I think every day I learn a little more about hollyhocks. The frustration with regard seed names and seemingly different hollyhock seeds turning out to be remarkably similar (by that I generally mean they look the same to my none horticulturist eye) is probably top of my frustration list, but are there any other myths that could possibly be dispelled?
Well maybe. Obviously most of this is opinion, and with all things, including gardening, we are all entitled to our own.
Firstly one of the things most often said to me are – aren’t hollyhocks a lovely old fashioned flower. Now I always take that in the spirit its meant, but then do have to come back as to the danger of fashion, particularly in relation to plants. If an article of clothing goes out of fashion (which often only happen to convince you to buy more stuff you don’t need) then 20 years later when it apparently is “back in fashion” you can make more. You can’t do that with plants. If one goes out of fashion… it doesn’t get sold. People don’t propagate it, and it can be lost forever. So when I hear about fashion and plants, I may challenge that view 😉.
Then I hear hollyhocks love growing in cracks in the pavement – something oh so helpful if you are trying to improve on a national collection. Now putting aside the confirmation bias – in that plants growing in cracks are rather more noticeable – so when we see them we then think thats the ideal growing situation and its where they prefer to be (shhhh They don’t) it perhaps does give us an idea as to what an ideal position will be like. For me my national collection isn’t in an ideal position. But its the position I have, and I have to work with it. I think the crack in pavement can tell us this. Hollyhocks develop a long atop root and can find their own water source. That is true for ones I have grown in unwatered ground in a hot polytunnel. The crack also shows that actually if there roots don’t rock in loose earth in the wind, thats also idea. And of course they don’t necessarily like their feet in water. So whilst they can grow in cracks, Ive currently got Cosmos, verbascum and a few other plants also doing that here… but I’d you keep telling me thats their favourite position I will just say OK, yes it must be.. and in a quiet voice whisper “It isn’t”.
Then I also get told they are just so easy to grow. Another comment often meant in a nice way, but not what anyone wants to hear having put blood, sweat and as of yet no tears into this endeavour. Without a doubt they are one of the easiest plants to germinate. But then they can be the moist awkward of plants. Rust is an ever present danger for which there is no cure. This year I have phenomenally managed to keep it very much at bay. This is in all honesty probably not down to my endeavours but by chance, even when I assumed the weather over the last few weeks was the prime conditions for it. They also are big old beasts and in windy positions can be prone to flopping, snapping and generally looking appalling if not staked or tied. That being said, they are hugely rewarding, but easy (as in not much effort required) is not always a description I recognise.
Having said all of this, I would advise anyone to have a go, because as mentioned above, they can be hugely rewarding. And of course, don’t let anyone put you off, because we should all grow whatever gives us a bit of pleasure.