Howard Garrett’s Bay Laurel Tree

Garrett's Mature Bay Laurel Tree

Howard Garrett, best known in north Texas as the Dirt Doctor, is our area’s go-to for advice and leadership on natural organic gardening. When he wrote last winter about his 30 year old bay laurel treeHoward Garrett The Natural Way with his Bay Tree in his column for the Dallas Morning News, garden gumption kicked in and I moved boldly past my newbie-ness in comparison to his years of practiced wisdom, asking to visit and see the tree for myself. Naturally, I trusted in his display of my favorite gardening trait: Being generous and willing to share.

They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.

Psalm 37:26 NIV

Mr. Garrett was more than gracious in welcoming me to gaze upon the beloved bay laurel, and take in a moment of rest and wonder among the peaceful, canopied refuge of his backyard. What an inspiration to think my one gallon, one year old planting will someday fill out our backyard as lush as his family’s.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him

Psalm 37:7 NIV

A northern exposure sheltered by a neighbor’s stand of bamboo, an exposed root flare, and the organic program of feeding the soil have supported the growth and prosperity of the tree, Garrett explained. This Mediterranean native can indeed flourish in a zone 8 garden.

flourishing like a luxuriant [bay laurel] native tree

Psalm 37:35 NIV

Garden Writer’s Scrapbook

luxuriant Bay Laurel branchesGarrett has lost a few branches during freezes over the years, though the losses hardly diminish the fullness of the tree’s appearance.

multi-trunked bay laurel tree

The trunk of bay laurel is multi-branched. The plant grows as a large shrub but lower branches can be removed to form a tree (his are not).

Layers of foliage in Garrett's garden
Howard Garrett loves trees the way some gardeners love flowers. See the lovely fusion of foliage in this view: A light, verdant Ginko Biloba branch against the stronger, deep green bay laurel, illuminated by its luxuriant spring growth. Spy the pomegranate just beyond, with tangy red-orange buds punctuating the layers of leaves.

“If the soil is the soul of a garden, the trees are the heart. Besides providing beauty, grace, color and shade, trees help children learn to climb, provide the atmosphere and structure for swings and hammocks, produce food for animals and people, screen bad views and frame good ones, improve the soil, and offer up a source of fuel and building supplies. Try asking that of a gardenia.
—Howard Garrett, Texas Organic Gardening, 1993

shredded bay leaves

My favorite take-away from the day: A branch, of course! Mr. Garrett snipped a branch of bay leaves for me to take home, which I shredded and worked into the soil of my melon and cucumber bed to ward off squash bugs

(Click for this segment of Howard Garrett’s radio show; bay leaves as pest control discussed at the 9:09 minute mark)

How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
Psalm 31:19 NIV

bay laurel canopy provides shelter and refuge as promised in God's Word

Howard Garrett is quoted in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible in “Daily Decision,” a devotion near Joshua 24 in the Choosing essays, part of the Garden Work theme


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For more information on growing Bay Laurel, see the garden in Delight Plant Guide 

Also see Howard Garrett’s Library: Bay Tree & Bay Trees Outdoors in the South



Photo Credits: ©2015 Shelley S. Cramm

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