Bay laurel is more than a leaf that goes into your cooking pot.
This culinary herb is native to the Mediterranean region, as well as the Canary Islands and Azores. Before gaining its primary use as a herb, the foliage of the bay laurel was used to make crowns for conquering heroes of Greece and Rome during ancient times. The first Olympic Games were played in 776 B.C., and the winners were crowned with laurel crowns and garlands.
The tree also was believed to provide protection from disease, lighting and even witchcraft if planted near the entrance to a home.
Bay laurel is an evergreen shrub that can grow upward of 50 feet tall in south Louisiana. However, bay laurel can easily be controlled and kept to a size of 10 feet or so. Clipping and harvesting the foliage will certainly help to keep this plant at a manageable height.
Bay can be grown easily in the landscape and used either as a small tree or hedge. Often grown as a plant, its shiny, oval, deep green leaves will not drop off in the winter, like a deciduous tree, providing year-round greenery.
When kept neatly trimmed, bay has a distinctive formal look. This characteristic lends itself to its brilliant use in containers, where it can effortlessly grown on patios if garden space is limited.
Bay laurel is generally easy to grow. Like most herbs, it will need well-drained soil. Planting in thick clay soils will slow growth and possibly even cause the plant to start to decline. Planting herbs in a pot will generally resolve most drainage issues.
If bay laurel can fit into your landscape, start by amending the soil with compost and sand. The compost should provide all the nutrition the herb will need for one growing season, and the sand will help to provide drainage. Build up the area where the herb will be planted and plant on the raised mound of soil.
Whether you are looking for a quick way to make a patio look formal, trying to work in more edible plants into the landscape or trying to scare away witchcraft, bay laurel is an easy-to-grow, low-maintenance and useful culinary herb.