Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Laurus nobilis

One other use for the cold frames is to get marginally hardy broad-leaf evergreens off to a good start. Newly rooted cuttings not yet sufficiently well established to spend the winter in the open garden benefit from a winter vacation in the cold frame. And newly cut branches to be rooted during the winter sometimes perform well in the cold frame.

This year I have several such newly cut branches which I hope will find life in the protected cold frame agreeable: my friend Alice gave me some cuttings of her bay tree, Laurus nobilis. The last time I saw her plant it was about head height and apparently very well sited.

Bay is one of those storied plants which any gardener who both reads and cooks must know about and want to grow. Bay is almost unknown as a garden plant in this area. Apparently there are forms of Laurus nobilis which will endure the winters here, but they are not readily available in the nursery trade. What are readily available are plants of uncertain hardiness. They are comparatively expensive, too.

Here and there in the greater Washington, D.C. area are bay trees well established and thriving. Yet as far as I know, no one has ever offered rooted cuttings of these plants commercially. I’ve heard that they are hard to root.

So those bay cuttings now inserted into the ground in the protected cold frame are a small experiment. Will they root during the cold winter months? I hope so: I’ve wanted a bay tree of my own established in the garden for a long time. And if cuttings don't root and instead die, I can always collect the leaves for cooking.

A very good ice cream can be made by infusing the milk and cream to be used for the custard base with bay leaf. It's one of my favorites.

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