Often called Sweet Bay, it is an evergreen grown for its aromatic glossy green leaves and has insignificant yellow flowers and black fruit. Highly prized in cooking. Easy to care for and frost hardy, it needs some protection from extreme cold and wind in our winter climate. Position in sun or semi-shade and fertile, well-drained soil. Weed and mulch in spring to give a health boost. General pruning in spring and autumn although you can so a tidy up prune in summer if planted in pots or planters.
Throughout history the bay has been honoured and revered for its aromatic properties and mystical origins. Both the Greeks and Romans believed the bay would bring health and happiness. Bays were often planted outside a house to protect the inhabitants and leaves were carried to ward off evil spirits. As an evergreen the bay was seen to represent eternity and immortality.
It has romantic associations and is often given as a Wedding or Valentines gift. ‘To ensure love will last, the couple should break off a twig and break it in two, each keeping a half.
It was also used as a LOVE ORACLE in days gone by.
On Valentine’s Day a girl would place 5 bay leaves under her pillow and repeat the following lines.
“Sweet guardian angels, let me have
What I most earnest do crave-
A Valentine enbued with love,
Who will both true and constant prove.”