Hock and awe; Gardening; Plan happy holly days.
Byline: with Adrienne Wild
IT is time to sow hollyhock seeds so they can be planted out in October ready to flower next summer Hopefully this cottage garden favourite will then bloom for the next three or four years.
Look out for rust-resistant varieties, such as the antwerp blend and rosea, and note that the younger and more vigorous they are the less they are troubled by the pathogen rust.
Hollyhocks grow well in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. For the best effect plant them in groups about 60cm, 24in, apart.
The plants will grow to 2m, 6ft 6in, in a few months from sowing seed. The mallow-type flowers are satiny and crepe-textured and can be single or rosettes of double flowers, so you may want to pick your favourite and save the seed for sowing later.
Hollyhock plants often deteriorate after flowering unless the blooms are removed once they fade. It's a good idea to have replacements ready, although some self-sown seedling may grow nearby - even in wall cracks.
Leave these and you could have an ever-expanding display of trumpets of crimson, yellow, salmon pink and white appearing every July and August thereafter.
Modern strains, such as summer carnival, have been bred to flower in their first year as annuals. They can be sown February and March for planting in May. This popular variety also produces more open flowers per stem than many others. Alcea rosea variety is resistant to hollyhock rust, while good golly miss holly has vibrant bi-coloured flowers and Charter's double apricot powderpuff-like blooms.
The blooms are edible and best crystallised to decorate cakes and to make delicately flavoured syrup to serve with puddings. Whatever type you grow, watch for rust fungus that forms little yellow or orange pustules on the backs of basal leaves.
As a precaution, remove infected leaves as soon as you see them and throw them in the dustbin. Keep the soil around the plants free of debris, especially weeds like mallow, and spread thick mulch around the plant.