December 17, 2012

Plant of the month: Alcea rosea

One of my New Year's resolutions (a little premature, I know) for this blog is to be more specific with my "plant of the month" choices. If I know the species, variety, and/or cultivar, I will share them here. If not, I'll attempt to identify them and ask for your help to confirm.

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This month, I'm taking a little break from the holiday decorations to highlight a plant that in its full glory elicits a mood opposite that of snow, winter, and cold: the Hollyhock (Alcea rosea). Fortunately, I still have the tag for this one, and the cultivar listed is 'Chater's Double Pink.'

This next photo shows what my Hollyhocks look like in my garden today, in mid-December in the cold, northern state of Wisconsin.

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I know, I was surprised, too. But they're planted adjacent to the house foundation on the sunny west side of the house. I'm pretty sure this microclimate is a tad warmer than the typical USDA zone 5 garden plot. In any case, these babies are about to be covered in six to 12 inches of snow, if the meteorologists' forecasts are correct.

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In mid- to late-summer, Hollyhocks of all varieties are towering extroverts in the garden. You can't ignore them, but why would you want to? 'Chater's Double Pink' grows to six feet tall, and like most Hollyhocks, prefers full sun. It's a biennial or short-lived perennial, but it reseeds. I think I've had this beauty in my garden for at least six years, probably longer.

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I first fell in love with Hollyhocks when I saw them leaning romantically against my neighbor's white picket fence many years ago. If I had a tall picket fence and more sun, that's where they would go. And I understand now why I fell in love with Hibiscus moscheutos, highlighted in a previous post: The two have a similar style and belong to the Malvaceae family.

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Hollyhocks, in their earliest form, were native to China, according to Cornell University's Growing Guide. They are noninvasive, hardy in zones 3-9, and available in a variety of colors and shades. 'Chater's Double Pink,' in particular, takes my breath away. My only problem with it: The Japanese beetles love it, too. But we'll save that story for another post.

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Jen, at Muddy Boot Dreams, mentioned that many bloggers are designating Tuesday, Dec. 18, a day of silence and support for the community of Newtown, Conn. If you would like to donate to the Newtown Family Youth and Family Services, follow the link to their site. All money will go directly to those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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Please note that Friday, Dec. 21, is the December solstice. I will be wrapping up the "Lessons Learned" meme, and my friend, Donna, at Gardens Eye View will wrap up the "Seasonal Celebrations" meme. Please share your garden lessons by clicking here or on the tab at the top of the page, or simply share your link in the comments. Even links to past posts about your techniques, joys, and challenges are welcome. Thank you.

14 comments:

  1. Nothing exudes more old fashioned charm than hollyhocks growing in front of a picket fence! I do have a dog lot bordered by a picket fence, and you have reminded me of something I have wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately, the dogs liked to eat the flowers planted along the fence! Now the doggies have passed on, so perhaps I will try hollyhocks next year, if we don't get another dog!

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    1. I agree! Oh, sorry to hear about your dogs. If you do get another dog, maybe there's some other type of barrier you could erect in front of the Hollyhocks--maybe just up to the level the dog can reach? Mine are in a fenced-in garden, so no dogs, rabbits, or other mammal pests can get to them. Only the Japanese beetles...

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  2. I remember the Hollyhocks from childhood. I loved them to play with.
    Years ago I planted 'Malvas' and had very nice blooming. But I forgot to collect the seeds and did not have the flowers like the first ones.

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    1. I know--they seem old-fashioned to me, too. They're very romantic. My Hollyhocks re-seed. Sometimes I pinch off the seedheads and drop them at the base of the original plant. But very little effort goes into it. :)

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  3. I love hollyhocks but have stopped growing them because I was having terrible problems with rust. I like the old fashioned single varieties best.

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    1. I haven't noticed rust. Some of the sources I checked for this post mentioned it, but I don't remember seeing it on the plants. I think the single-petal varieties look wonderful planted next to a fence. But the doubles are so graceful and romantic.

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  4. Love your plant! Most of my H. have single flowers. I guess, I need to find 'Chater's Double Pink.'
    Its color is wonderful!

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    1. Thanks, Tatyana. I like the single ones, too. The thing I like most about Hollyhocks of all varieties is that they're a great background anchor plant--everything else looks great at their feet.

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  5. I really like Hollyhocks and many grow in my area due to the aged population. Many of the older gardeners have them and I admire them each summer. But rust is bad in our area so I never added them to my own garden. I did not know about the silence and support day. It is hard with all the constant media coverage.

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    1. I don't see them a lot around here, but they really catch my eye when I do. I haven't noticed rust--just some damage from Japanese beetles. But the blooms are still pretty.

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  6. These hollyhocks have a lovely shade of pink. The look like my double flower variety of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. But we can't grow hollyhocks here.

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    1. Yes, I really like the shade and texture of the blooms. I did a post recently about Hibiscus r. They're beautiful, too. I hope you're having Happy Holidays!

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  7. I love Hollyhocks but they don't do well here due to rust and Japanese beetles...but I let them seed and they grow every year.

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    1. Yes, the Japanese beetles really do a number on a lot of my plants, including the Hollyhocks. I haven't noticed the rust much, though.

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