There were no Hollyhocks in our garden when we moved here twelve years ago and for a few years I felt there was something missing – after midsummer the garden lacked the colour of May and June. Then I noticed the Hollyhocks when we went for long walks between the local villages . . . they spring up everywhere in this part of England, loving the low annual rainfall.
So how to get the Hollyhocks to move in? You can forget buying plants in pots or sowing seed carefully in trays or cells in a greenhouse – Hollyhocks like to get on with growing their own way as they need to get that long strong tap root down deep right from the start! There's also no need to buy expensive packets of seed, just take a few seeds when you see some lovely Hollyhocks growing by a footpath ;-) and when you get home scatter them in dry sunny corners of your garden. That's just what I did, sometimes I remembered where a particularly fine coloured Hollyhock grew so I could return to gather a few seeds when they were ripe.
Then, slowly at first, the Hollyhocks grew . . . and the bees pollinated the flowers and more seeds fell and grew, and more and more. Yes, I suppose they could be a bit of a nuisance if you're a tidy sort of gardener – but I'm not a tidy sort of gardener, so I welcomed them in and now and again 'edit' out the ones I don't need!
This year I have the best ever Hollyhock show! None were planted by me, I haven't given them any water (even during the nine week drought from March to May) and they don't need staking (though one or two are leaning over a bit after the heavy rain at the weekend). A few have Hollyhock rust – but not bad enough to spoil the show, I don't fret about little things like that.
Let's take a closer look at those silky satellite-dish flowers . . .
. . . each one is a different shade from deep burgundy, through every shade of pink to the palest yellow (personally I don't encourage white and yellow ones as the flowers get lost against the cream colour of our house walls and I love the richer shades).
This morning I picked one flower from each plant – each one is different in colour, size and shape – the petals smooth or textured, regular or frilled.