Laurus nobilis

Bay tree growing in a pot, in the garden of Jill Fraumeni in Sydney

The bay tree comes from the Mediterranean region and thrives in dry, well-drained soil in a sunny position. It may grow to 12 m tall so for culinary purposes, it is best to confine it to a large pot, where it will grow quite happily for years if fed occasionally and watered regularly. It can be trained as a standard, with a single trunk and a rounded head of foliage, clipped every so often. It has small yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. The leaves are very leathery and had great significance in Classical times, being used to form a winner's 'crown of laurels'. In cooking, it is an essential ingredient for a bouquet garni (along with thyme and parslet), used in many stews.