Laurus noblis

Common name: Bay

Laurus nobilis is a popular hardy uni-sexual evergreen shrub.

Both the male and female plants bear clusters of yellow-green flowers in April, and are suited to growing in either containers or in the ground.

Later in the year the female plants will produce long purple-black berries.

Among its uses are;

Thin branches were once used to make wreaths to adorn athletes at the games in ancient Greece/Rome.

The aromatic leaves can be used either freshly picked or in a bouquet garni for flavouring fish.

If kept neatly clipped, the dark-green foliage will create stunning structural plants in any part of the garden,however, if left to grow unrestricted, they can grow to a height of around 5 metres (16ft).

They are suited to growing as a standard or half-standard in pots/tubs.

To develop a standard, allow the leading shoot to grow to the desired height, pinch back all lateral shoots to two or three leaves.

When the leading shoot is 150mm (6”) taller than the desired height of the stem, pinch out the tip.

Thereafter, prune to keep the desired shape twice or more during the summer, and remove suckers from the stems of standard as they appear.

Pests and Diseases:

Occasionally plants may suffer from fungal leaf spots.

This tends to occur in exceptionally wet seasons because the root system has become over wet.

Repotting the plant in fresh compost will often alleviate this problem.

Simlarly yellowing leaves and leaf drop from the lower branches of the shrub is again generally attributed to wet seasons or water-logged soil.

Repot containerised plants and fork in manure / compost and some grit to improve drainage around the root area.

Cultivation

Containerised plants:

Week 14; Plant out in a sunny, sheltered position 400-500 diameter pots/tubs containing potting compost the equivalent of JI No.3

Add some grit to improve drainage, this will also add weight to the pot thus increasing the plants stability.

Take care when watering, over-watering can cause root rot.

Normally, the plant's appearance or touching the compost will generally tell when watering is required.

Water every two weeks or so during the growing season, adding a liquid balanced fertilser to the water at this stage will also benefit the plant.

At the beginning of each growing season, remove the top 50mm (2") of compost from the pot and replace with new.

Every alternate year empty the container and renew the compost completely.

Winter protection:

Roots of container plants as opposed to those grown in the border, can be damaged by frost penetrating the container.

If the container is of a size that can be easily moved then move it into a frost free area,if not wrap the pot in straw, several layers of fleece or hessian for the duration of the winter.

Placing packs/spacers under a container will ensure that the pot drains well thus reducing the potential for the contents to expand and damage the container.

Outdoor cultivation:

Week 14: Plant out in a well-drained soil in a sheltered sunny or part-shady position.

Low growing shoots can be layered now.

Week 27: Remove any leaves that may have suffered frost damage and clip and shape the plant/s if deemed necessary.

Prune new shoots to a bud facing in the direction of the desired growth.

Week 30-32: (year 1) take 100mm (4”) heel cuttings of lateral shoots.

Insert in equal parts peat and sand and place in a cold frame to root.

It will take at least three years growing on before they are ready to plant out into their final quarters.

Week 16: (year 2) pot up rooted cuttings taken last year into 70mm (3”) pots of potting compost.

Week 30: (Year 2) Layers taken last year will be ready for severing from the parent plant and potting up.

New plants can be propagated from seed*.

*Viable seeds can only be sourced from female plants hence the reason that vegetatative propagation is the most common form of propagation.

Collect seeds when ripe,remove the fleshy outer casing and sow as soon as possible.

Grow on in pots of seed compost in a frost free coldframe or similar.

Pot on seedlings as they progress until they are large enough to be planted out in their final quarters.

This may take two to three years.

Week 38: (year 2) set the young plants out in a nursery bed or alternatively larger pots to grow on until ready for planting out in their final quarters next year.





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