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”

  1. I grew up with hollyhocks galore in both my grandmother and mother’s gardens. They weren’t as fancy as some of these varieties, but they made wonderful dolls: one bloom turned downward for the skirt, and a bud on top for the face.

    1. Wonderful memories to have. I never had the chance to play with hollyhocks, but I have made my fair share of daisy chains.

    1. They do stay in the mind. I saw a decrepit looking house once with a garden full of hollyhocks. It was on a busy road and I didn’t stop to get a closer look and I really regret it!

  2. I have the same memories as Shoreacres, above, and seeing these certainly brought those back! I love hollyhocks, and I thank you for posting about them; I do need to plant some here. Where I’d put them is a bit of a head-scratcher, but I think I could make it happen, especially if I could grow something like the Halo Lavender with the Dora. Gorgeous! But then there’s Apple Blossom….hollyhocks wear so many colors well.

  3. I do love the cottage look of hollyhocks, but as you mentioned rust is a real problem and I’ve given up growing them. Unfortunately, my H. ‘Annabelle’ keeps perpetuating it. Having surrounding wild white pine and currants out there doesn’t help either.

    1. I haven’t grown them for many years either. I have seen them looking surprisingly good growing wild in the streets in more southernly parts of England.

      1. They are easy to make, a bud for the head and open flower the body/dress. We played with jacks and jumped rope sometimes marbles that was more of a boy’s action.

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