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Bay Tree Bay Tree

Bay is a long lived, slow growing evergreen shrub native to southern Europe. Thanks to its growing habit it can be trained into all sorts of shapes, and is often seen growing as a perfect pyramid, or a standard.

Folklore suggest that keeping a bay tree next to the front door will keep away evil spirits. Nicholas Culpeper (Physician) wrote in the 17th century ‘neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightning, will hurt a man in the place where a bay-tree is’

The Romans had a huge respect for the tree, and indeed this is reflected in its current Latin name ‘ Laurus Nobilis’ – Laurus meaning praise, and Nobilis meaning famous or renowned.

Going back further in history to the time of the Greeks and the tree was believed to be sacred to the sun god Apollo, and the oracle of Delphi would eat bay leaves before entering a prophetic trance… which is not surprizing as we now know that in large quantities bay is a mild narcotic.

Growing Bay

Bay is a fairly tender perennial and so often grown in pots and then moved undercover throughout the worst of the winter. Not only does this offer additional protection, but pruned and trained correctly the bay tree looks fantastic in a pot.

If you plant it outside or are unable to bring the pot over winter then don’t let this put you off from growing bay, as it should survive most British winters, but the cold will damage some of the leaves – always protect with horticultural fleece if you know it’s going to get cold.

When growing in a pot use a loam based compost and give it an occasional liquid feed during the summer growing season. Re-pot in spring every few years as necessary.


Bay can be raised from seed, but is usually propagated from cuttings.

Using Bay

Leaves can be added to soups and stews, and are a key ingredient of bouquet garni. Leaves can also be dried easily for use in the kitchen – just leave a branch in a warm dry place and use as necessary.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
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