07 August 2008

The Ongoing Tragic Tale of My Hollyhocks

I've whined before about my ongoing problem with hollyhocks. The Reader's Digest condensed version of the story is that I have hollyhock challenges, particularly when it comes to one particular colour. Yellow. I've been trying for years to get yellow hollyhocks.

They refuse to bloom that colour for me.

It's become a point of some horticultural hilarity in my world. People have kindly sent me seed, left me seed on my doorstep along with flowers to prove that the seeds came from yellow plants. I've sown them. I've tossed them around the garden.

This year, I thought I'd finally had success. I have quite a few hollyhocks growing, mostly in some rather unlikely places. I DON'T remember throwing seeds there, but whatever. There are different leaf shapes. I was sure among them would be at least one yellow one. Of course there would.

Wouldn't there?

Well, let's see....there's the black ones, of course. I AM very fond of these, deep wine as they are, and they make a nice colour echo near the Actaea 'Black Negligee'. So they're just fine.

Hmmm. I don't know WHERE this one came from. It is, most definitely a pretty thing, but I'm quite sure I haven't had these before. Nor planted them. Hmmmph. One of life's little mysteries, I guess.

This, I think, is legacy of the huge giant pink monster hollyhock I had two years ago. I figured it would produce enough seed to populate the world in pink hollyhocks. It did indeed yield a few plants in this colour. Not my favourite colour, by a long shot. Definitely not yellow.

I don't want my hopes dashed the way they were two years ago when I thought I finally had a yellow hollyhock. When the buds showed beautifully yellow as they prepared to open...and this is what I got.
This is the one I argued about with my long-suffering spouse. Told him it was orange. It certainly wasn't yellow--and I had bought this plant as a yellow-frakkin' hollyhock.
Maybe it's my soil. Or my karma. At least my hydrangeas are all blue rather than pink.
Well, there is one other option. Last year at the Saltscapes Expo, there was a very talented metalworker who did sculptures of plants and other items using recycled oil tanks from people's homes. When I saw this, I had to have it.

Okay, they aren't bright yellow. Sort of a cream colour. He said he'd paint them for me, but I like them as they are. They aren't botanically correct, but I can live with that. They DO suffer from hollyhock rust, but it's a noncontagious kind...And they won't get winter rot, fall over in windstorms, or be pink.

And I'm all right with that.


  1. Jodi, this is really interesting story :) why yellow ones refuse? maybe they know you will not like them anyway when they appear in your garden :)
    I missed hollyhocks, I just sown them few days ago :)

  2. I have tried for years, in several parts of the U.S. to grow hollyhocks. When we moved to New England, I was delighted that there were bountiful hollyhocks growing already in my garden. Since then, I've had no luck at all. Only one bloomed after the first year, even though I seeded like crazy. Reading that they bloom every other year, I waited eagerly. When none came up, I bought some mature hollyhocks from my local nursery. None bloomed. This year, I tried more seed and buying them full grown. I have two pathetic sticks with a couple of white flowers on them. So if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it. Your hollyhocks may not be yellow, my dear, but at least you have them! What makes them so finicky?

  3. I had a double yellow hollyhock once but it looked like the tissue paper flowers people put on cars when they were in wedding parties in the 1970s. I got rid of it (sorry!)

    I paid for my sins with almost a decade of bad hollyhock karma. They just refused to grow for me. A friend with rampant hollyhocks gave me some of his a couple of years ago. They are pale, pale, pale pink. No yellows.

    Now I feel doubly bad for ditching that puffball of a plant.

  4. That is so sad, Jodi. No yellow hollyhocks for you it seems. All of yours are lovely though and the apricot powderpuffs are stunning. Now I will be on the lookout for yellow ones. I don't grow them here due to their attraction to the Japanese beetles, but offspring Semi has great luck with some passalongs from her mother in law and uses her special talent of doing absolutely nothing at all to great effect.

  5. Do you think it could be the soil acidity/alkalinity that plays with the colors, like with hydrangeas? You are still one very lucky lady to have so many pretty ones - the wine color is my favorite.
    I adore hollyhocks, have tried for years to grow them, with no success. I am here on the dry, windy prairies of Texas, so I blame my failure on the weather. I have considered just having someone paint them on my wooden fence, seems that's the only way I'll ever see their blooms in my garden!

  6. I find it fun to have a garden challenge like this. It will be the eternal quest to grow the elusive yellow hollyhock.

  7. A lovely sculpture of a hollyhock is the only kind that I could have here, Jodi - Malva zebrina sometimes survives in Austin, where it is called French Hollyhocks but they don't have the size or stature of the real thing.

    The no-yellow thing is fascinating - could it be a missing soil element? We're super-alkaline so no blue hydrangeas, and in this hot year the pink daylilies were pale yellow.

    I love the dark ones myself (and all the stuff in your previous post) so I might not care if the yellows wouldn't appear.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. I don't care if the ruffly one is yellow, orange, or whatever! I'd still love to have it in my garden. I have bad hollyhock karma too and only have white ruffly ones that come back. I'm hoping that maybe I'll have better luck next year with some dark black ones I have seeds for that I'm going to plant and pamper.

    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  9. Hello from another Canadian gardener. The hollyhocks are kickin!

  10. It's very curious, this lack of a yellow hollyhock. I think it must be something missing from your soil? If not that, then, what? It couldn't be the gardener, right?

    Wishing you the best in your continuing quest!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  11. I was going to say: I can send you some...So, if you change your mind and want some YELLOW seeds, just let me know...
    By the way, the ones that you have are gorgeous!

  12. Isn't there a species of Hollyhock that blooms yellow, the fig-leaf Hollyhock? Have you tried growing that one? I don't grow them, as I'm already overrun with Malva zebrina. The Hollyhock scuplture is beautiful. I love rusty metal garden art.

  13. My mother gave me some clumps of hollyhocks this spring which I eagerly added to the ones that have grown here for years. She had no idea what color they were, and of course, most turned out to be pink or red. There was one white one and a cream colored one, but no yellow. Now that you mention it, I'm not sure I've ever seen a yellow hollyhock. I'm going to be on the lookout now for yellow hollyhocks in every stand I see!
    Your peach ruffled hollyhock and the lavender are beautiful--if I had a yellow one, I'd trade you for one of those:)

  14. Sorry I can help you with Yellow Hollyhocks, I don’t have any in my garden and never seen one here in Florida.

  15. love your hollyhock tale, made me smile , the issues we gardeners have. :-)

  16. I love your metal hollyhock sculpture. It's nice to have a rusty hollyhock that won't cause any problems whatsoever.

  17. What a interesting story about a very interesting plant. Sometimes I think this blooms are clowns and they play with us!!!
    Have a great week Wurzerl
    (with also crazy hollyhocks!!!)

  18. How funny! I can't believe that you have such trouble with yellow hollyhocks, as wonderfully as you seem to grow everything else. :)

    That sculpture is amazing, Jodi. I really think that's the most beautiful "consolation prize" I've ever seen.

  19. Just before coming into the house tonight, I pulled a 7 foot tall hollyhock randomly from a field of colors. The color was yellow. I cut off the top and washed the roots in preparation for picture taking. Many people have asked why hollyhocks do not transplant well and a picture of the roots answers the question.

    As for the "no yellows" problem, I can only offer some seed from Vermont grown, yellow hollyhocks. These are old fashioned singles that folks used to plant by the back door, the barn door, the outhouse door. Direct seeding is much better than trying to transplant them. Let me know if you are interested.

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener
    Vermont Flower Farm
    Vermont Gardens

  20. Very mysterious! The non appearing yellow hollyhock! The only way I can even get hollyhocks to flower here is plant them already blooming!

    The metal sculpture is wonderful with its completely manageable rust!

  21. Oh, I love your hollyhocks. They don't like my climate much so I have to get my hollyhock fix from others.

    Gotta LOVE the metal sculpture!

  22. Jodi, thank you for the beautiful story and the hollyhocks that as a kid back in IL they grew so profusely that it was hard to get rid of them.

    This year here in this complex where I live, they have hollyhocks and I was so surprised to see them. I have lived in this place for 26 years and this is the 1st time we have had them.

    It sure brought back memories of my childhood, making dolls out of them. As Bob Hope would have sang "Thanks for the Memories"

    I enjoy your blog so much, it is delightful for a novice gardener to read. Love the cats or rather the children. They are beautiful.

    Blessings aplenty and more - -

  23. Jodi, I found a yellow surprise in my garden yesterday while looking for blooms for the August Bloom Day. Stop over for a visit if you have time and scroll down to the end of my Bloom Day post.

  24. How odd about your hollyhocks not blooming in yellow. I have only yellow ones, and I've no idea how they got into my garden in the first place. They've been with me for two years now, starting last year in the front garden, and transferred accidentally into the back garden this year, where they look quite majestic.
    Seeing that these are volunteer plants, growing for me with no help at all, I wonder if seed from these will grow for you?

  25. Jodi,
    At least you can grow them, we seem to have a very enthusiastic weed puller in our garden and they never seem to make it over an inch tall here… hmmmmm -Randy

  26. That last hollyhock is my favorite. I would love to have one in my garden, rust and all.

  27. I never have much luck with hollyhocks of any color. When they grow they don't get very tall. They're never as beautiful as the ones I see in everyone else's garden. I think it has to be something to do with my soil. I don't have a problem with anything else, just hollyhocks. Probably because I like them so much:)

  28. I don't seem to be able to grow anything but yellow. I would kill for some pink.


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