My Mother has just arrived, bearing gifts: boxes of delicious citrus and Butternut pumpkins from South Australia and the promise of some wonderful old- fashioned Hollyhock seeds from a dear old gardener darling, but I forgot to bring them.
Well, apart from actually not having the Hollyhock seeds to hand, I am still thrilled in the expectation of. I have a feeling that Hollyhocks are on point at the moment, I have noticed some incredible specimens in plant catalogues and gardening articles recently, full blown voluptuous beauties towering at the back of beds, no less impressive for their back- row position. As I recall from school photograph days, there was always some comfort in being a back- row girl, your hair was not scrutinised for neatness quite as much nor did it matter if your ribbons were missing. An advantage of being taller than average you see. This balanced out always being the boy in school dance classes (were boys taller than girls in real life?) and therefore still having to lead when I waltz to this day, which is not a great impost on my daily life at Moble as I am sure you can imagine.
I am not suggesting that Hollyhocks are less tidy than the front row Catmint nor that they can’t follow in three/four time, they seem pretty adaptable to me. I have grown Hollyhocks in the past, though like many things around here, they have slipped off my radar. I do recall them flowering right through summer some years, an impressive effort and am certain I grew then from seed through the winter and planted them out in the spring. They were the single variety with a range of colours from pinks and reds to white and yellow, so that covers everyone’s fancy I imagine. I think I will try some of the double ones I have seen pictured as well as the old-fashioned ones from South Australia when they come to light, a little bit of frill is always welcome around here.
My Yates Garden Guide circa 1984 suggests a late summer to autumn sowing for a Spring show. They mention that Hollyhocks will thrive in both heavy and lights soils, so they are easy to get along with and that they enjoy the usual organic matter added beforehand, so all in all an easy guest for dinner. This well- thumbed gardening bible also warns about their attractiveness to snails; snails must be one of the few gardening challenges I don’t have to contend with here.
At the time I was married, the Yates Garden Guide was sold in our local ‘where you buy everything shop’, LR McManus. It well may have been the only book for sale there, perhaps there was a book on plaiting whips or similar? Certainly, it was the only gardening book on offer, and we all had a copy. This book taught me the basics on growing my vegetable garden, when to sow my broccoli and cabbages and how to prepare my beds. We had no seedling punnets available then, so it was all done from seeds and when I reflect on what we grew, it amazes me. Have I become idle with modern conveniences? On page 161 there is a colourful photo of Hollyhocks with the caption: Hollyhocks are ideal for stately backgrounds. Indeed.
Hollyhocks always remind me of quaint English cottages and embroidery, they are a great favourite with fancy stitchers. I am priming myself for some fancy stitchin’, I have two blankets to embroider for some little girls I am very much looking forward to meeting. I may have rather over-stretched myself in the embroidery line and went all out when their cousin was born. Two years late but a rabbit in a flower meadow was finally worked onto the blanket with only a moderate amount of blood stains to be cleaned off from my poor pricked fingers. Pruning roses is a doddle compared to the fancy stitching caper, so I think these little sweet peas may have to settle for their initials. First name only initial to be honest and we will have to lose the meadow but there will be Hollyhocks. Afterall, they are ideal for stately backgrounds.
The Moble Gardener.