Last year the lovely Esther offered to send readers of her blog a baycorn, so that they could grow their own bay tree. I said “yes please” and in due course was delighted to see one of them sprouting. Now, I use a lot of bay leaves in the kitchen, and realised that I was going to have to be very patient before I was going to be able to harvest fresh ones from my very own little tree. Nevertheless, it was a priority plant when it came to transporting pots to Anglesey, and it has been sat, reasonably happily, in the garden ever since TNG arrived.

baby bay tree

I am immensely chuffed with my baby bay tree, and was quite content to wait. Fast forward a few weeks. I am giving one of our neighbours a tour of the back garden, discussing what plant swaps we can make, when she says “Oh, you’ve got a bay tree”, pointing at a large dark green shrub that I had pretty much ignored so far.

Bay Tree #1

And there it was, an enormous bay tree, growing away happily in the north facing border behind the Bear’s Breeches. I felt a little sorry for my baby bay tree, being so dramatically upstaged, but very excited about being able to use as many fresh bay leaves as I could possibly want, for the foreseeable future!

Then we come to today. I had decided to tackle the really over grown back corner of the back garden, behind the acer, which was being steadily strangled by, on the one hand, an unholy alliance between bindweed and brambles, and on the other, a very misshapen and over grown aucuba japonica. I knew the latter was obscuring a dead berberis and a dying lonicera, and that it was overshadowing the lovely little acer, causing it to begin to cant to the right rather. The fruits of my labours were three trugs of said bindweed and bramble mix…

Bindweed and Brambles

…and a now instantly recognisable, tidily conical…

Bay Tree #2

…bay tree. I have two! Since this one is a little under 5′, I am wondering whether I could successfully move it to a more convenient location, nearer the kitchen. I figure that since the soil is warm, and I have now bought some of that friendly mycorrhizal fungi stuff for boosting plant growth, this might be a good time to do it. What do you think?

The second bay tree wasn’t the only discovery I made by hacking back the undergrowth – and the plain laurel. One of my favourite evergreens for a north facing border is the spotted laurel’s stylish cousin, Aucuba japonica crassifolia. I had one in my last garden, and blogged about its wonderful leaves, and I had thought I might have spotted those same leaves lurking in between the plain, over grown laurel and the brambles. Once I had cleared the rubbish away, there they were, all shiny, and slightly serrated.

aucuba japonica crassifolia leaves

It isn’t a very impressive shrub at present, in fact it looks rather pathetic:

aucuba japonica crassifolia

I am hoping that with more light, fewer brambles, a good feed and some careful pruning come late winter, it will eventually turn into a rather wonderful plant.

This is a strange kind of gardening, at the moment I seem to be spend more time hacking back and even removing plants than I do planting anything, but it is amazing the little surprises I turn up as I go. Having cleared all this space, I am now ready to put in my first plant order, which is hugely exciting, and have ordered the timber for the raised beds that will form the start of my kitchen garden. I just have to persuade my next door neighbour that I do, in fact, know what I am doing by removing the two conifers, so that he will lend us his chainsaw. He is concerned that we will get invaded by the Youth of Cemaes Bay once the mooted Youth Club starts up next door in the park, but said conifers are bare for the first foot and a half, and are sucking light and moisture out of the surrounding area, which is east facing and gets plenty of sun! I want to plant things that are – to me, anyway – rather more interesting, but will nonetheless give us evergreen cover, but more of that in a later post…

18 thoughts on “Bay Tree Bonanza

  1. What a great find of two bay trees!! As for moving the 5 foot one, that is a sizable shrub….I might cut the roots. Imagine a circle around the stem on the ground, about three feet in diameter. Divide the circle into quarters. Using your shovel cut straight down through the roots in quarter 1 and 3. In a month cut through quarters 2 and 4. Your plant will create new root growth within the root ball. In a month after the second cut you can transplant. Given the time element, maybe you wait for spring? Or you can chance it and move it now. I am not sure of your fall/winter climate time frame. The other option is to plant your ‘baby bay’ in your kitchen garden area. Given the two you found, they do well in your area….so your baby will thrive in its new place.
    How nice to find the Acuba! I would like one in our woods, but it is supposed to be like candy for deer. Why invite trouble?

    1. Hi Janet, what an excellent tip on the root pruning while in situ, I have never come across that before. Having said that, the weather here is still so mild, and the soil so warm, that I am tempted to try moving it this week and coddling it a little in the hope that it will settle in well before winter’s arrival. I am always astounded at how many shrubs can be successfully moved with a little care and attention.

  2. That was so funny when you talked about a hacking type of gardening, because that was what I was thinking–although it sounds like it was necessary. Wow, two Bay trees! And your other finds are equally exciting. What a fun adventure!

    1. It isn’t exactly subtle, is it! But I do love clearing an area and being able to appreciate the space – and hidden gems.

  3. Your garden is certainly a voyage of discovery isn’t it – I lost my bay tree last winter and have now replaced it with a smaller version which is is a container because our garden is very exposed to the elements – I will be able to bring it into the greenhouse for protection this year. Don’t know what I will do when it gets larger though – oh for a gulf stream climate.

    1. Hi Elaine, I was astounded to find bay growing so well in this garden, I must admit, but there again it is clear from what other people are growing that this is indeed a very gardener-friendly climate, apart from the wind. I hope your new bay tree thrives.

  4. Bay are great, they are really pretty tough, when you more the smaller one you can prune it to shape. My hedges are mostly Bay so there are masses for making swags at Christmas, you’ll have enough for that too! Christina

    1. Oh, I hadn’t thought of that! The smell must be lovely – I will bear it in mind.

  5. How marvellous to have found 2 more bay trees, I think I would use your baby bay in a pot to be a topiarised specimen, eg lillipop, like restaurants have at their entrance! We too have a huge bay in our woodland, we chop it back to a more reasonable height every few years, what a wonderful smell when we do that.

    1. Hi Pauline, it was the smell as I began to brush up against the latest bay that gave it away, it had been so completely hidden. I like the idea of topiarising my baby bay.

  6. I also love bay in cooking but they are not hardy here for me to grow. How wonderful to have 2. I will begin the fall chores soon of moving plants and then planting new plants. Lots to do if the weather cooperates. You are embarking on such a delightful time of remaking the garden for you!

    1. Hi Donna, that phrase, “if the weather cooperates”, made me smile. So often we lay plans and the weather debunks them. It is pouring with rain here today, so no moving or planting, or even clearing! And I do love moving plants. A little more involved than re-arranging the furniture, but so satisfying. I hope you get to do most of what you want to do this fall.

  7. We have successfully moved a large-ish Bay Tree before, from our oldgarden to the one we have now and it has taken been fine. Such a lovely, architectural tree that makes a great back bone garden plant too. So if you do move that other tree closer to your house I reckon it’ll be fine :)

    And I love that Aucuba too, beautiful foliage and looks great even in the winter (which is a bonus!).

    1. Oh, that is good to know! I am rather torn about moving it at the moment, now the surrounding rubbish has been cleared away it makes a rather wonderful backdrop for the little acer. I may end up leaving it where it is after all!

  8. It sounds like Christmas over there — all those discoveries and surprises under the trees! I love the thought of the bay swags.

    1. Hi Stacy, I sometimes feel more like an explorer than a gardener, particularly when I have just hacked back yet another shrub and discovered pretty grasses or perennials lurking in their shadow!

  9. It sounds as if you are on a permanent voyage of discovery at the moment Janet. What joy to find two bays but I’m sure that Esther’s baby bay will hold a special place in your heart.

    1. Hi Anna, that’s exactly it, I feel as if I never know quite what I am going to find next! And yes, Esther’s bay will always be particularly special. I think plants with stories behind them always are.

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