OUTHOUSE HOLLYHOCK (Alcea rosea) is a wonderful mid-west heirloom that has been used for centuries to grow a decorative barrier for outhouses. Years ago, refined ladies just looked for the hollyhocks and didn't have to ask where the outhouse was! Single blooms of white, light pink, pinkish-red, magenta and burgundy. We think the 6-9' tall plants are a gorgeous cottage garden flower, appreciated in the border. Interestingly, one of the few flowers that can be grown close to black walnuts. Blooms the second year for up to two months in mid-summer in the North or first year and longer in more moderate, long-seasoned climates. Self-seeding biennial once established. Zones 2-10. 50 Seeds.
HISTORY: Hollyhocks are one of the oldest flowers grown, having been imported from China in the 16th Century. Named ("holyoke") by English herbalist William Turner it was a favorite in colonial (Thomas Jefferson grew at Moniticello) and Victorian gardens, falling out of favor only in the early 20th Century, but now quite revived in popularity in modern cottage gardens! To cut for your vase, fill the hollow stem with water and plug with cotton before putting in vase. This will open the buds and help them last a long time.
MEDICINAL: Hollyhock is not often thought of as a medicinal herb, but its name derived from the Crusades when it was used to dress wounds ("hoc" is Saxon for salve). Also as an emollient and laxative and to control inflammation, especially as a mouthwash for bleeding gums.
HOLLYHOCK DOLLS: Delight your child by showing them how to make a hollyhock doll using the colorful blossoms for the skirt, buds for the head and bodice and a toothpick (or florists wire) to hold them together (see below).
GROWING TIPS: Hollyhocks cross pollinate, so for seed saving purposes, grow only one variety at a time or separate by 1/4 mile. Hollyhocks like bright sunny locations and rich moist (but not standing water) soils. They aren't fond of clay soils. To plant, just spread the seed and cover lightly in spring or fall. They will bloom the second year, but once established you will have blooms every year. To save seed just crush the spent heads and dry. To avoid a problem called Hollyhock Rust, which can happen with too much moisture and not enough air circulation, thin your established plantings occasionally and remove lower leaves before winter sets in.
SEED SAVING: Seeds are ready to harvest when the seed capsules are completely dry and brown. Pick and gently crush capsules to separate the seeds but allow some to mature and open on the plant to reseed. Then cut stalks down to crown. Leave crown in place as reseeding tends to cluster around mature crowns.