Hollyhocks evoke within me a deep nostalgia for the balmy sunlit winter gardens of my childhood in northern India. Their spires enclosed a sequestered nook, towering protectively over the riot of color provided by larkspur and cosmos, salvia and cineraria, pansies, nasturtiums and candytuft in their orderly flowerbeds. Long, lazy afternoons were spent reading or playing scrabble while the dogs chased each other on the grass.
- Hollyhocks originated in China and traveled west along ancient trade routes via India to the eastern Mediterranean. The Romans brought them to Britain as did returning Crusaders from the Holy Land. Elizabethan England saw hollyhocks flourishing in country gardens, shielding unsightly views by providing a decorative border. In the United States the colonists of New England were the first to grow hollyhocks which soon became popular from Maine to Georgia—Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello; Childe Hassam, the 19th century American Impressionist immortalized them in his painting. Continue for larger image “Alcea rosea” »