I know some plants take years to bloom, so waiting just a few seasons for this old-fashioned hollyhock to show its colors seems like a short time in comparison. But it’s a big deal in my cottage garden.
I bought an envelope marked “hollyhock seeds” for 50 cents at the Xeriscape Conference in Albuquerque in early 2010. These seeds were packaged in a business-size envelope by a gardener in New Mexico and were on a table at the conference’s book sale.
I should have sowed those seeds in spring to give the leaves a head start on the heat of summer. But I got busy and the seeds had to wait until fall.
I’ve always thought hollyhocks make a cottage garden complete, so I planted the seeds along the white picket fence that separates my cottage garden from the butterfly garden.
Because hollyhocks are biennial, I knew I’d have to wait before I could see the color of its flowers.
Biennials are less predictable than a perennial, but longer lasting than an annual.
Biennials are plants that have a two-year growth cycle. During the first year, the plants are busy establishing leaves and roots. Flowers are produced the second year after which the plant usually dies. However, because some biennials are such prolific self-seeders, they seem to grow on forever.
Flowers, weeds, herbs and even vegetables can be biennial. Each is just a different category of plant. Biennial seeds germinate in the spring and spend the summer in the form of a low-growing rosette of leaves.
Food is stored in deep, thick roots. Carrots, onions, and beets are biennials, but their roots are pulled and eaten long before they can flower.
My hollyhock finally showed its true colors this week, a nice pinkish-red. It’s just what I had hoped for.
For gardeners who don’t want to wait two years to see their first hollyhock flower, purchase a greenhouse-grown plant that’s already in its second season and ready to bloom. More seedlings will appear the following spring.