Kitchen Gardening

Sweet Bay (Laurus Nobilis): The Herb of Frankenstein

Truth be told I would still describe its attitude as mild-mannered. But in a baby Godzilla sort of way.

  • This dude is about 25 feet tall and in one of my garden beds.
    Photo/Illustration: Chris McLaughlin
  • Take a look at the size of those trunks. They would make some serious clubs. I mean if someone needed a club for something.
    Photo/Illustration: Chris McLaughlin
  • Oh, sure, Sweet Bay starts out looking innocent enough... (This one isn't my bay tree)   Photo by xueexugg under the Creative Commona Attribution License 2.0.

Some of you know that my one of the biggest plant-love affairs I’ve had in my gardening past is with herbs. In fact, many years ago I was so smitten that I grew almost soley herbs and tomatoes among my perennial plants.

Sweet Bay or Laurus nobilis is an herb I’ve always had on hand mainly because I loved to cook with it. But it was also a very shrubby plant that contrasted nicely with the tender perennial herbs in my collection. It gave my garden texture (and I’m all about texture).

At that time I always grew my bay trees in containers. I’ve always described Sweet Bay as compact and mild-mannered. That was before I planted one into the ground. This is the first house we’ve lived in where I’ve actaully planted a bay tree into one of the raised beds. I decided to do it because I had this lovely open spot right in between one of my compost bins and the fence. What better shrub to plant than a handsome little bay tree?

Yeah, well give a guy’s roots a little room, right? My “little” bay shrub is now a rather substantial tree that towers about 25 feet into the sky. To be honest it no longer has that herb “feel” at this point, but more like a shade tree that happens to able to flavor spaghetti sauce. Its trunk and branches are thick things and quite unflappable. Truth be told I would still decribe its attitude as mild-mannered. But in a baby Godzilla sort of way.

I know what you’re all thinking…and you would be wrong. No, I did not accidentally plant a California Bay tree or Umbellularia californica as I am now super-savvy on the difference between the two having had to arge with some dude at a local nursery on the subject. In fact, it was when I was on the hunt for this very tree that I ran into the gentleman who insisted on trying to sell me the California native, instead. He insisted it was the same exact plant. I insisted it was not. He glared at me. I glared at him.

That lead to me researching the topic to death and wanting to find out the guy’s address so I could send him a dissertation on the two plants. It took great restraint, but I resisted (well, that and I couldn’t remember the dude’s name for the life of me).

Anyway, just a little tip from me to you. In mild winter areas, Laurus nobilis can lay some serious claim to the ground you sink it into.

View Comments

Comments

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest

Video

View All