Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Laurus Nobilis – Bay Tree.
Laurus Nobilis, or “Sweet Bay,” is the true Laurel and is not related to
any of the bright green leaved, poisonous, bushy plants, that in England
we all call Laurel. Bay trees are not actually related to the Spotted
Laurel, (Aucuba Japonica) or the various European Laurels one of which
is called “Cherry Laurel,” (Prunus Laurocerasus) and is actually a
member of the cherry family. As with the common Laurel, the Bay tree
will produce small inedible berries that turn black when ripe. For
berries to develop on mature specimens it is necessary to have a male
and female tree as the sexual parts of the flowers are on different
trees, although, the only purpose for this would be propagation as Bays
are grown for their edible leaves.
The Sweet Bay is a native of South Eastern Europe and Northern Africa as
it likes a mild dry climate, but having said that it will endure most
Winters in Great Britain if planted in a well drained area that gets
some shelter from the worst of the cold winds. As an added precaution
small bushes can be wrapped with horticultural fleece overnight in the
Winter when a hard frost is forecast.
When planted in the ground Bay trees can reach a height of up to 60
feet, but in reality they are more likely to grow into a large bush.
Indeed many are grown in pots and sold in the UK at garden centres as
ornamental bushes meant for “Topiary” work. Most trees do not grow well
in pots kept on patios as they tend to dry out too much, but the Bay is
one that will thrive in such conditions as long as it is watered in dry
spells. Also pot grown plants are easily moved into shelter on the
coldest Winter nights.
Bay trees can be bought in a range of sizes and prices with specimens of
3 or 4 feet costing a lot of money. It is often possible though, to find
small pots of Bay seedlings on sale for a few pounds. There can be as
many as 20 to 30 small plants in one of these bargain pots and if
carefully divided and nurtured they will develop into fine specimens
that can be used to make a cheap Bay hedge.
Sweet Bay leaves have long been used as a flavouring agent in cooking
right back to the times of ancient Greece and Rome. Indeed the Bay was
such an important part of life then that victors at sporting
competitions in ancient Greece and Rome were often crowned with a wreath
of “Laurel leaves.”