This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
I am glad to find that this hitherto much-neglected flower is likely to attain the attention which it so richly merits.
The exhibitions of it last season by Messrs. Bircham and Chater convinced me that it is destined to claim equality with our other florists' flowers. I am a Dahlia grower and fancier, and I would not wish to see Hollyhocks take the place of these gaudy flowers; in fact, such a state of things is not likely to occur; but where it is convenient, I do think that Hollyhocks should be intermixed with Dahlias, and for this reason: on September 13th, 1848, we had a frost that spoiled my Dahlia bloom, of which I had a fine display; but some Hollyhocks, near the Dahlias, and equally exposed, remained uninjured. This, then, is a recommendation in favour of the Hollyhock not to be overlooked; for after the dead Dahlias are removed, the Hollyhocks keep up the gaiety for several weeks, and at a season when flowers are wanted.
In regard to showing Hollyhocks, Mr. Bircham recommends spikes; but I imagine that blooms would be more suitable for amateurs, who cannot be expected to have a large collection to choose from.
Having been requested by several readers of the Florist to supply some instructions on the cultivation of the Hollyhock, I readily respond to their wishes.
Varieties of this beautiful flower have been for many years crowded into the uncultivated parts of our shrubberies; and perhaps justly so, not deserving a better situation. But the time is come when some of the improved sorts of this old ornament of our gardens should be brought out of the shade, and be prominently placed on the lawn and in the flower-garden, where they will assuredly claim the admiration of the amateur, and repay the care of the Florist. The Hollyhock is worthy of the same care and attention as the Dahlia; and, properly cultivated, should be planted in beds or rows. The ground best suited for them is rich old garden-soil, well trenched over to the depth of two feet, with plenty of decomposed manure well mixed up with it. If the subsoil is wet, they will thrive remarkably well in the summer; but are apt to suffer from it in the winter. Sand laid round the stem of the roots I find to be an excellent preventive from rot and slugs, which are very troublesome in the winter months.
A situation shaded by distant trees from the noonday-sun is to be preferred; only the roots of the trees must not be allowed to interfere with those of the Hollyhock. They will bloom earlier in a warm south border, but not so finely, nor retain their flowers so long, as when planted in a little shade. If cultivated in rows, let them be placed three feet apart, and four feet from row to row; if in beds, about the same distance should be preserved; but care should be taken to select the tall growers for the centre, and so to arrange the colours that they may harmonise, and make a pleasing mass of beauty.
The Hollyhock may be removed with safety in almost any month of the year and stage of growth, if the weather is favourable; still I consider September and October the very best time to ensure a fine bloom in the following summer. The best way to obtain a succession of flowers is, by transplanting a portion at different seasons of the year. Plant some in the spring: it is surprising how much later they bloom by adopting this method. The spikes of flowers exhibited by me at the Surrey Gardens in 1848 on the 12th of September were part of a large bed I had transplanted in February or Marchthose which remained on the old bed bloomed in July and August; while those that were transplanted bloomed in September and October. If the plants are to be removed but a short distance, let them be taken up with a good ball of earth, and planted in holes prepared with plenty of good rotten manure well mixed with the soil, and they will grow very fine the first year. In May, when the spikes are grown about a foot high, thin them out according to the strength of the plant. If well established and very strong, leave four spikes; if weaker, two or three, or only one; at the same time placing a stake to each spike separately.
They will not require tall stakes; the most robust grower needs one no higher than four feet'from the ground; three feet is quite sufficient for most sorts: tall stakes are not only unsightly, and mar the appearance of the plant, but they are injurious, as they spoil the flowers where the stem touches them. Let the stakes be properly placed early in the season, and the young shoots carefully tied; very short ones will be sufficient to induce erect growth. Most of the best sorts will begin to bloom at about two feet from the ground. Thin the flower-buds, if they are crowded together; and some of the sorts may be improved by cutting off the top of the spike. This will make the individual flowers finer; but it requires judgment, or the plant will be very much disfigured, and its duration of flowering shortened. I shall be happy to continue my remarks at a future time.
Nursery, Saffron Walden. William Chater.