Everyone should have a Bay Laurel Tree in your garden, if you are in zones 5-9, and 12-24. There are as many uses for this tree and its green glossy aromatic leaves, as its many names. The names Bay/Sweet Bay/Laurel, Laurus nobilis are all the same tree. Sweet Bay is currently enjoying recognition as the 2009 Herb of the Year, as chosen by, The International Herb Association.
The Bay Laurel Tree is a Mediterranean evergreen shrub or tree. It is a slow grower but eventually can reach 12-40 feet in height. Fortunately, it responds well to trimming and can be shaped into a desirable topiary form. A few years ago in my potager, or kitchen garden I planted a Bay Laurel Tree in the center and as a focal point. I have shaped it into a sphere on top, and am presently shaping a smaller lower sphere closer to the ground. Bay Laurel trees take full sun or partial shade and appreciate moderate water.
Bay Laurel leaves are really desirable for decorative use in a wreath or crown, and as a culinary use in many types of recipes, and the well-known “bouquet garni”. It also has household, cosmetic, aromatic, and medicinal uses.
“Bouquet Garni” is a french term for a bouquet of fresh herbs, tied together with kitchen string, and generally allowed to dry before steeping in stews, soups, sauces, stock, marinades, and the like. Typically, fresh herbs are rolled together using parsley, thyme, and flanked by bay leaves.
Karen England, Edgehill Herb Farm, is a recognized herb expert, garden speaker, and teacher of herb-related cooking classes in the San Diego area. She spoke to The San Diego Horticulture Society this past summer on Bay Laurel, and in a hand-out shared these adapted instructions for creating a bay wreath.
Make Your Own Laurel Bay Wreath
Supplies Needed: Fresh bay branches, wreath form, paddle wire (available at craft stores), clippers, and optional ribbon.
Directions: With clippers, cut bay branches into lots of approximately of 3-4″ sprigs. Using the wire, attach securely the sprigs to the wreath form. How much bay you will need depends on the type and size of the form you have chosen. Hanging Tip: Dry the finished wreath flat on a table for a week or so before hanging. This will prevent your wreath from drooping and drying lopsided.
Use: These completed wreaths can be hung as a decoration in a room or on a door, used for culinary purposes dried, or even as a fresh “laurel crown” on your head, just in time for Halloween. You could also make a garland swag of Bay Laurel using a length of stiff straight wire.
Please note, all laurels except the Bay/Sweet Bay/Laurel are poisonous. Make sure you identify the correct Bay Laurel Tree.
Please add your thoughts on Bay Laurel? Do you have a tree in your garden? What are your favorite uses? Have you ever seen a freshly made verdant bay wreath?