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Hollyhock, An Old-Fashioned Favorite

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                       August 1, 2006

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Rules of Thumb for Water Use on Lawns and Gardens

One deep watering is much better than watering several times 
lightly. 

Lawns need about 1 inch of water each week. If the weather 
is very hot, apply an inch of water about every 3 days. 

Watering to a depth of 4-6 inches encourages deeper, health-
ier root development. It allows longer periods between 
watering. 

To measure the water, put an empty tuna can (or cat food 
can) on the lawn while watering. Stop watering when the can 
is full or if you notice water running off the lawn.

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Hollyhock, An Old-Fashioned Favorite
By Kate Jerome
I grew up making hollyhock dolls from my grandmother's 
hollyhocks. There was something special about the tissue-
paper petals in soft pastel hues. And something grand about 
the 8-foot-tall flower spikes that give such tremendous 
stature and architecture to the perennial garden. 

My grandmother referred to these old-fashioned favorites as 
biennials, yet they came up every year. I never gave the 
mechanics of these lovely plants a thought until I planted 
them at the edge of my vegetable garden a few years ago. 

From Seed to Bloom

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are true biennials, taking two 
years to complete a life cycle. A biennial plant spends the 
first year producing a sturdy elaborate root system with 
only a simple rosette of leaves aboveground. The leaves die
back to the ground in winter, and the root system goes 
quietly to sleep. 

The following spring, the plant awakens to send up a flower 
stalk to produce blossoms and seeds. At the end of this 
second season, the plant usually dies, having completed the 
task of spreading its seeds. 

In my vegetable garden, the hollyhocks bloom continually all 
summer, and begin scattering ripe seeds in midsummer. The 
seeds germinate and produce a family of seedlings all around 
the mother plants. 

Continued...

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These seedlings get their first year's growth in late summer 
and fall, and then the following year send up blossom stalks. 

Now that I have the cycle set up, I have plants blooming 
every year. I started with only maroon-flowered plants, but 
they freely cross-pollinate, giving me luscious tints and 
hues of pink, maroon, apricot, and white. 

There is nothing quite like a hollyhock to add color to the 
back of a perennial border. Their large tropical leaves add 
substance, and the spires of crepe-paper blossoms in all 
hues of rose, red, pink, salmon and even darkest purple-
black (my favorite) add unrivaled drama. 

Hollyhocks thrive in full sun and average to poor soil, and 
basically take no care other than to enjoy the blooms. They 
do have a pesky bug that tends to turn the leaves to lace, 
but planting them in a situation with other plants to hide 
the lower part of the stalks works beautifully.

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