Our plant of the month is the bay tree or Laurus noblis. Not only is it an evergreen that looks good all year round, it has fantastic ornamental value when clipped and its leaves are a flavoursome herb that you can use in cooking.
The bay tree can have standalone appeal in the garden and will grow large if space allows. It looks smart in a pot, or perhaps as a pair either side of your front door or on your patio. Having it close to the house means you can snip off the leaves for the kitchen.
If you want to plant a herb garden, a bay tree can provide a structural centrepiece. It can be clipped into shape and only needs to be tidied up once a year with shears in the autumn. The clippings can be dried to keep you stocked for casserole and soup flavourings through the year. Either use fresh or dry them in the airing cupboard and store in an airtight container.
Popular shapes for training bay include balls, bells, cones, pyramids, spirals and standards (with a clipped head on a short woody leg). They can look striking and sculptural.
If it’s not frosty, plant in well-drained soil, and include plenty of horticultural grit. They like full sun and a sheltered spot, protected from strong winds. Potted bay trees are vulnerable to freezing conditions so protect the roots with horticultural fleece and move pots to a sheltered spot close to the house.