The sweet bay, Laurus nobilis, has been imported from Belgium to this country in large numbers the past fifteen or twenty years. Although the rather stiff, formal shapes into which they are trimmed, and to which they so readily conform, are entirely inappropriate in the decoration of a drawing room, yet there are many situations where they have a striking effect and are certainly not out of place. A single pair of perfect form could be admitted to any church ceremony or at the decorating of a large hall. In the summer time a handsome pair stand one on each side of the broad granolithic walk leading to a stately mansion on one of our fine residence streets, and very fine their appearance is. Too much of it may get tiresome, as clipped and grotesquely-shaped Norway spruces do if overdone, but the chronic grumbler who in his ignorant and prejudiced blindness objects to these handsome bay trees because "they are not natural" should be confined to the backwoods eternally. Their formality sets off the brighter the natural grace of the birch, the elm, the maple or linden and the more or less freedom of the hardy flowering shrubs.
Another place I found the bays to be useful was when asked to decorate for a store opening and wagon loads of palms were expected. They are just the thing to fill up, and a fine pair or half a dozen of them on the sidewalk is just what Mr. Goldstein wants to attract the attention of every passer by, and what could you put there equal in appearance and withstand the ordeal unharmed? Considering the years they must be grown, the labor entailed and great skill in producing such a large tree in such a comparatively small tub, their cost to us is, I think, very moderate.
It is often a surprise to us that such a stout stem and large head of branches and leaves can subsist on such a relatively small quantity of soil. From early spring till fall they want an abundance of water. They are out of doors all summer, or should be, so the hose can play on their heads freely and over-watering of the soil is, about impossible. You should commend to your customers who invest in these sweet bays for the adornment of their grounds the great benefit to the plants by sinking the tubs into the ground; much drying out and exhaustion will be saved, which means vigor and color of leaves. From November to April a cold shed will keep them in good order if it is not too dark and where they won't get more than 5 degrees of frost. Some late experience with these sweet bays makes us hesitate to say what amount of frost is safe to expose them to. While we have seen naturally grown large plants of these sweet bays in the ground withstand a frost of 20 degrees unhurt, it is entirely different with these plants in tubs; and in their unnatural condition, and perhaps dry at the root, it is safe to expose them to but little frost. A coacn house is an excellent place. It is usually light and seldom too cold. Less water will do than in the summer time.
Pyramidal Bay Tree.
Columnar Bay Tree.
The sweet bay is a native of southern Europe. All good boys should have read in the Good Book that if they are righteous in their lives they will " flourish like the green bay tree." This fine evergreen grows well and is much planted in the milder parts of the British Isles. I expect that all over Ireland it grows finely and is seldom or never injured by frost. In the south of England it grows and flourishes for years, but a winter comes occasionally and kills it to the ground. Such a winter was that of '60 and '61.
The best time for us to cut back growths or to keep it in that splendid form that they are sent to us, is in the spring just before they start to grow, but if yon wish a still more trim appearance you will have to pinch the young growths as they develop. A new tub and more root room is needed every three or four years, but keep them in as small a tub as possible. Liquid manure will help them much in April, May and June. To those who have not made bows of their strong bottom growths or hunted rabbits beneath their branches, they may appear a cumbersome plant to occupy valuable greenhouse room. They don't want it. If never coddled up under glass they will stand 5 degrees of frost without harm, but rather give them a little higher temperature.