Couple 'bringing the Med to Norfolk' by selling olive trees
PUBLISHED: 17:06 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 18 June 2019
A former can-can dancer and a tree surgeon who fell in love with olive trees when touring Europe in their campervan are now running a business selling them.
And apparently, the trees renowned for growing in arid countries abroad, love Norfolk's soil.
Antonia and Paul Smith, run The Norfolk Olive Tree Company situated in Riverside Road Norwich, selling hundreds of trees a week ranging in price from £30 to around £1,000.
"The English climate is perfect for growing an olive tree," said Antonia. "Olives are hardy and frost resistant to minus 15C. They need at least three months a year of cold weather to flower and fruit and they are wind resistant and drought hardy - a winning combination that means olive trees are truly easy to grow."
The couple have chosen four main varieties of olive tree which are specially suited to growing in the UK; the Arbequina, the Frantoio, the Leccino and Picual.
They import most of them from Catalonia - the trees are 'retired' from being used to grow olives abroad, as they don't produce enough but will still bear some if grown in a garden, Antonia said.
She and Paul ran a garden centre in Norwich before starting the company. Antonia lived in Europe in her 20s when she had the unusual job of can-can dancer - she still sings in a French duo 'Girl Dubois'. She says the olive trees remind her of those happy times.
"I also love the fact they are a no-nonsense species, tough and hardy. I also love experimenting with curing and preserving olives," she added.
They have just come back from exhibiting at the BBC Gardener's World Live show at the Birmingham NEC - and were thrilled to receive a gold award for their Mediterranean-inspired patio featuring lots of plants in earthernware pots and palm trees underneath an archway and with a tiled floor, displayed in the floral marquee.
"We were so surprised to win but very pleased," said Antonia. "Olive trees have just grown in popularity and as well as selling them for people to have in their own gardens, we also hire out for weddings and events.
"We specialise in offering Mediterranean plants which are hardy enough to do well in the UK, meaning people can create spaces which look good all the year round and not just for a couple of months a year," said Antonia. "Our Mediterranean patio was very much inspired as something you can create with a small space using agave plants which are very hardy."