Hollyhocks are a charming sight growing in front of English country cottage's and make a wonderfully tall colourful addition to any garden, coming in a beautiful array of different colours from pastel pinks to deep purples, reds, white and pale yellow. Flowering from July through to September they are mostly thought of as a biennial, that is that the plant will flower on it's second year of growth. What this means in practice is that once your hollyhock has flowered through the summer it will shed a mass of seeds (in Autumn) which if left in situ' or potted up grow on to become small hollyhocks in spring. These new plants, which are very easy to grow will produce abundant foliage but, somewhat frustratingly will not flower until the following year. However it will be well worth the wait! The Original plant should have all its old woody flowering stems cut down to the crown of the plant. Generally the original will last several seasons but can sometimes die off completely especially if winters are severe. This is why it is sometimes referred to as a short lived perennial.
History is littered with references to hollyhocks. Pollen from hollyhocks were found in soil samples taken from the Shanidar cave, a Neanderthal (50,000BC) burial site in Iraqi Kurdistan, although there is some debate as to whether the pollen entered the grave by burrowing rodents or was from flower heads ritually put in by relatives during burial. A native to China, Central and Southwest Asia, the Chinese used hollyhocks in culinary recipes as well as for medicinal purposes. It is thought that the hollyhock may have been introduced to Medieval England as early as 1290 by Eleanor of Castile queen to Edward I. Certainly in Tudor England (1485-1603) the dried roots were used to stave of strokes and miscarriages.
Hollyhocks prefer a good loamy well drained soil. One should endeavour to plant them in a position that gets full sun although light shade will be tolerated. Despite their obvious height hollyhocks seldom require much staking except in excessive stormy conditions. They are well adapted to long dry periods but will not tolerate water logging especially over winter. Without doubt the problem that affects hollyhocks the most is the dreaded rust. This appears as yellow- orange spots and splodges on the leaves and as the summer progresses will cover the whole plant. Treatment however is relatively straight forward. Since the rust is a fungus spraying a systemic fungicide early in the season as foliage appears should do the trick. Also removing any infected leaves and burning them will help with prevention.
Pictures: Top to bottom beautiful hollyhocks sway in the summer breeze outside a brick and flint cottage in the southern English county of Hampshire (copyright simon tinks-davis) General discussion and your views are welcome please say hello. I regret however because of my busy schedule, I am unable to answer many questions. Sneaky advertising will be deleted sorry. Thanks so much for visiting my blog today.