Malva moschata is one of the truly grand old-fashioned flowers of that almost mythical English Cottage Garden, which so many people strive to recreate.
With ice-pink, solitary, flowers that grow in the leaf axils and a terminal cluster of flowers, the flowers have a lustrous lacquered quality in sunlight. In the centre of each flower there's a tall stigma surrounded by a raised collar of stamens. This arrangement, slightly similar to hibiscus, leaves the nectar-rich base of the flower wide open to bees.
The foliage has dark, deeply divided foliage, although it can be variable and this provides a flattering backdrop for the pale flowers. Finely lobed it possesses the elegance of some ferns.
Malva will bloom profusely in a sunny position, although it is regarded as a plant suitable for part shade, it will grow less spindly in full sun. It is a very easily grown plant, carefree and requiring no maintenance. It will succeed in ordinary garden soil, though it prefers a reasonably well-drained and moderately fertile soil.
Malva moschata is a species native to Europe and south-western Asia, from Spain north to the British Isles and Poland, and east to southern Russia and Turkey. An elegant relative of the common mallow, it is often grown as an ornamental plant for its attractive scented flowers, which are produced throughout the summer.
This is wonderfully appealing to bees and other pollinators. It also makes a good cut flower. In general, an easy and appealing old-fashioned flower, happy to play a long-blooming supporting role in the perennial border.
Sowing: Sow in February to June or September to October
Seed is best sown in a cold frame in spring or autumn but can also be sown directly where they are to flower.
Malva seed germinates quickly and easily, typically within 14 to 21 days.
Fill pots or trays with seed compost. Stand them in water to soak and then drain. Sow the seeds on the surface and cover with a fine layer of sieved compost. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged.
Prick out the seedlings into 7cm (3in) pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow on the seedlings in a lightly shaded area until they are established. Over winter in a well ventilated unheated glasshouse or coldframe. Plant them out in their permanent positions in the early summer.
Alternatively, sow the seeds in late spring into a well raked bed ensuring that the soil is fine and crumbly. Scatter the seed, rake lightly and firm down well. Keep the seeds moist until germination has occurred and keep the seedlings weeded in early stages. When large enough to handle, thin out seedlings to 45cm (18in) apart.
Malva are not particular as to soil type or pH but prefer moist but well-drained soil. They are highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments but cannot tolerate maritime exposure.
A very hardy plant, it will tolerate temperatures down to minus 25°C (-13°F) when it is dormant in the winter. The plants are not generally bothered by pests, except for minor slug or snail damage.
In late summer, cut the stalks back when the flowers are spent, at around three feet height, the plant will began to rebloom almost immediately.
Cut the plants back in late autumn in preparation for winter. In exposed locations or colder microclimates consider applying a thick mulch around the roots to protect it through winter.
Malva will set seed if it is happy in its given spot, so you will have more plants that will happily take the place of the parent.
Cottage Garden, Wildflower Meadow. Flowers Borders and Beds, Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade, Hedgerow.
All species in the genus Malva have edible leaves, and these tend to have a mild flavour and a good texture. They are common additions to 'wild' salads, the young leaves can eaten raw in salads. Leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups for their thickening effects and pleasant taste.
Raw mallow seeds can be eaten as a healthy snack, offering a nutty flavour.
The tannins found in the plant make it useful for dyeing fabric, and the fibres found in the stems can be used for making textiles and paper.
Mallow flowers are a sweet and decorative garnish for deserts. Press them lightly into jellies, mousses or puddings or arrange on a frosted cake.
All mallow flowers press well and are highly prized in floral crafts. In the past, the flowers were spread on doorways and woven into garlands or chaplets for celebrating May Day.
The leaves and flowers can also be distilled to make liquor.
Malva moschata is a species native to Europe and south-western Asia, from Spain north to the British Isles and Poland, and east to southern Russia and Turkey.
A perennial of slightly neglected open grasslands on well-drained soils. It is found in hedge banks, road verges, lightly grazed pasture, meadows and waste land.
Native to the southern counties of Britain, Malva moschata can often be found on damp verges.
The genus name Malva derives from Malthace, the Latinised form of the Greek name Malthake meaning 'soft' in reference to the leaves.
The species name moschata is applied to a number of plants and means 'Musk'. The plant is also commonly called 'Musk Mallow'.
The name moschata is given to a number of classes of plants that give off a mild scent (ie some rose species) the scent is said to be comparable to that of the Siberian musk deer - Moschus moschiferus.
The Siberian musk deer is found in the mountain forests of Northeast Asia. Its is most common in the taiga of southern Siberia. Adults are small, weighing 7 to 17 kg. It classified as threatened by the IUCN. It is hunted for its musk gland, which fetches prices as high as $45,000 per kilogram. Only a few tens of grams can be extracted from an adult male. It is possible to remove the gland without killing the deer, but this is seldom done.
The common name of 'mallow' is derived from Old English malwe, which was imported from Latin malva.
This and other Malva species have been called by the curious names Cheese, Cheeses, Cheeseflower, or Cheese-weed, with numerous plays off the same idea, including Cheese-cake, Dutch Cheese, Doll-cheeses, Fairy-cheeses, Pick-cheese, or Cheese-log. This is due to the wheel-shaped carpels that remain after the flower petals fall, and is supposed to resemble miniature cheese wheels, small enough for use by the fairies.
This plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. According to archaeological findings, the first use of mallow was nutritional rather than therapeutic, as evidence points out that young mallow leaves were consumed by humans around the 8th century BCE, possibly due to their pleasant, sweet taste and nutritional value.
Throughout history, Malvas have long been cultivated for medicinal, religious, and culinary purposes. The leaves and flowers are edibles and even the unripe seed, often called 'cheeses' was widely available and a common source of food for the poor.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC to 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. He mentions Malva in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" - meaning 'As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance'.
In 1931 Maud Grieve wrote that the "use of this species of Mallow has been much superseded by Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis), which possesses its valuable properties in a superior degree, but it is still a favourite remedy with country people where Marsh Mallow is not obtainable".
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 250 Seeds Family Malvaceae Genus Malva Species moschata Common Name Musk Mallow, Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Other Language Names IR. Hocas muscach Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers July to September Height 60-90 cm (24-36 in.) Spread 45-60 cm (18-24 in.) Position Full Sun to Partial Shade