growth of sprouts from the main trunk and even the sacrifice branches.  I've not worked with an olive tree
Bellatrix Sacrifice Branches
before, so we will see what happens.

The sacrifice branches were initially allowed to grow in order to help the trunk develop a better taper, but I think this will turn out to make the gnarled and lumpy taper commonly seen on olive trees.

August 19, 2016


Bellatrix is quite large now.  I snapped a photo and was thinking about trimming her after removing olives this morning.  I did another check on when to prune olive trees and am thinking again about when is the best time to prune it.

I would like Bellatrix to be more spread out, more wind swept looking, imperial size and productive.  According to a gardening site, hard pruning should occur after the fourth year.  I estimate Bellatrix is about 2 years old... major trimming is another two years away, maybe?

The hardest part is getting started when you're not sure about what to do and the bonsai hobby being so new.  The goal is to keep the tree alive, and making a big trimming mistake can mean the death of the tree.  I am thinking about salvaging some cuttings and trying to root them for stand by just in case.

Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea
europaea)  'Bellatrix'

March 27, 2016


Bellatrix is really showing off with the abundant blooms - many more than last year. This time we need to beat whatever got to most of the olives before we did. Perhaps we waited too long last year, because reading indicates the best time to harvest is just as the color starts changing:

Pick the olives when they nearly ripe, when they have begun to change colour from green to pinkish purple but are not fully black. ~ GoodFood
This year, following fruit production, we seriously need to start training Bellatrix for her Imperial Bonsai form.  The trunk is getting a good size, water sprouts need to be removed and the shape needs to get started.

March 15, 2016



Bellatrix is doing well. The trunk has thickened significantly and survived the dogs chewing up the trunk.  Bellatrix has become quite tall and spread out, and is just about smothered in olive blossoms. 

Bellatrix has a few yellowing leaves here and there.  Given the timing and the volume, it is nothing to worry about:

Since olive trees are not deciduous, they have continual leaf loss through the season. Most olive leaves have a lifespan of two to three years, at which point they will yellow and fall off naturally. There is often a flush of leaf loss post-bloom.
~McEvoy Ranch 

Salt curing olives
For bonsai training, we just aren't ready yet. Another season passed by, now we have more blossoms and another olive harvest to look forward to.

The big harvest occurred during October, 2015. We tried salt curing for the first time. I think we need
more practice and better memory.

July 2, 2015

Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea
europaea)  'Bellatrix'

Our only surviving olive tree is Bellatrix.  We have not made any pruning since purchase, because the dogs chewed on the main trunk, it had some fruit and Bellatrix needed time to recover.

Bellatrix has fruit again this year, no coloration yet.  We were never able to enjoy the fruit last year.  All the olives had been picked off the tree by birds or something by the time we thought they were ripe.

I am considering some planned pruning.  I still prefer the imperial size bonsai, and I still intend to allow this tree to fruit because this is really just a hobby and I'd rather have some fruit than shows.

We still have the top branch that can be cut off to make that
Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea europea) 'Bellatrix'
planned pruning of main branch and
beautiful bonsai trunk taper.  We were also watching a home improvement show which had a really old olive tree with a beautiful, craggly trunk.  It was explained this trunk is uncommon because people rarely water through irrigation which causes water sprouts to grow up and merge with the main trunk.

As it happens, Bellatrix has several water sprouts, so I'm going to try and get them to merge with the main trunk along with the planned pruning.  This method of bonsai training is called 'fusion'.  Fusion makes for some really interesting and amazingly tapered bonsai.

Lebanese fusion olive tree
In my opinion, it makes the gorgeous looking olive tree trunks that really are reminiscent of the Harry Potter Whomping Willow.  These types of trees are products of time.  I may live to see my olive tree look as beautiful as the sample image if I live to be 100...

Add caption
As for Severus.  The dogs pulled Severus out of the planter and really enjoyed killing it off.  It was a bit of a bummer to lose the tiny olive tree.  But, we really only need one.  Poor Severus.

If I were a betting woman, I'm pretty sure Penny did
it.  She has that look about her.





Olea europaea fruit 'Severus'
Olea europaea fruit 'Severus'

August 17, 2014


Here it is, August and we are supposed to heavily prune the olive trees for bonsai.  In both trees together, we have a total of four or five olives.  They just started turning color and I want to cure them...

Technically, olive trees can be heavily pruned in fall and fall is September through November.  So, we're waiting for the fruit to ripen and we can cure our awesome harvest of five whole olives! LOL!  This will be good practice.

The shapes of the olives are a bit different.  We have about four on Severus, the smaller olive tree, which are more oblong shaped.  

On Bellatrix, the larger tree, we have one olive that is more round shaped.  I'm not sure if this is due to
Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea europaea)  fruit 'Bellatrix'
Olive 'Manzanillo' (Olea
europaea)  fruit 'Bellatrix'
different tree types, or just that one is larger than the other and growing in a different type of container.  

In any case, the cure method of choice is 'dry salt' curing.  

Dry (Salt) Curing (recommended for large black olives)

Outdoors, in a basket, burlap bag, or wooden box lined with burlap (that allows air to circulate), layer olives with coarse sea salt (you'll need about 1 pound of salt for every 2 pounds of olives). Leave the olives outside (with plastic underneath to catch the juices that drain) for 3-4 weeks, shaking daily and adding a little more salt every 2-3 days. Taste for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). When no longer bitter, you can either shake off excess salt and keep them that way, or shake off the excess salt and dip them quickly in boiling water to get rid of the salt. They can be marinated for a few days in olive oil to regain plumpness (this type of curing will shrivel them), or just coated well with olive oil (using your hands) before eating.

Dry (Salt) Curing (recommended for small black olives)

In glass jars, alternate layers of olives with coarse salt. Every day for 3 weeks, shake well and add more salt to absorb the juices. Test for bitterness (rinsing the olive first). Continue to cure if bitterness remains, otherwise, add warm water to cover and 4 tablespoons of good quality red wine vinegar, and top with a layer of olive oil. They will be ready to eat after 4-5 days. ~ GreekFood
I have had dry salt cured olives sold at some type of event and Oh My!  They were super tasty!  I'm very glad to have found this information.

 July 18, 2014