Monday, January 29, 2018

Hollyhocks

Majestic and proud, those are the words that come to mind when I see hollyhocks and ancient. The hollyhock has been around for a number of centuries and there are times when I am standing near one that I can almost feel the pull of that history.
The hollyhock is well known in the English cottage garden standing above all else well except maybe the delphiniums, but unlike the beautiful but tender delphs the hollyhock can stand alone without support.
If you do live in a place with high winds, I’d still provide them with some support though why take chances.
The hollyhock is often referred to as a biennial which means the plant flowers in the second year but it is considered by some to be a short lived perennial.
So remember when you plant the seeds in the fall that is you do not see flowers that first summer, do not despair and rip them out, give them the time that they need and your patience will be richly rewarded.
There are annual hollyhocks available. The hollyhock will self-seed.
An aside, the house I grew up in had hollyhocks planted in a small side yard near the neighbour’s house. It was a favourite play area for us when w e was small. It was a little space and the hollyhocks dominate the area. The frequent bees buzzing in and out also added a fascination.
One day that house was torn down and the hollyhocks went with it. I was a teenager at the time and had pretty much forgotten my old companions.
One day, about ten years later when my parents were getting ready to move, I was cleaning up the backyard and noticed that there were hollyhocks coming up. They were about 2 feet tall. My parents had not planted them.
I decided that they were sprouting from seed that had been scattered all those years ago, and this chance meeting renewed my affection for this magnificent plant.
The hollyhock enjoys being in the sun but is happy with some shade. Make sure the soil is rich and somewhat moist, if you want the plant to thrive. Just before you plant be sure to add well-aged manure or compost as this will help the plant grow.
You can sow the seeds outdoors just slightly beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. It may take 10-14 days for the seed to germinate. Be sure to space the seeds 18-36 inches apart.
If the weather is dry it is vital to provide water if you want them to flower. You can plant hollyhocks near a rain barrel if the site gets sufficient sunshine. They can help beautify the spot and this will make regular watering easier, provided, of course, that it rains.
The hollyhock flower is edible and would look great in a salad. I prefer to leave them on the plant and enjoy them visually but it is good to know that they have a secondary purpose.
The hollyhock is an ideal plant for the back of the border along the fence and especially with chain link fences can help serve as a privacy screen.
Drop by your favorite plant nursery and see the varieties that wait.

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