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Laurus nobilis angustifolia (Narrow Leafed Bay)

It has exactly the same habit as the standard Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) but its narrower leaves mean that when clipped (as it often is) it has a very much more beautiful texture. Left to its own devices, it could reach 25ft tall by 15ft wide after 40 years – so not a particularly fast grower but might reach 10ft after 8 to 10 years. Any old reasonably well drained soil – including chalk. It’ll grow in shade but a better shape when given plenty of light. Good for repetitive planting (hedge, avenue etc) as they’re grown from cuttings and therefore they’re clones and will give the planting a pleasing uniformity.

We found this tree in someone’s front garden in Reigate in 1988. When we started the nursery we propagated everything ourselves. Some from seed collected by ourselves, some from suppliers round the world, some from cuttings from various National Trust Gardens but not infrequently we’d spot a nice plant in someone’s front garden. The approach we took was vital from our point of view (we HAD to have it) and often perplexing from the householder’s point of view. Peter the Propagator and I decided to take a two pronged approach : coltish enthusiasm linked with blatant flattery. A knock on the door had to be the starting point, followed by : “You’ll probably think we’re completely mad but we’re starting a new nursery and we saw the absolutely beautiful Laurus nobilis ‘Angustifolia’ in your front garden and wondered if we might take some cuttings from it”. The immediate reaction varied but interestingly, once the utter innocence of our request had sunk in, the response was always kind, understanding and generous. Whilst on the subject… once we’d presented our credentials (spouting a bit of Latin), the Head Gardeners of various public gardens were also unfailingly generous. Tresco Abbey, Ventnor Botanic, Nymans, Leonardslee, Borde Hill, University of London, Cambridge Botanic, the RHS Garden at Wisley and even Wakehurst Place, once I’d made the curator (Tony Schilling) laugh. Sadly, the only garden that was remarkably unhelpful was the one that occupies the summit of all things horticultural – the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. Because Peter the Propagator had worked as a propagator there for 17 years and because I can be extremely persistent, they eventually succumbed and allowed us some cuttings – providing they collected themselves. I hate that age-old cop-out : “Well, supposing everyone wanted to do that?”

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light amber

Hardiness level Amber

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Hardy in the Home Counties if sensibly sited (avoiding severe frost pockets, for example). Many Amber Labelled Plants are from cuttings from well-established plants that have survived many harsh winters in the South-East.

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.