04 June 2011

Not Your Grandma's Hollyhock

I remember visiting my grandmother while younger and seeing hollyhocks growing on the side of the house. Last year I thought these would make a nice vertical statement in my side yard garden. I imagined upright sentinels standing tall against the house and watching over the shorter garden inhabitants.

Most seed catalogs offered us hollyhocks with the double-flowered, powder puff, clown button blossoms. You can tell where I am going with this. I assumed these were the 'new and improved' varieties that other gardeners craved. I wanted the simple hollyhocks of yesteryear.

I settled on Malva in the catalog. After starting seeds, watching them grow and bloom, I included them in a Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post [15.8.2010]. There I lamented the small open petal blooms and held out hope that the following year would bring different results.

It's the following year, and they're back. Canes are not straight and tall, but are growing in a mangled twisted forsythia-like mess. (The photo was taken before they went wild.) The canes and flowers are numerous - not the tall orderly soldiers expected, but haphazard disheveled conscripts. It turns out I don't have hollyhocks - I have mallow or French hollyhocks - Malva sylvestris. Oops.

Stalks are 5 feet tall (1.5 m) if upright, but after starting out upright, most have become arched, bowed, and tortuous as they grew. Aphids love them. Leaf miners lover them. Mites love them. I do not. I am going to cut them down and see if they grow into a bush.

Give me the tall single flowered heirlooms for next year.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil
  • Hot south-facing full sun along the house
  • Mites, leaf miners, and aphids

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming:hydrangea, hosta, nicotiana, larkspur, rose, salvia, coneflower, cleome, geranium, daylily


Anonymous said...
I think the flowers are beautiful. Do they last and make a good cut flower stalk?
Cherry Lane said...
I've had hollyhocks in the past. I found them very susceptable to rust in this climate. Meanwhile, I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to grow Malva sylvestris for the last 2 years.
Swimray said...
I don't know if they are a good cut flower. I will let you know when I cut them down:-)

The lower leaves show the bugs & diseases they leave. I started these indoors last year in spring, and they bloomed their first summer. I can send you the seeds if you want - let me know & we can trade mail.
Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
I had this one in my Virginia garden. Know where I got the seeds? Monticello. Great plant!
I used to live in West Point, dad taught there when I was a kid.
Comeca Jones said...
Great color.
Anonymous said...
They look very pretty. I got some seeds for hollyhocks but I wonder if mine will do the same thing?