I have loved hollyhocks since we visited Norfolk on a long-ago family holiday. We stayed in a little cottage in Blakeney and I was enchanted by their tall blowsy spires that seemed to emerge from every crack and cranny of the old garden walls that lined the narrow streets leading down to the harbour.
“Surely,” I thought to myself, “they must be very easy to grow” and I gathered seeds to take home with me. But no, I had no success whatsoever for at least 20 years – perhaps the climate in both Southsea (where I was then living) and later South Devon was too mild and damp for them and so I gave up.
This year however, in our house high up on the Mendip Hills, and inspired by my green-fingered husband, I decided to give hollyhocks another go – and this time I was rewarded with success in the form of tall spires in beautiful shades of pink, all ready, as I thought, to cut and bring inside. Alas, again I failed, the first blooms I brought indoors drooped and wilted within a couple of hours, so I resorted to Googling for remedies and was amazed by the method recommended to condition your hollyhocks as cut flowers.
I found a post from Diane at Southhouse Designs that recommended searing the ends of their stalks with a flame (apparently this seals them and holds the fluid inside those long hollow stems). I must admit to being rather sceptical to begin with (not helped by Rosie wandering in and asking incredulously why I was trying to set fire to my flowers!) But it really works….
The two images above show my hollyhocks still looking fresh and happy a couple of days after I picked them. So at last, after two decades, I can bring hollyhocks from my own garden indoors to enjoy.
Changing the subject entirely – I’ve just realised that if you’ve been following this blog for a while, the quilt you can see on the sofa is the one I made way back in 2013(!) – you can read about it here – whilst on the mantlepiece over the stove is my newest completed project – a little sleepy mouse for the September Magazine…
I do hope you like him!