big hollyhock in london park

At this time of year the cracks and gaps that make Hackney, East London, feel beautifully wild are host to some of my favourite flowers – hollyhocks.  They seem to spring up overnight and then burst with colour and pollen for weeks on end.

This beauty in Arnold Circus, E1, is part of the Hollyhock circle that surrounds the children’s playground in the middle of the roundabout. 

The slopes of the island are quite steep so when you turn in from one of the side roads you are met with an audience of these gentle giants holding you in their yellow and pink gaze.

london hollyhocks

How to grow 

Hollyhocks are easily grown, they have a wide variety of colours. Position them in good sunny locations for best effects.  They’re known as a cottage garden flower and display well along fences and walls as a feature. 

They make good cut flowers for displays. Hollyhocks like a well drained soil in a full sun position. They need staking when they become taller to protect their stalks from breaking, especially in more windy locations. They will flower during their second year after sewing.

They are short-lived Perennials, which applies to any plant living for at least three years. The term is also commonly used for herbaceous perennials which grow for many years (To compare: annual = one year, biennial = two years). If you want to attract bees and butterflies to your garden,  choose the single flower rather than the double flower varieties.  

They are best planted in spring or autumn, but can be planted at any time, spacing them 60cm (24in) apart if planting in pots. Seed grown.

If growing hollyhocks from seed, sow them indoors in mid- to late spring or can be sewn directly in the position you want them to grow in May/June. 

During the second year they will flower from Summer right through to the Autumn.  

red hollyhock on fence

Varieties 

 Hollyhock (Alcea,) is a genus of around sixty species of flowering plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae,) which is commonly known as hollyhocks. Native to Asia and Europe. The streambank wild hollyhock, however, belongs to a different genus and is only found in the Americas. A few notable varieties of choice. 

Hollyhock ‘Sunshine’ 

This single-flowered cultivar has fresh, pale-yellow flowers. ‘Sunshine’ is part of the ‘Spotlight’ series, which are characterised by their single flowers held on tall, sturdy stems. A beautiful delicate colour. 

Hollyhock ‘Peaches and dreams’

‘Peaches ‘n’ Dreams’ is a double-flowered hollyhock with beautiful balled blooms that are largely made up of ruffled, peach-pink petals. These types of flowers don’t provide the nectar for pollinators but do look spectacular. 

Hollyhock ‘Halo Apricot’

A member of the ‘Halo’ series, ‘Halo Apricot’ has dusky pink blooms with dark purple centres punctuated by a creamy central column of fused stamens that surround a central pistil.

Hollyhock ‘Creme de cassis’

With bi-coloured mauve and cardinal purple, ‘Creme de Cassis’ makes a stunning addition to summer beds and borders. Interestingly, each plant will bear a mix of single, double and semi-double flowers. 

Hollyhock ‘Halo Red’

‘Halo Red’ is another of the ‘Halo’ series of hollyhocks, it is known for their decorative, bi-coloured flowers and resistance to rust, (the infection that these flowers can often suffer from.) It has single, raspberry-coloured flowers with warmish yellow centres.

white flowers in london

Preventing Rust infection 

The first signs are the telltale spotty pustules of hollyhock rust on your plants, these should be removed by checking your plant thoroughly for the infected leaves. You should burn any infected plant matter immediately to destroy the spores. Clear away and burn old foliage in autumn to reduce the amount of spores overwintering. 

Did you know?

The Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival) is one of the three main festivals of the city of Kyoto.

During the Victorian era, the hollyhock symbolized both ambition and fecundity in the language of flowers.

In some cultures they symbolize the circle of life, ambition, fertility, and abundance.

A quote:

Just living is not enough, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower

Hans Christian Andersen

As you can see in these photos, they seem particularly keen on Peabody Housing Estates!  What a great colour – this one reminds me of a gramophone, all that’s missing is the little white dog.

Hackney Council are doing a great job of planting trees, and giving us all a role in maintaining them by encouraging community watering.  That sounds wrong, but hopefully you get the gist.  Like foxes, magpies and other survivors in the urban jungle hollyhocks seem to love the places we hate – car parks, run down industrial units but they also turn up where people have been watering, hence this lovely railing, birch and hollyhock combination.

Hollyhocks!  What a funny word, something I expect a magician to say as he pulls a rabbit out of a hat, or perhaps an old English insult, “O get away you tedious fool, blaggard, hollyhock!”

This beauty in Arnold Circus, E1, is part of the Hollyhock circle that surrounds the children’s playground in the middle of the roundabout.  The slopes of the island are quite steep so when you turn in from one of the side roads you are met with an audience of these gentle giants holding you in their yellow and pink gaze.

They seem particularly keen on Peabody Housing Estates!  What a great colour – this one reminds me of a gramaphone, all that’s missing is the little white dog.

Hackney Council are doing a great job of planting trees, and giving us all a role in maintaining them by encouraging community watering.  That sounds wrong, but hopefully you get the gist.  Like foxes, magpies and other survivors in the urban jungle hollyhocks seem to love the places we hate – car parks, run down industrial units but they also turn up where people have been watering, hence this lovely railing, birch and hollyhock combination.

pink hollyhock in bloom UK

Hollyhocks!  What a funny word, something I expect a magician to say as he pulls a rabbit out of a hat, or perhaps an old English insult, “O get away you tedious fool, blaggard, hollyhock!”

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3 Comments

  1. Beautiful and for some reason, somewhat poetic.

  2. I love hollyhocks. When I was a young girl, I used to make hollyhock dolls.

    1. Hi Connie, hollyhock dolls sound great, they’re just so pretty 🙂

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