In every garden, there is a need for tough, reliable plants that can be trimmed and pruned into screens, hedges, barriers, and backdrops to other plants. When that plant is also very shade tolerant, drought and heat resistant, has an excellent display of spring blooms, and carries handsome, durable, evergreen foliage, then it is sure to be a worthwhile plant to grow. The Cherry Laurel is widely grown for this purpose, but few gardeners realize that instead of growing that alien species, there is a wonderful native American equivalent available. That plant, the Carolina Cherry Laurel, is just as worthy of a place in the garden as its European equivalent, and the variety known as Centre Court™ Cherry Laurel, is a very superior selection, with prolific flowering and vigorous growth. Put it at the top of your list for durable evergreens for all shady or sunny parts of the garden.
The Centre Court™ Cherry Laurel is a fast-growing bush, ultimately reaching 30 feet in height and 15 feet across. It is a more upright tree than the wild bush, which is often as wide as it is tall. Growing as much as 3 feet each year, it will only take 10 to 15 years to reach that size, making this a great tree for quick screening and developing larger hedges. If you have an unattractive view to hide, highway noise to reduce, or hot, dry winds to shelter from, then a barrier of the Centre Court Cherry Laurel will quickly create it for you. This plant can be pruned and trimmed as needed, and no matter how hard you trim, even back to a few bare branches, it will quickly re-sprout and grow as you want it to.
The Centre Court Cherry Laurel has glossy evergreen foliage, with narrow, ellipse-shaped leaves 2 to 3 inches long. They are light green, so this plant stands out well in shade. If you crush a leaf its smells like maraschino cherries, which makes some people call it the ‘Dr. Pepper’ tree. The growth is naturally dense, and when trimmed it becomes even denser, so any screen is absolutely solid. If you trim your plants regularly they will rarely flower, but if you only trim once a year, then in late winter or early spring you will be rewarded with bunches of sweetly-scented creamy-white flowers. These clusters are 2 or 3 inches long, and form among the upper leaves of the plant. Butterflies and bees love them, and this plant is important as a food plant for many native species of butterflies – another good reason to choose it over the European cherry laurel. As the flowers fade they turn into clusters of small ½ inch berries, which begin green and then become black by late summer and fall. These berries are bitter, and certainly not edible, but birds of all kinds, from songbirds to wild turkeys, love them, and they are a valuable fall and winter food for your local bird populations.
Growing Centre Court Cherry Laurel Shrubs
The Centre Court Cherry Laurel grows well in full sun, in partial shade, and in full shade too, as long as it is not very dark, such as beneath large evergreen trees. This means that it can be grown successfully in most parts of your garden. It is much more heat and drought resistant (once established) than the regular cherry laurel, making it ideal for hot regions, and for poor soil that is often dry. It grows well in all kinds of soil, from sand to clay, and either acidic or alkaline – it doesn’t matter to this tough tree. It doesn’t suffer from pests or diseases, if the soil is well-drained. Trimming can be done at any time of year. If you want flowers, but not berries, trim as the flowers are fading, and if you don’t trim again that year, you should have a good crop of flowers every spring – and no berries.
History and Origins of Centre Court Cherry Laurels
The Centre Court Cherry Laurel is a selected, improved form of the Carolina cherry laurel, Prunus caroliniana. Different from the English laurel, (Prunus laurocerasus), often also called ‘cherry laurel’, both these plants are surprise relatives of cherry, peach, and apricot trees. The Carolina Cherry Laurel is found growing wild in the south-east, from North Carolina to Florida, and into Texas. The variety correctly called ‘GRECCT’ was developed and selected by Greenleaf Nursery Company, and it is sold with the trademarked name of Centre Court™ as part of Greenleaf’s Garden Debut® collection. Our plants are grown to the highest standard, and they are guaranteed to be this improved selection of the Carolina cherry laurel, recommended by no less than the eminent garden authority, Michael Dirr in his encyclopedic The Tree Book. The demand for this great plant is huge, and our stock will soon be gone, so place your order right away.