Bay trees are a beautiful and durable addition to the garden

Bay trees are a beautiful and durable addition to the garden
Written by MAGASIR

SOME of you will be lucky enough to be gifted a bay tree or two this Christmas…

Most of you too will receive much pleasure from this durable shrub which in ball-trained form is a so-fashionable doorstep decoration – some of you will not…

Now, I thought the bay (Laurus nobilis) to be almost indestructible, but a neighbor has proved that to be not the case…

While we have smugly watched our self-seeded bay bush flourish in the partial shade (not desirable) in multi-purpose compost (also not desirable) in a small pot for years (definitely not conductive to healthy life) theirs have given up the ghost .

Isle of Wight County Press: Left, Richard's bay tree, and right, his neighbours' tree, which looks rather sickly.Left, Richard’s bay tree, and right, his neighbours’ tree, which looks rather sickly. (Image: Richard Wright)

Despite all the above NOT being the case of next door’s conditions the leaves of their topiarised balls yellowed, browned and finally died. Ever-green it is now not.

In comparison our little bay, which provides abundant leaves for cooking – while not pretty – has thrived on neglect and I can only assume that the secret is in the soil, or rather the moisture within it.

Two main things kill containerized bays, over-watering or underwatering.

The third, low temperatures under -5°C (23°F) have, until recently, not been a factor.

So, a few tips, if Father Christmas decides on a couple of replacements for Andi and Roy…

Bays like a soil-based compost, such as John Innes No 2, or a soil-less potting compost, with lots of extra grit added to improve both stability and drainage.

Container-grown bays should be watered moderately, so give them a soak, let the containers nearly dry-out and then water some more. Drainage can be aided by pot ‘feet’.

WATCH: A short video on bay trees

Add controlled-release fertiliser granules to the compost or a liquid feed every two weeks from mid-spring to late summer

Repot bay every two years in spring, or if you especially like the containers in which they live, hoik the shrubs out and tease off one third of the roots before adding fresh compost and a top dressing.

Oh, and keep everything crossed.

Any gardener will tell you that sometimes you do everything you can and somehow it’s not enough…


  • Wisteria, fruit trees (excluding stone fruits), roses, Japanese maples and grape vines are some of those that benefit from a winter prune, but try to avoid doing it if freezing weather is on the horizon.
  • Take root cuttings of oriental poppies and grow them on in cold frames or the greenhouse.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from trees and shrubs.
  • While many parts of the garden and allocation are cleared, use this opportunity to install a permanent network of hard-wearing paths.
  • Lift and divide established rhubarb crowns – it will renew their vigour. Sections taken from the outside of the crown are better than those from the centre.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard?

You can email him on

Isle of Wight County Press: Bay leaves are a useful garden herb too!Bay leaves are a useful garden herb too! (Image: Pixabay)

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