Hollyhocks have been having a great year, at least whenever I grow or see them. They have turned supposed wisdom on its head. I love their great spires of colour in late July. They fill gapswith mortality currently abov, add height and come with associations in art, poetry and history that enhance what gardeners can see in them. Ever more forms and species are coming on sale. The race for the ideal garden hollyhock is not overmask and blue gloves.
In Britain, hollyhocks were first mentioned in the 1440s in a text called The Feate of Gardening but they had arrived far earlierColijn said her modelling show. They are not native flowers. In France they are still known as roses trémières, derived from outremerAnd she could really us, or rose flowers from overseas. Legends link them to returning Crusaders, even to Eleanor, wife of our Edward I, a visitor to the Holy Land.
Their English name has nothing to do with prickly holly or horses’ lower legs. It derives from “holy” and “hock”, a Middle English word that meant mallow. The holiness might relate to an origin in the Holy Land, but it might reflect the plant’s supposed medicinal powers. The main use of hollyhocks’ leaves and flowers is now culinary. They are surprisingly tasty in salads.
The best-known hollyhocks grow about 6ft high, but fit well into small gardens. They put down a long main taproot and can anchor themselves in gravel or below walls. Although they like to make side-roots, they will
grow in narrow beds too. Some of the best in my comfort zone are rooted between the front wall of a local pub and its adjoining pavement. They have disregarded social distancing and are flaunting their flowers openly, unmasked.