Cottage Garden Plants: Hollyhocks

Apricot hollyhocks on an allotment
Apricot hollyhocks on an allotment

For most of us, I suspect, hollyhocks are a dream, but what a dream they are!

Alcea 'Halo Candy' - pink hollyhock with dark centre
Hollyhock (Alcea ‘Halo Candy’)

Ruffled blooms with a hint of crinoline have the old fashioned charm and romance we associate with cottage gardens. The leafy green buds, typical of the mallow family, are decorative too.

Unlike more regimented spiky plants that open their blooms in sequence from bottom to top, hollyhocks flowers are delightfully laissez faire.

Hollyhocks with echinacea in a community garden
Hollyhocks with echinacea in a community garden

Open flowers are scattered among the buds seemingly at random without waiting for sister flowers, creating airy towers that lean and sway on the wind.

In any discussion of hollyhocks there’s an elephant in the room: rust. Like many plant diseases it’s a question of where we place our attention. In the picture above, do we oooh! over the flowers or yeuk! about the rust?

Mixed colours of hollyhocks

It is possible to grow healthy hollyhocks, even in large clusters, and modern varieties are selected to be less prone to disease.

Purple hollyhocks - Alcea 'Halo Lavender'
Alcea ‘Halo Lavender’ with Daucus carota ‘Dara’

The dusky purple blooms of Alcea ‘Halo Lavender’ caught my eye at a flower show – lavender is stretching a point – here combined with ornamental carrot. Daucus carota ‘Dara’ is white in the bud, opens to pink and darkens almost to burgundy which will be lovely with the hollyhock.

Double pink hollyhock - Alcea 'Apple Blossom'
Double pink hollyhock (Alcea ‘Apple Blossom’)

I seem to have a weakness for plants named ‘Apple Blossom’: Pelargonium ‘Apple Blossom Rosebud’ is a favourite and I’m an admirer of Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ too. Alcea ‘Apple Blossom’ is no exception, with its tissue paper-like balls of powder pink fluff.

Mixed hollyhocks (Alcea)

If you’re growing hollyhocks, I hope they’re doing you proud. And if, like me, you are just dreaming, I hope these will be fodder for the imagination.

Shared for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

46 Replies to “Cottage Garden Plants: Hollyhocks”

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