Spalding Guardian Gardening 10 May 2012
Iíve had several queries recently about sick-looking bay trees and bushes. It seems that the one phenomenally cold night we had last winter achieved what the weeks of artic conditions the previous one failed to accomplish, and that was to put paid to many bay trees that have survived for decades unscathed.
Not all bays were affected. I have seen many old specimens growing in the open ground that look no worse than they ever do at this time of year, whereas a lot of well established, pot-grown feature plants are looking decidedly iffy, and most young plants that were not given some protection during that cold snap would do well to regrow this season.
There seems to be no reason why some should have suffered while others look quite fit and healthy, In my garden, two pyramid bays which have stood at either side of the front door for about 25 years, facing south with a warm wall at the back of them, look dreadful and are now shedding their browned leaves. On the other hand, a standard bay, slightly younger, that flanks one side of the back door (facing south and west but in a much less sheltered spot Ė yes, the front and back doors are, in fact, both at the back of the property!) is completely untouched.
The basic question is, will badly damaged plants recover over the summer? As yet, I feel it is too soon to tell. With mine, there are new buds and leaves appearing near the tips of the shoots that werenít damaged, but nothing new is showing on the browned parts yet. Apparently, these have survived and will put on new growth, at least in parts, but has the shape of one or both been permanently spoilt?
In my case, with these bay trees in the prominent and important positions that they hold, I am tempted to move them to a spot where they are much less noticeable, and replace them with something temporary till they make up their minds whether they will ever look the fine specimens they used to be. A regular liquid feed might help, and planting out in the open ground may encourage them to cheer up, but they may never again be the focal points they have been until last winter.
I will report further as the season progresses.
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian