Welcome to the start of another sunny week, I’m getting used to this weather and it’s motivating me to get out into the garden and water before the sun gets really hot, especially the plants in pots by the front door.
Have you noticed what a good year this has been for hollyhocks? They seem to be everywhere, splendid spires of shell-pink, pale lemon or sultry, black flowers.
I’d love some in the garden next year, so I’ll be sowing the seeds when we’re back from Cornwall next week.
This is how to grow them:
Hollyhocks [Alcea rosea] are biennials, the seeds germinate and make leaves the first year and flower and die the next. Sow the seeds in a seed-tray spacing them about 2.5cm/1in and keep them in a sheltered place, a cold-frame or greenhouse is ideal. gently tease them out of the soil and plant them in their own, small individual pots when they’ve germinated and produced a few of leaves and are easy to handle.
They like a sunny or partly shaded position, with some shelter [so they won’t need stakes to stop them falling over] in reasonably fertile soil. Don’t let the soil dry out as they develop, being short of water seems to weaken them and make them more prone to diseases, I think all the rain in early summer followed by plenty of sunshine has been good for them this year.
They seed freely around so you’ll have them popping up in your garden the following year, though probably not where you want them. Dig up the small plants in spring, plant them in 4in pots and keep them in a sheltered place until they’ve grown into sturdy plants. Plant them outside in autumn where you want them to grow, though you can keep them in a greenhouse or cold-frame until spring if your soil is heavy and wet.
I like how the flowers gradually open up the stem, so they flower for ages. They grow to at least 1.9m/6ft tall, plant them 1m/3ft apart.
Cut them down to the base when they’ve finished flowering and they should grow again for another couple of years.
They’re very prone to a fungal disease called rust, small pustules form on the under-side of leaves and spots of rust on the leaf surface It weakens the plant, so it grows a bit smaller than it should and doesn’t really shine out like the healthy specimens.
Deal with it by:
- removing infected leaves, keep them away from the compost heap
- clear up fallen leaves off the ground
- replace plants after two years, older plants are more likely to suffer from the disease.
the single flowers are perfect for bees and butterflies, the double ones have frilly layers of petals that makes access difficult for insects.
Typically thought of as cottage garden plants, I think they look good in most settings, I took these photos at a local allotment and my buddhist centre.
Have you grown hollyhocks, what do you think, easy to grow?
all photos: Jill Anderson.