This stately plant is seen in the large grounds of the millionaire and in the small piece of garden that the farmer or his wife devote to "posies." It is handsome anywhere, and it is particularly suitable for a border whose background is a hedge or belt of trees. There appears to be an increased call for them of late. Some years ago the hollyhock disease discouraged many would-be growers of this old favorite, but little is now heard of the disease, and we have seen no trouble from it in several years.
Hollyhocks are of very easy culture and few plants will pay for the labor with an equal amount of flowers and fine effect. If they required the same care and labor that a dahlia does, there would be less excuse for not growing them, but they do not. When once planted out, they will take care of themselves, only requiring one stout stake to support their main stem and tying as they grow.
The best strain if allowed to remain without transplanting for four or five years will deteriorate in quality and revert back to the single-flowered form. Little regard is now paid to named varieties, because the best strains give you all the desirable colors and the finest flowers; in fact, plants less than one year old give the finest flowers. Plants that have flowered and are carried over winter are hardy in our ordinary winters, but should be protected by some litter placed around the plant and a few evergreen boughs over them.
Where the winters are not so severe, seed is sown in May or June out of doors and the young plants transplanted into beds, where they remain all winter in the open ground, and are planted out and sold the following spring. This is all right for the man with a catalogue trade, but is not the way to produce the finest plants and flowers.
Sow in flats or in the coldframe in early August. If you have no other accommodation, you can transplant four or five inches apart in the frames, and in the three or four months of severest winter weather protect with glass, and transplant to their permanent position as soon as the ground is dry in the spring. Still better, transplant from the seedbeds into flats or 2-inch pots, and in October shift into 4-inch pots, keeping them plunged in the coldframe till very cold weather, and then winter them in a very cool house. A violet temperature, or less, will do. Don't defer planting till you put out your tropical bedding plants, but get them into the border as soon as you can work the ground. The latter method is the one I have seen followed with the grandest results.
Hollyhocks like a heavy soil, dug deeply and with plenty of animal manure worked in. If the spring is dry, they should receive a soaking twice a week. As fine hollyhocks as I have ever seen were planted in a stiff clay, into which was dug a lot of cow manure. They want a good stout stake to keep the wind from blowing them over, and sometimes when the side shoots are loaded with flowers they will want supporting to the main stem.
Chater's strain was for years the best obtainable, and is, I think, still offered by some of the leading seedsmen.
When the plants are small, as a preventive of fungous diseases, they can be dipped into a pail of the ammoniacal solution.
The best strains now embrace colors from the darkest maroon (almost black) through beautiful shades of red and pink, yellow and pale straw, to pure white. Three feet apart is close enough to plant them, and if strong plants, more room is better.
In attempting to grow these stately plants two seasons ago and wintering them in a cool greenhouse the dreaded fungus made its appearance. A copper solution was applied at once and at time of planting the following April every plant was immersed in it, but to no avail. They were a total failure. Yet down the village street 100 yards were healthy, vigorous hollyhocks growing in a narrow strip by some farmer's home. We have experienced the greatest success with hollyhocks by sowing in September and wintering in a cool house, but where you don't have those advantages you can sow in April and during summer shift them on, or several times transplant, and by September you should have a strong plant which can be planted out in its permanent place in the garden.