Hollyhocks are the quintessential cottage garden flower. The resurgence in Hollyhock popularity comes from several factors. Renewed interest in cottage gardens, a desire for drought and heat tolerance in garden flowers and the introduction of many new varieties are all helping fuel their new popularity.
Alcea rosea ‘Chater’s Double’ give a wonderful mixed colour range of large, fully double flowers are nearly pom-pom in appearance. White, yellow, crimson, pink, purple, rose, and red.
The dramatic, flowers of this variety work equally well in a contemporary, minimalist garden. They are perfect to fill large areas or the back of a flowerbed and the flowers are highly attractive to butterflies and bees. The rosettes of big hairy leaves will develop by autumn then die back before winter. It will bloom the following summer …. The word “bloom” being an understatement!.
Hollyhocks are almost as easy to grow as sunflowers and would probably be grown as often if more gardeners were aware of their good nature. Unlike many other dramatic flowers that are simpler to admire than to actually grow, hollyhocks need no coddling. Their character is superior to their reputation and they are best praised by being grown.
Sowing: Late spring to early autumn
Although classed as a biennial, Hollyhock often lives for several years. They must establish a root system first, and then they can produce the stalk(s) of flowers, for their first year they will bear leaves only. If sown early in the year they may bloom the same year, but sown midyear they will bloom the following summer.
Hollyhocks are generally planted in midsummer to autumn to give them a chance to establish a system during the winter months. Seeds can be sown directly into a prepared bed or can be started in pots in a cold frame or indoors, to be planted as transplants during spring. Hollyhocks also adapt beautifully to containers, as long as the containers are deep enough.
Sow seeds at 20°C (68°F) on the surface of a peaty soil. Lay the seed on the surface of well-tilled soil, cover with about 2mm (¼in) layer of soil.
Keep moist and do not let the seeds dry out once planted. They will usually germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 20°C (68°F).
If planted indoors, prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
Plant in moist but well drained soil. The plants need plenty of room, space them 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart. Because of their height, they are best planted at the back of the border.
Dress the soil around them with compost, rotted or mushroom manure or seaweed. Once the leaves have died back for winter, give your plants bonemeal for the roots of the plants. In cold area the plants will benefit from a mulch to protect from winter frosts.
As the plants begin to grow they will need support, they are not wispy plants and need a strong support or something for them to lean on—a wall, a tree or shrubby plants. Water well during dry spells. In autumn give the plants a good trim back to 15cm (6in) from the ground.
Deadhead to prolong the flowering season through to August. To encourage self-sown seedlings for the subsequent season, allow some blossoms on the stalks to form seed pods. Others can be pulled up and composted.
Plant Uses: :
Cottage/Informal Garden, Architectural Plants. Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens
Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus whose arrangement for classifying, naming, and ranking, living things during the mid to late 1700s is still in wide use today, albeit with a good many changes; identified this plant, and suggested both the Latin Alcea and Greek Althea to designate these pretty cultivars.
“Althea” is the Greek word for “healing”. Hollyhock have long been used medicinally.
Rosea means red, more accurately a deep red-purple (the colour of ancient roses).
Holly is said to be an altered form of the word holy. The plant is said to have been brought back with the Crusades having been transplanted in many parts of the world during the Middle Ages. In Medieval times the hollyhock was known as "St. Joseph's Staff.'
It is referred to in a British horticultural treatise of 1548 as holy-hoke, an adaptation of the Welsh name. It may also have been called Hock Leaf because it was used to reduce the swelling in horses' hocks. The Anglo-Saxon word for Mallow was "hoc”.
“bocc” is from an Old English word that means mallow.
The seeds have been called "cheeses" because the pod is shaped like a wheel of cheese.
Hollyhocks recognised today are believed to be of Asian origin, they are depicted in Chinese art as early as the 9th century, symbolizing passing time. Their route to the the rest of the world seems to have followed the Silk Road.
Hollyhocks may have started out as plants for the wealthy, shown in Chinese art and (much later) in the walled gardens of the rich. But it wasn’t long before the innate hardiness of hollyhocks, and the large supplies of seed they provide, brought them into the working classes and into cottage gardens.
The Hollyhock is a very old plant. The grave of a 50,000 year old Neanderthal man was found to contain the remains of Hollyhocks. Although Hollyhocks may have no medicinal uses in modern times, the plants were used in antiquity to solve a myriad of health issues. Medicinally, the plant was used primarily as an emollient (something that softens, something used to make a salve), as a minor pain reliever, and as a diuretic.
If you have a sheep with sore feet, follow the instruction of Gervase Markham (1614) and
"annoint her feet with the juyce of the Hearb Holyhocke."
The flowers are edible. Hollyhock buds were used in a recipe of 1660, with Marigolds, Wild Thyme and young Hazel buds to enable one to see fairies. They have been pressed into service for making and dyeing cloth and children used to make Hollyhock dolls from the flowers.
And before we leave the subject, one more lovely bit, from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses:
All the names I know from nurse:
Gardener's garters, shpher'd purse;
Bachelor's buttons, lady's smock,
And the lady hollyhock.
|Packet Size||20 Seeds|
|Cultivar||Chaters Double Mix|
|Common Name||Althaea rosa, Hollyhock|
|Other Language Names||Rose triemiere|
|Natural Flower Time||Mid Summer to Late Summer|
|Height||120-180cm (48-60in) – Fast growing|
|Soil||Moderately-fertile, well-drained soil|