Friday, 12 July 2019

How much Bay can any one person actually use?

A question I frequently ask myself!

So many people have Bay bushes in their garden, and so many of them are hulking great monsters, which need A Firm Hand.

Here's a good example:

This was planted as a centre-piece to a small raised bed, intended as a herb garden. Nice and convenient for the house, well drained, poor soil: perfect!

Or so you would think, wouldn't you? 

When I started working in this garden, it was in fact an enormous bushy thing, taller than it is now, bushy right down to the ground, and reaching nearly to the edges of the bed.

So I applied the Firm Hand: I cut off everything from the one main trunk, up to about waist height, and trimmed what was left into a roughly spherical shape.

The owners were delighted - suddenly, they had a herb garden!  And as you can see, we planted it up with what you might call the usual suspects, and it's turned into a nice little herb garden.

But every year I have to re-trim the Bay, using that Firm Hand again, otherwise it would grow back into a massive bushy monster, taking all the sun, water and nutrients, and casting such deep shade that the herbs below would all die.

The photo above shows it as it was this morning, at about 10am.

And this is what it looked like ten minutes later:

Annoyingly, I didn't stand in quite the same place for the second photo, which makes it less easy to see the difference: so you'll have to take my word for it that I removed at least  2' all round - yes, the pieces I cut off were all more than 2' (ok, ok, errr, 60cm) long.

In fact, you can see that the shadow of the top part is significantly less than it was, above!

And there were enough cuttings to fill the empty compost bag right to the brim, as you can just about see, on the left in this second picture.  (The brown bin being full, by 10am!!)

And yet.... and yet.... this happens every time, not just in this garden but in every garden where I apply the Firm Hand to the Bay: just as I'm clearing up the mess, the owner will come out and gleefully pounce on the cuttings, with cries of "oh, don't throw it all away, I'll just take some of that, mmm, Bay, lovely!" as though they didn't have a massive bush of it just sat there for the picking.....


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  1. It is rosemary in our herb garden. It seems every branch is sacred. Best way to use up: Tell everyone that there is nothing like burning rosemary on a barbecue/open fire to add flavour and atmosphere. (Not sure what burnt bay would smell like)

    1. HI Mal, what an excellent idea! Rosemary on the barbey!

      I get sick and tired of seeing enormous woody Rosemary bushes (although I will admit that they are lovely when they flower), not least because the owner invariably asks me to make it half as small...and as we all know, it won't "break" from old wood!


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