Friday, 23 March 2007



The bay laurel (Laurus noblis) is both a decorative tree for the garden and a useful kitchen herb, especially for soups, tomato and fish dishes. It can be grown in the garden, or in a large pot on the patio. They can be left to grow or clipped to produce a tree on a short stem, in shapes like a lollipop, spiral or pyramid. The botanical and Latin name for laurel is Laurus. It is native of the Mediterranean area, growing in valleys with a reliable water supply. The leaves were used as triumphal garlands in ancient Rome, giving rise to the word” Laureate” which is still used as in Nobel laureate. The second part of the name “noblis” means noble or excellent. And this plant certainly is, with the handsome leaf shape, scented and flavoured, and it has good flowers too. It is worth noting that there are very few variants with this plant. There is one form called “Augustifolia” which means “narrow leaved” and there is “crispa” which means wavy, as the leaves have wavy edges. Then there is a golden leaved form called “aurea”. The plain type is the most widely grown one though and is a great plant to have in any garden.



I have a shapeless bay tree in a pot that was cracked by the frost. I am considering planting it out to grow as a tree. When should I plant it in the garden and in what position? Thanks BA Malin

Bay trees are pretty hardy, but do get damaged by winter frosts and wind. . If the root ball of your tree is intact then you could plant it out now. The trees will flourish in either a sunny or shady spot. It is more important to put it in a sheltered area that is not too wet but is protected by other shrubs, trees or fences to keep the cold winds off of the leaves, as you will want them to look good for cooking.

Allow a few metres of space for it to establish. It will need watering in when planted, even at this time of the year. Then keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry out over the spring and summer. Small trees usually do not require staking if they are planted well. The rocking motion of the upper part of the plant seems to encourage root development underground. If you have light soil and excessive movement put a stake in and secure the tree with a proper tree tie (available from all good hardware shops and garden centres). Loosen it as the girth of the trunk grows in the year. Remove any damaged stems and leaves in spring and in summer you can trim the tree to get the shape back. If the pot was attractive you could use that as a feature in a border. Lay it on its side to look like it is half buried and then decorate it with some colourful bedding plants


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