The Cherry Laurel was introduced into England in 1576 from Trabzon (Tudor England knew it as Trebisonde) in north-east Turkey where it was – and is – native.
Prunus laurocerasus takes its name from the similarity of its foliage to that of Laurus nobilis, (the bay tree) and though the two plants are not related, would-be emperors and triumphant generals will be glad to know that both were used to make laurel wreaths for the victorious.
The Cherry Laurel’s great popularity as a hedging plant is easy to understand – you really can’t argue with its combination of decorative good looks, fast growth, year-round interest and easy-going temperament…
Its glossy, dark green leaves are present right through the year and are a perfect foil for flowers of pretty much any colour you fancy.
The Cherry Laurel has the added bonus of white, sweetly scented spring flowers (on stems left untrimmed the previous season), much loved by bees and butterflies. Indeed, one eagle-eyed RSPB blogger recorded no fewer than 12 different species of bee visiting his Cherry Laurel during the first week of May this year.
These flowers then produce equally attractive berries in the summer that slowly darken from red to black and provide welcome sustenance to a wide variety of garden birds.
As for its temperament – well, as long as the soil isn’t shallow chalk, waterlogged or too acidic, the Cherry Laurel will give of its best. It doesn’t even care whether it’s in full sun or shade and is extremely drought tolerant.
A light pruning in summer (ideally August) will keep it in shape but if it is at an unmanageable height (it will reach 6m), it can be cut right down – to the ground if necessary – and will quickly come back. The Cherry Laurel shrugs off hard pruning like a duck does water.
Whether you are planting Cherry Laurel as a traditional hedge, windbreak or screen; as an elegant backdrop for a bed or border or even as a specimen plant, remember to dig in plenty of well-rotted compost into the planting hole and to stake firmly. Other than that, job done.