Tuesday, April 10, 2012


One of my earliest floral memories is of hollyhocks. They grew against the lime-washed barn of maternal grandmother. there were doubles and singles of incredible shade of pink, red, and white. I think they attracted me, unlike many flowers, being a tall child they bloomed right a eye height. Of all the flowers my grandmother cut for table arrangements, hollyhocks were not among them.

As an adult, I realize hollyhock don't make it into many gardeners gardeners. They are at their best in hot, dry years. Given our wacky spring, we may be on our way to one of those.

The hollyhocks of my adult life do not compare well to those of my girlhood. Many suffer from rust and mallow flea beetles. Others are biennial growing one year, blooming and setting seed the next, then not returning to bloom the third year.

I've started growing some species from seed, a rugosa hollyhock that grows to only 4' tall, is truly perennial; however, it comes only in pale yellow. The upshot is that I have yet to see any sign of rust on it, and although one year out of three, mallow flea beetles did attack some foliage, its bloom more than made up for it. After clipping back these holey leaves it was quick to send up another flush of foliage at its base. Another comes in shades of pink, a fiddle leaf, and may be the species of the hollyhocks of my girlhood.

Most of the biennials sold commercially these days are for the most part from the rosea species.

If you want to grow truly magnificent hollyhocks, do your research and then grow your favorites from seed.

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