Five years ago, I wrote a piece entitled “But where are the hollyhocks?”. Occasionally a garden visitor sears him or herself on the brain and on this particular occasion, a gentleman came out from our garden and asked that very question, declaring that he could not find any hollyhocks. I have never forgotten because it was such a bizarre question. Until that point, it had never occurred to me that anybody might regard a garden as seriously deficient for the want of some hollyhocks. We failed that test.
When our children were young and had their own little gardens, one of them at least grew a few hollyhocks. But in our humid climate, the foliage gets ugly rust and if the flower spikes are not staked, they are inclined to fall over. They have not felt like a core plant for us.
But we found the hollyhocks in London. An entire block of them growing wild. This was part of the Olympic Village plantings. Most of these plantings were prairie-flavoured while hollyhocks are pretty much traditional cottage-garden plants. This may be why they were kept separate and all on their lonesome. They made us smile. I am only guessing that the other plants like the mullein and Verbena bonariensis have introduced themselves to the hollyhock party.
The Olympic Park plantings are five or six years old now because the London Olympics were held in 2012. There has clearly been a light hand at most on maintenance. More on the current delight of these naturalistic plantings soon.
As a postscript, once we had our eye in for hollyhocks, we kept seeing them in the south of England, seeded down and naturalised by motorways as well as on traffic islands and on street verges. There is no shortage of hollyhocks there. Mark is now very tempted by some of the buff shades, if he can find the seed.