April 21, 2018

Growing Your Own Bay Leaf


Botanical  Name: Laurus Nobilis .    Common Name : Bay leaf tree.

Whilst looking for something to fill my vase over the coming week, I had a special request from my garden; I wanted something that would last for a few weeks not just over the weekend, as I have many guests joining in for a meal over the coming week. An interesting vase in the centre of the table is always an initial talking point,(should everything else fail!). Obviously I also wanted the flower in the vase to add a seasonal touch to the dining table. Fitting all these requirements, I spotted this bush pictured here on the allotment, – I do have one in my garden-  the only difference is that mine is too small to flower , the one in the allotment has been left to its own device without being regularly hard pruned and is now a mature bush with hundreds of flower buds. I would feel bad to cut the flower buds off a tree without giving the tree the chance to open its feathers, but with the bay leaf I don’t feel that way, that is because,  the flowers are usually damaged by frosts and do not manage to reach the flowering stage in our climate, so if you want to enjoy a bay leaf with flowers, the buds might be the furthest you will ever get. There is also the possibility that the buds might open in the warmth of your house so the bay leaf tree definitely remains a fine selection for this weeks ‘flower of the week’.

bay-leaf-tree-budsHistory of the bay leaf tree

The bay leaf tree comes with its wealth of history; It has origins from thousands of years ago Biblical- Ancient Greek, Roman, till the last century, when  Fred Perry  of Wimbledon fame designed the laurel wreath logo in the 1950’s. This alone would make anyone want to plant this shrub in their garden  but even putting this aside, it is a an easy growing shrub suitable for any garden. It can be pruned to any shape at any time of the year but as it is only slow growing, the job only needs to be done once or twice a year.

Bay leaf tree as a pest deterrent!

The leaves are strongly aromatic, and it is a pleasure just to brush by the bush so that it should release some of its perfume into the air. The bush is pest free, and I recently learned that not just are the leaves not liked by pests they are actually a pest deterrent, mice and weevils are known to run away from the smell of the leaves. [ I had a few trays of apples that I left  in the allotment shed that were totally decimated by mice, maybe next year I will cover them with bay leaves to keep the nibblers at bay!]

Using the bay leaf in cooking

The leaves are used in all types of roast dishes, goulashes and stews, and they are a well known pickling aid, their taste intensifies when the leaves are dried. Although the taste does no harm to the stomach, the actual leaves are better discarded after they have been infused.

In a garden the bay leaf tree must be pruned otherwise it will outgrow your garden as it can reach 15m with time(and it will flower!) Topiary enthusiasts love shaping it into different shapes. Although it is not fully hardy I have not noticed any frost damage in our climate.

Buying the Bay Leaf Tree

This is actually the only drawback , it can be propagated by layering or cutting in a cold frame in summer , but it does not root easily. Plants are readily available to buy, but they are expensive, expect to pay around £10 for a small potted plant. If you would like a standard expect to pay between £40 and £70.

Just to prove the beauty of this plant –this is a  plant that  is often sold as an artificial plant – would it not be so attractive they would not copy it!

So why not put a few stems in a vase – from a distance it could even be mistaken for a holly!

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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