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.

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.

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