Q. I have a huge laurel tree in
my back garden. It is about 30ft! It has just been knocked down
by the storm winds and needs to be removed as is dangerous. Is it
ok to burn the wood and leaves? It has been suggested to me that
the fumes from burning the leaves is poisonous. Is this correct?
A. Poisonous - not really any
more than usual bonfire fumes which are pretty bad anyway.
Laurel leaves are full of oil and ignite fiercely, which is good
in getting the fire going, but can be a bit surprising if you're
not expecting it. Start off with a smallish fire and add extra branches
to gauge how fast they will burn rather than throwing loads on at
Q.I have a large west
facing garden to the side of my Suffolk Cottage, bounding against
a road. In April this year I planted a Laurel hedge along this boundary,
I hope to eventually have a dense informal hedge around 6-8 feet
high. The Laurels were 4ft high when planted and they have grown
strongly over the summer, they are now around 5-6ft but are starting
to look a little leggy. How do I go about cutting the hedge with
the aim to achieve a dense high hedge? I very much hope you
can help with this question as I have hunted high and low on the
WW web and found very little advice.
A.If left to their
own devices with lots of space, laurels will grow into a bushy tree
/ tall shrub about 20ft + high. It seems that this is what yours
are in the process of doing, particularly as you say they have grown
strongly. To get them to bush out, particularly low down, you need
to prune quite hard.
Cut them back at the top to prevent the development
of a strong leader which will encourage a tree-like form. It's
difficult to guess without seeing them, but I'd take about a
foot off. Laurels respond well if rather slowly to being cut back
hard. If there are any branches low down, then cut them back close
to the trunk - even though this seems the wrong thing to do. The
plant will respond by breaking several buds where there were originally
only one or two, so helping cover up the lower part of the stem.
The best time to do this is late spring after they have flowered,
don't expect to see much coverage for about a year, but it will
come. If you're a bit unsure about this drastic action, just
do a couple in the middle of the hedge (i.e. with one either side,
and then the rest when you're confident it works (!)).
Prune laurels with secateurs and loppers, hedge
shears cut the large leaves causing die-off at the leaf edge which
looks a mess.
Q. I'd really appreciate
any info you might have re a dieback problem I'm having with
my laurel hedge. About 2 months ago a three feet wide section
of the hedge appeared frost-damaged - we had 2 or 3 very sharp drops
in temp at night during the previous week. The hedge had been well
cut back c3 years ago due to building work but was flourishing with
lots of lush new growth - I thought its thinning perhaps had made
it susceptible to frost damage.
This 3 feet section however has now extended to
almost 6 feet wide & appears to be spreading. My neighbour &
I are very concerned & would appreciate any advice on how we
might save it.
The laurel is c.12 feet high/50 feet long &
I think was planted when the houses were built in 1920s - the leaves
are fine and small and a light green colour, not dark. The dieback
appears to start from the bottom up with leaves wilting, then brown
spots, then entire leaf brown and stems browning. Is there a disease
that affects laurel? or could the roots be water-logged (nurseries
here have been recently selling off plants due to the extraordinary
wet weather we have had!) A friend has also suggested cats &
their 'ablutions' (another neighbour has two new cats).
A. If those cats can
kill off a 12ft high by 6ft wide 80 year old laurel, I'm glad
they're in Northern Ireland and not over here! Seriously though
I think we can disregard the cats as a factor.
It's difficult to tell without seeing the hedge
directly. With such a large old plant, I think the most likely cause
will be a fungal disease triggered by several factors that have
acted together to weaken the plant. Age, water logging, physical
damage - letting fungal spores in - may all have a part to play.
The first thing I would do would be to delve into
the hedge and determine how many plants the die-back is affecting,
is it just one or is it moving to others? Look carefully at the
plants, leaves, stems, trunk for any clues, I presume there aren't
any pests or you'd have mentioned them? Are there signs of fungal
disease any where? especially low down near the ground, is the bark
damaged? Is there anything peculiar about where the damaged plant/s
Are the branches the dead leaves are attached to
dying too? Snap one or two and see if there are signs of life. If
they are dead then cut back into a live part. If they are still
alive, things are looking better.
To be honest things don't sound too great and
it may be a question of containment if the problem can't be
dealt with directly, stopping it from spreading to the next plants
on in the hedge. If the problem is containable and stoppable then
the good news is that laurels usually recover well from some hard
Q. What is
the best time to plant a laurel hedge?
A. The best time
to plant any kind of shrubs / trees / hedging is in the early autumn.
September to November. That way there's still enough of the
growing season left for the plants to get established before it
gets cold. It's not going to be so hot or dry that the plants
get stressed or need lots of looking after and come the spring they're
all ready and raring to go as they are established already.
The down side is that you don't really see much
growth for about 6 months.
Spring, Feb to about May is also good. If plants
are containerised however they can be planted at any time of the
year as long as they're looked after, but autumn is optimal.
Q. We have a well established
laurel hedge, either side of a huge Lleylandii tree - the total
hedge is 12ft high, 4ft thick and about 40 yards long. This year
10/15 yards have started to develop a leaf curl with light brown
(powdery) spots on the back of the leaf.
Would spraying with a bordeaux mixture cure this
Any advice you can offer would be appreciated
A. It certainly sounds
like a fungal disease, the rain of the past month has meant that
fungi have found it easy to take hold on many plants. I'd
get a proprietary fungicide and use that. You could use the Bordeaux
mixture as well, but I wouldn't use it on its own.
the leaves fall, collect them and dispose down the tip - not on
the compost heap, get them out of the garden. Spray the hedge as
soon as you can and then repeat it 5-7 days later, you may need
to do it again if the disease re-surfaces.
Will it cure
the disease? No guarantee, sometimes such diseases are a symptom
of something else, like getting a sore throat with the flu - opportunists
can make the most of a weakened condition. I would expect a good
chance of recovery though.
have our garden enclosed by Laurel Hedges. Gradually one by one
they are deteriorating i.e. leaves go yellow and brown and drop
off. Why? on the stems one sees a 'Clear Gel' appearing
to ease from the wood (the laurels are well established with 30mm
diameter trunks). The gel appears along the lengths of the trunks
and branches. Can you help please as holes are appearing everywhere
and we are losing our lovely garden.
A. It sounds
very much like your laurels have a bacterial canker that particularly
affects plants of the Genus Prunus to which laurels belong.
If there are clearly defined areas of bark that
are flattening and sinking inwards near the regions of oozing sap,
that just about confirms it.
Infected areas should be pruned out and burnt, though
this should only be done during the summer months if possible.
Spray with a copper based fungicide such as Bordeaux
mixture or with copper oxychloride. Ideally this should be done
in late summer, then early and mid autumn. If you start now, then
leave about 2 weeks between sprayings.
Q. Help with
rampant laurel greatly appreciated.
We recently have moved and are now occupying a property
which includes a lovely, mature garden. However, a few shrubs and
trees are very over-grown. I found your site by searching for laurel
pruning, and whilst I see you have already posted some advice on
bringing into line an eight foot laurel hedge, I hope you will advise
me on how to tackle one which has reached 25 to 30 feet in height
and 12 feet in depth! The hedge runs along 60 or so feet of the
border between our property and our neighbour's and encroaches
on both. I have spoken to the chap next door who is as keen as I
to win back some room, but we both also agree that it would be desirable
to leave a screen between the two properties. Some of the main trunks
measure in excess of seven or eight inches in diameter. The hedge
is planted two feet away from a four foot tall stone wall. How would
you advise that I proceed?
like you've got a bit of a monster there!
start by admitting that I've never actually brought anything
of that size down to a reasonable height and thickness, though I
have tackled smaller, but still large Laurel hedges. Don't try
to do anything until the late spring when it's growing strongly,
pruning laurels in the dormant season can introduce disease and
you might damage or eventually lose one or more plants.
will generally grow very successfully from brown wood and so it
is possible to get the result you want without too much of a problem.
As you're cutting so much off them, I'd try to do it over
more than one season. What you don't want to do is say chop
3 feet off either side of a 12 foot thick plant and then a further
2 feet the next year as all the energy and regowth from the first
cuts will be lost again. Cut one side back fully and the other not
all until it's recovered. If it recovers well, you might even
try the second side the same season.
I'd go for height
and one side to start with and then the other side later on. Take
care that you don't let the bark tear off as larger branches
or trunks fall, cut through both sides partly before through the
whole trunk. You'll also be left with a huge pile of growth
to get rid of. If you have a mighty compost shredder and the patience,
you could feed it through that. If you have the space you could
burn it, but beware, laurel leaves are full of oils and burn like
buggery! You could take it to the skip if you have access to a van,
or you could pay someone else to dispose of it.
If you choose
to pay someone else to do it, I'd be tempted to do the cutting
myself and get them to do the disposal as the kind of contractors
who do this tend not to be the most skilled or careful horticulturalists!
Oh yes, buy a new blade or two for your bow saw before you start
and use loppers where possible.
Many thanks for your reply. Your
advice is very welcome and timely. Lately, I have been approached
by a local contractor who, knowing that I wanted to drastically
prune, suggested that I should proceed with impunity, as 'you
can do pretty much what you want to laurel' and that we could
I will now proceed with more caution and confidence.
Luckily for me, I sell bow saw blades!!!
Thank you once again.
two years ago, I had a laurel hedge planted, it consists of about
30 plants and is now beautifully knitting and desperately in need
of a bit of trimming. My question is, that many of the
leaves are displaying holes, about the size of the top of a pencil.
Could this be caterpillars, if not, what do you think it could be,
and what would be a safe, preferably non-chemical way of treating
like a malady called "shot hole" are the hole edges clean
and green - like they've just been eaten? or is there an inconspicuous
but distinct brown ring at the edge of the hole? - if there is it's
probably shot hole. There will also be brown spots of dead tissue
on the leaf. Patches of cells die and turn brown, then the brown
dead part drops out leaving the hole. If it's caterpillars,
you should be able to find some, possibly under the leaves if they're
Shot hole is a symptom rather than the name
of a disease, and there are many possible causes from various kinds
of fungi or bacteria. Treatment is by applying some kind of fungicide,
copper or sulphur-based treatments are considered organic and you
should be able to get a preparation at a garden centre (Bordeaux
mixture contains copper).
new laurel plants last Spring. Local advice is to prune back so
they bush out. We bought taller ones to get the height more quickly
and so it seems a little silly! What is your advice for their first
prune back - but no more than 1/3rd of the length of any one shoot.
Q. Every site
I have looked at today says the fruit of the cherry laurel is poisonous,
but my mother used to make a delicious jam from them. I have
made it in recent years. It tastes like marzipan and black cherries
(the same flavour that would be in apricot kernels, I guess, which
I use also as bitter almonds).
What are the dangers here? It is a most delicious
jam and I have about 4 kg of the fruit sitting in my kitchen waiting
to be made into this year's yoghurt and scone topping! The leaf
in the pictures looks a bit finer than the leaves of the bush I
picked them from, but I'm pretty certain its the same fruit.
always thought of the fruit as poisonous, though apparently it is
the unripe fruit and seeds that contain the greatest amounts.
The bitter almond flavour seems to come from cyanide
which is what potentially makes them poisonous. Like anything it's
a question of dosage as it seems about 900 sweet almonds makes a
fatal dose of cyanide, but less than that can be quite nice!
My interest is from a gardening perspective, rather
than herbal / culinary. My guess is that in an increasingly litigious
world, people err on the side of caution. As am I when I say I have
no direct experience of using these fruits.
Q. I have approx
1/3 of an acre at home idle. I have lots of laurel hedges grown
in my garden as borders and have grown very fast. I had an idea
of maybe buying approx 2 feet laurels and either potting or planting
them on the 1/3 acre for a few years and selling on as a mature
hedge. I think one of your answers says moving laurels especially
as they get older is not a good idea. So could I pot them in lines
for a few years until they are approx 5 or 6 feet and would this
be a difficult process?
you describe is perfectly possible, as a landscaper I have bought
laurels in 10L pots that are about 4-5 feet high and they are very
useful in giving a start to a hedge. If you go the container route,
you need to think about how they are going to be watered, some degree
of automation is needed even if it's turning on the tap for
a sprinkler or leaky hose every now and then.
also want to think about growing large ornamental conifers if you're
doing this too, they were very useful to me as a landscaper and
not easy to find. These can more easily be field grown and then
sold in winter months root-balled with hessian.
you do some research though locally as to the market, one guy I
know of grew half a a field of Lleylandii, by the time they were
big enough to sell, no-one wanted to buy them thanks to the horror
stories! laurels should be better though.