Laurus nobilis

The bay laurel of the ancients is a stately plant for a formal site. In Greece, it was sacred to Apollo and in Roman times stood guard at the gates of the Caesars, and is still often grown today in pairs by the front door of a house.

A dense, near-hardy evergreen with dark green, glossy leaves, it will grow almost to tree size in a warm, sheltered garden, but in the confinement of a pot can be kept to any size the gardener wants, probably at most 10 feet (3 m), and looks best as a standard or clipped into the geometrical shape of a pyramid or cone. It carries small umbels of greenish-yellow flowers in spring. The leaves are aromatic and much used in cooking to give a tang to casserole dishes. Bay laurel is hardy in all but the coldest gardens, and is particularly successful in towns. Plant it in full sun, out of the wind, using one of the commercially prepared loam-based composts.

Pots are not only for town gardeners. Increasingly, country gardeners are planting pots for architectural decoration near the house, or for growing plants which need special cultivation. For the gardener with limy soil, it is a blessing to be able to grow such lilies as are calcifuge in pots of lime-free peaty compost.

Lilium auratum, the golden-rayed lily of Japan, is a superb sight in a large, deep pot, the tall stems bearing masses of waxy flowers. The main colour is white but each petal has a golden stripe and crimson spots and the anthers are orange. It needs sun on the stems, but shade at the roots, best achieved with a mulch of peat, and lime-free soil, and should be watered with rain water. It will need a stake and liquid feeds through the summer. Plant from one to three bulbs 6 inches 15 cm) deep; they should flower abundantly for two, or possibly three, seasons.

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