PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)

This is the good and fair Laurel, not the wicked and obnoxious laurel that monstrous hedges are made of. This one is the one you cook with – as in ‘Bay Leaf’. A classic Mediterranean plant, it thrives here in coastal Pacific NW. It is evergreen with dark glossy green leaves, white fragrant blooms in late spring, and dark, pie-cherry sized fruits in autumn.

Bay Laurel will grow into a beautiful stand-alone tree to about 30 feet though height can be variable, often closer to 15-20 feet. It has a taller-than-wide form and will fit into an urban landscape comfortably. Harvest the leaves anytime of year. It wants to be fully branched to the ground so we limb ours up to create a more open, less heavy tree form with an exposed trunk and canopy. Otherwise, it is carefree, happy in shade or sun, and drought tolerant. It can be turned into an extremely fragrant hedge, topiaried, or left to grow as a tree.

Bay Laurel has an ancient history, culinarily and symbolically. From thousands of years ago, Greeks and Romans made crowns and wreaths of it to symbolize victory. This has morphed into our present day use of its imagery especially indicating academic achievement- as in ‘Laureate’, ‘Baccalaureate Degree’, ‘Poet Laureate’, ‘Nobel Laureate’, etc. It’s an achievement you can also eat!