The evergreen workhorses of the garden, laurels have an unglamorous image, but don’t be too quick to dismiss them.
All have handsome, glossy foliage, but look closer and you’ll find other qualities too. Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) has rich plum-coloured stems; Japanese laurel (P. aucuba) sports lipstick-red berries in autumn; and of course bay (P. nobilis) is richly fragrant, perfect for flavouring Mediterranean cooking.
Grow them as natural, imposing shrubs or prune into crisp hedges or topiary – architectural winter structure is another of their many talents. Learn to look at your laurels in a new light and you’ll quickly see just how varied, versatile and beautiful they really are.