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The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive… (edition 2012)
The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive Tree by Alex Dingwall-Main
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Quests are nothing new for travel writers. Some have toiled over a villa restoration in Tuscany. Some have pursued exotic culinary adventures. Alex Dingwall-Main, a landscape architect by day, introduces plant-purchasing as a grand pursuit in his new book The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive Tree. Despite the title, the Dingwall-Main doesn't necessarily need to find the oldest tree?but at a minimum he must procure one that is ancient enough (say 1,000-1,500 years?olives can live extraordinarily long lives) and pretty enough to satisfy his wealthy client, Monsieur Lautour. Dingwall-Main finds several promising subjects, including the Angel Tree of the title; frustratingly, though, the locals sometimes can't be moved to part with the most revered trees for a mere monetary reward. In addition to recounting his shopping expeditions, the author brings in snippets of European history (covering such diverse topics as the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage and the Black Death) to illustrate the turbulent times through which these old trees have survived. He then fills in the rest of the book with tidbits from the life of a well-to-do garden designer. Some readers may simply enjoy living vicariously through Dingwall-Main as he crisscrosses the Mediterranean in search of Lautour's tree, but others could find themselves asking if his description of test-driving a Mini-Cooper is really necessary, or wondering what kind of person packs formal wear on a trip to buy a plant. The Angel Tree does illuminate one fascinating aspect of life in Southern Europe: old olive trees are considered a must-have accessory for the gardens of the rich. This is a boon to farmers who can sell past-their-prime trees for top dollar
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