Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hollyhock (03 SEP 2011)

The 5th of the month is Hope Grows day at :
Bloggers post about their gardening hopes for the coming month and link up.
This post is a story of hope which began last year ...

In spring 2010 I sowed some perennial giant hollyhock seeds. The dream was to display a row of hollyhocks against the left fence of my garden, to contrast with the row of roses on the right.
Some seeds didn't germinate, others germinated then died, but the last one remaining just got stuck. I related to it in a way.

By last September, it was the size of my thumbnail and the vision of the dream had faded away. I knew that if I left it in a seed tray in the plastic greenhouse, I would forget to water it, so I found a sheltered, moist spot in a flower bed and planted it there to give it a chance to live through the winter. I didn't expect much from it, I was just glad that it was alive.

When it snowed during December, the flower-beds were covered in several inches of snow, deeper than on the ground. Yet when the snow melted, I wasn't surprised to discover it hanging in there : still alive, just a bit soggy.

30 SEP 2010

01 JAN 2011

It remained in a miniature state till early summer. Then it had a growth spurt which was not ignored by the slugs and snails. At the same time a dormant fuschia awoke next to it which is a useful reference point for the following photos.

11 JUN 2011

03 JUL 2011

I wanted to capture in one photo : where the hollyhock had come from, where it was going to, the slug-eaten leaves at the base, the fresh growth at the tip reaching for the sun, the buds about to burst open in the middle, and how much I am in awe of it, but it wasn't possible.

At the beginning of August, slender bamboo canes were sufficient to hold the plant upright, as left to its own devices, it would have leaned over into the camelia bush.

06 AUG 2011
14 AUG 2011

By the end of August, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake selecting giant hollyhock seeds instead of the regular variety as trying to support the plant with slender canes was futile. When it was too tall and the girth of its stem too wide to benefit from their support, they were replaced with a thicker cane offset from the base, to accept the plant's tendency to lean over and to reduce its height. This had the unexpected effect of encouraging side-shoots to turn into upward-growing shoots.

23 AUG 2011
28 AUG 2011

Then it started to bloom. The promise of the deep burgundy buds and the revelations of the flaring crimson trumpets, starting in the middle and spiralling up the stem were what I had dreamt of fifteen months before, except in pale pink like those I've seen in other people's gardens and there was a row of them. I now day-dream about the crimson blooms on this stand-alone specimen, and if they had been any other colour I would be visualising my hopes in that instead.

31 AUG 2011

02 SEP 2011

Yesterday as I was walking along admiring people's front gardens, I noticed that all of their hollyhocks were not supported, they just stand erect by themselves. I'm not sure if self-support develops year-on-year. Anyway, noticing that the ex-side shoots, now upward-reaching plants in their own right were developing buds of their own, I made a rash decision to remove the supporting cane. I now have a row of hollyhocks along the right fence.

02 SEP 2011

02 SEP 2011 

And what do I hope for in September ?

In September, I'm going to stop hoping and just enjoy the plants that I have till autumn sets in ....
(though I wouldn't complain if I walked out of my back-door one September day and found the whole row of hollyhocks in bloom at the same time.)

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for


Sunray Gardens said...

It sure did get really big, but it is very pretty.
Cher Sunray Gardens

Anonymous said...

I am amazed by the growth in such a few weeks time. The August growth was really something. The flowers are so pretty and just to think how it all started and survived the slugs. I think the hollyhocks you see are planted in groups to become self supporting. That is how it is done around here. The numbers of them keep them upright. Rust is the problem around here for them though.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Cher - It is freakishly huge, ungainly and out of proportion in my garden, but I love it. Next time I go shopping for hollyhock seeds, I'll select a more dainty variety.

Thanks Donna - The growth is amazing indeed, especially the way the side-shoots are now reaching upward too. I almost threw the seedling away last year when I was cleaning the greenhouse because it didn't seem to be growing. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learnt from that.

Alistair said...

Hi B-a-g, perseverance with this single plant didn't half pay off in the end. Stick with it and one year you will have the result you want. I have never tried the Hollyhocks, and I really don't think it has anything to do with Allan Titchmarsh informing us that, if Hollyhocks thrive in your garden its a sign that you are a henpecked husband.

b-a-g said...

Alistair - Hollyhocks would look perfect at the rear of your deep border. This post by Linnie may convert you :

Re: AT's information - all I can say is that he knows more about gardening than me.

HolleyGarden said...

Oh, that first September 2nd picture is stunning! What a beautiful flower. What a wonderful photo journal of this plant. It is amazing how fast they can grow, once they get started. I hope you enjoy your September garden.

Shyrlene said...

b-a-g, this is such a great success story! It's near and dear to my heart.

Though not started from seeds (I really admire your tenacity), I just purchased a perennial Hollyhock this year for it's height, fascinating texture and a bountiful blooms. It's planted next to a Maiden Grass to highlight their contrasting textures.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Holly & Shyrlene, I wasn't really tenacious, just very patient - and it was worth the wait. I'm contemplating what to do when it finishes flowering because it's just too big to keep. I also have more seedlings from the same packet which I planted this spring.
I would be interested to see a giant hollyhock planted in an appropriate setting.

Masha said...

Your hollyhock looks amazing! It was fun to see it grow from a baby to a giant. I hope you can grow more of them next year.

One said...

Jack and Beanstalk, Bag and the Hollyhocks! I wouldn't mind having those blooms all over my garden either.

Your mid life crisis caption is being posted today. :) Congratulations! :)

Malar said...

Such a beautiful plant! You have really take care of them!

Stacy said...

b-a-g, that crimson is gorgeous against the wood. It's a very New Mexican look--bright or deep colored hollyhocks against a wall (normally stucco, though). It will be fun to see if you get your row of hollyhocks in bloom all from this one plant.

I had never heard that tidbit about hollyhocks and husbands. I'll look around the neighborhood with a different eye, now that I know what's going on.

Pauline said...

Fantastic, it pays never to throw anything out too soon, your hollyhock was determined to survive! The ugly duckling became a swan, the flowers are really beautiful!

linniew said...

I would certainly call this a Hollyhock Success, and in the best color! Hollyhocks do like to plan surprise parties... And I have found that growing them is kind of addictive. That plant could come back next year. Mine all seem to be perennial.

greggo said...

This is my first year for hocks too. Mine were self supporting mostly. The last three weeks the rust has moved in. I've been pruning these leaves off hoping they will send out some new. will see... Love that old fashion flower and the coarse texture of the leaves. Dont know about being henpecked however.

The Sage Butterfly said...

What an amazing hollyhock story! To see it sprout, struggle, and then spurt is a wonder. The final product is stunning...the color is amazing.

debsgarden said...

A plant with a story of survival and a lesson for us all - I love plants like this!

Laura Bloomsbury said...

Am sure you were right to stake b-a-g as yours is in the Sunflower league. Very much like the burgundy shaggy flowers. Interesting to see what seeds from this - you might have whites or pinks emerging. Suggest leaving some pods to ripen and pop in situ and harvest others for a Spring sowing.

Andrea said...

beautiful flowers you got there, they look like okra.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Masha, One, Malar, Andrea, Deb, Sage Butterfly & Pauline - Jack & the Beanstalk, the Ugly Duckling ... I love fairy tales. I think I'll name it Cinderella.

Stacy - Of course I planned a New Mexican theme all along - even down to the faded fence (which I'm too lazy to paint).
I wonder what other secrets about us gardeners our plants can tell.

Linnie - we had very heavy rain yesterday and Cinderella is a bit bruised. I predict that she wont even die down this winter. I'm an addict after just one shot.

b-a-g said...

Greggo - I was worried about rust, but it seems the slugs got there first.
I still don't get the link between hollyhocks & hen-pecked. Maybe ... Hollyhocks are so easy to grow that a spouse is left with time to pay attention to details.

Thanks Laura - sounds like an experiment. Maybe it's babies wont inherit the giant gene either and grow into pale pink, dainty specimens.

Christine @ the Gardening Blog said...

Oh how lovely!! (And you've reminded me to be patient with my plants). I love the colour of your Hollyhock.

Carolyn ♥ said...

Love this post! I love the story you present, of hope blooming in that beautiful hollyhock. But what really speaks to me is "I'm going to stop hoping and just enjoy" for awhile. Beautiful!

Bom said...

Wonderful post! I always like a success story. This one had pictures, too. I like how the growth was documented and what has happened in a year's time has been amazing. I'm the one who will hope that a row of your hollyhocks will bloom at the same time. That would make an even more extraordinary ending to this story of yours.

Esther Montgomery said...

Hollyhocks are among my favourite flowers. This year, mine have not done as well as usual. They hardly grew as tall as me - when usually they tower feet above my head. I'm glad yours toughed it through the winter - and hope it will drop a forest of seeds so, by the time next year comes, you will have the beginnings of a fence row.

b-a-g said...

Christine, Carolyn, Bom (welcome) & Esther - glad you liked the story and thanks for your kind wishes.

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