Perhaps the most popular native shrub in the whole encyclopedia is Mountain Laurel. The eastern mountains from New England to Georgia are full of it, but nobody finds it tiresome. Its evergreen foliage is an asset, but what sweeps the public off their feet is the brilliant show of bloom in June. It is altogether irresistible.
Naturally, Laurel is much planted and much transplanted. There is so much of it in the woods that the amateur horticulturist is constantly tempted to help himself. Yet in many cases, he would be better off, horticultural and financially, if he would buy his plants from some good nursery. In wild land, with its boulders and ledges, the Laurel roots range far and wide. It is very hard to dig these plants with even fairly good roots. But if grown in good, well-drained nursery land they can be lifted, “balled and burlapped,” with perfect roots. The results when planted are, of course, very much better.
In planting from the nursery one has the further advantage that the planting season can be much extended; and as the average amateur is always late at his planting, this constitutes a distinct gain.
Certain practical conditions have to he met to succeed with Mountain Laurel, but they are not very difficult. In the first place, the soil should be acid. Also, it ought not to be too dry and sandy. Fairly well-drained, rocky, or gravelly soil is the Laurel’s natural preference. Then there ought to be some shade. Laurel dislikes full sun, though the dense shade is almost as inimical. A position along the border of woodland is almost ideal, but the plants will thrive in sparse deciduous woods if other conditions are favorable.
The two mistakes most commonly made in planting Mountain Laurel are, first, the digging of wild plants, and second, placing them in open situations where they get full sun. Of course, many mistakes are made, too, in planting in unsuitable soils, but the beginner is more apt to think about this problem and try to meet it.
by F. A. Waugh
Photo credit: Arx Fortis at English Wikipedia