Hollyhocks - Alcea rosea - were brought back to England by Crusaders when they returned from the wars.
The name hollyhock is thought to be a corruption of holy. They have become a classic flower of the English cottage garden.
Hollyhocks flower in the summer and can be biennial or short-lived perennials.
They are best planted at the back of your borders or if possible by a fence or wall so that you can tie the spikes in place. They are much loved by bees and butterflies.
The leaves are rounded and rough textures and the flowers come in a variety of colors, especially lovely are the pinks, reds and whites.
Alcea rosea has spikes of single flowers and comes in many pastel shades
Summer Carnival and Chater's Double have rosette-like double flowers.
Peaches 'n Dreams has soft peach double flowers
Queenie Purple has dark purpley red flowers and only grows to 2-3ft.
Try mixtures of seeds as Hollyhocks look best when planted en masse in varying shades of colour.
- Fertile, deep soil
- The soil must not be allowed to dry out but mustn't be waterlogged.
- They do best in a sunny spot
- They prefer a sheltered spot - particularly if you have strong winds.
- Space them at least 18 inches apart.
- They can grow quite tall up to 6 foot six inches or 2 metres so plant at the back of the border or use by a fence or house wall.
- Plant in groups for the best effect
- Propagate by seed in spring or late summer.
- Will grow in zones 4-10.
In the language of flowers white Hollyhocks are said to represent female ambition but hollyhocks generally mean fruitfulness and abundance.
Cottage Garden is a lovely book very entertainingly written by Christopher Lloyd. He tells you about the history of the English Cottage garden and then goes on to describe how you can make your own - including plans and cultivation notes.
Cottage Garden by Christopher Lloyd
Enjoy your garden!