Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’ (Saratoga Laurel)
Thought to be a hybrid of L. nobilis and L. azorica, this large evergreen shrub grows to heights of 25-30 feet tall and wide. It has a more open and airy growth habit, and the glossy, light olive-green leaves are more rounded than the standard L. nobilis. Fragrant pale yellow leaves bloom in abundance in late winter to early spring.
L. ‘Saratoga’ is easy to grow, and is not fussy about the soil it’s planted into – just be sure that your soil has good drainage. It has good disease resistance to Laurel psyllid and soft scale, and is deer resistant. It’s tolerant of the cool and windy coastal conditions as well as the heat of inland areas. It typically is hardy to about 20°F. The Sunset Climate Zones are 5-9, 12-24, H1, H2.
This perennial is great used as a large hedge, (a natural screen) a tree, or through regular pruning can be showcased as a formal container plant. ‘Saratoga’ is great when planted on the edge of an edible garden as the aromatic foliage adds flavorful seasoning to a wide variety of dishes.
When harvesting your Bay leaves, it’s best to dry them before use. To do so, lay the leaves out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven that’s been set at its lowest setting. Leave in oven for about 3-4 hours, or until they take on a pale brownish-green hue and they feel brittle to the touch. A dehydrator also works very well. Store unused leaves in the freezer to preserve the flavor and aroma.
When using your homegrown Bay leaves, a single leaf goes a long way. It imparts an earthy richness to slow-cooked soups, stews, and sauces. The leaves themselves are not to be consumed, so keep them whole when cooking and keep track of how many you use, and remove before serving.
‘Saratoga’s’ leaves can be a component of a home-made potpourri. Used in combination with water, lemon slices, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, it will fill your home with an earthy and comforting fragrance. Another idea - when your plant grows large enough, trim off thin branches and weave them into a lovely and fragrant wreath, then hang in your kitchen during the fall and winter holidays, or give as gifts to your friends and neighbors.
We are currently growing Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’ in 5 gallon containers. To see photos of these and many other plants we are growing, visit our website clearwatercolor.com and follow us on Instagram or Facebook @clearwatercolornursery to see what’s happening in our little corner of the world.