Sunday, 7 August 2011

Hollyhock success!

No, I realise it doesn't look that exciting to you.  For me, however, this is the culmination of years of floral ambition. 
For a long time I thought hollyhocks were a made-up flower which only existed on the sets of films like The Wizard of Oz.  Slowly I came to realise they are growing plants, and also to dream of one day having a cottage garden.  Up till now this was completely unfeasible as it isn't possible to make a cottage garden in a row of pots outside a London flat, nor while on the move between different cities - carrying your plants in those same pots.  However in our latest house, and following the tearing up of our disgusting back yard to be replaced with a lawn and a few additional features, the creation of A Flowerbed, and planting of it to resemble a border, became a reality. 
Each year I read Robin Lane Fox's advice not to buy expensive seedlings, usually dispensed in June in a column which mocks those willing to pay the extortionate price of same while smugly recounting how many plants RLF has grown from seed or through division.  I smile wryly because all the Piglet's and my seedlings will by then have been eaten by slugs and snails, or dried out while we were away for a few days, or rotted because we were away for a few days and it rained like it only rains in South Wales and wherever Noah launched his ark.  However!  two years ago I planted some hollyhock seeds and one of them survived.  I placed it tenderly in the flowerbed, against a wall where I had originally envisioned a whole row of hollyhocks like toy soldiers, waving hilariously above the roof level. 
The slugs feasted royally on its leaves and I discovered that hollyhocks are biennual - you have to plant and nurture them in the first year for them to flower in the second year.  Winter was long and snowy - the poor little raggedy-leaved seedling was buried for weeks in snow and I gave up on it.  Imagine my joy when it started growing back again this spring!  I could no longer remember which kind of hollyhock it was (I'd planted seeds for two or three). I watched as it spired upwards against the whitewashed wall, waiting for the moment when it stretched above the (rather low) outhouse roof.  After all these years, I didn't dare hope it would make it to flowering. 
Yet here it is, a Hollyhock 'Crème de Cassis', which I have grown from seed myself. 


  1. Congratulations! There are few things more satisfying than creating plants from seeds. It is winter here and I discovered half a dozen wrinkled nasturtium seeds like old men's testicles at the bottom of my bag waiting to be planted. I feel the same way about nasturtiums you do about hollyhocks - especially the ones with dark green leaves and deep red flowers I found in UK. However like in England they are the "sacrificial anodes" (to quote a donnish Oxford friend of ours) of the plant world and there was a concerted attack on the ones in pots by cabbage moths mid-winter. Fortunately I noticed in time and after the counterattack the ground around was littered with the dead carcasses of caterpillars as a warning to others.

  2. I take a more relaxed approach to gardening. Plant it and hope it grows. I've given up on my herb garden though as the slugs did not! Hmmph