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Top Ten Cottage Garden Flowers Include Hollyhock

Top ten cottage garden flowers include hollyhock.

Recently the magazine The English Garden posted online an article entitled “Top Ten Flowers for a Cottage Garden.”

Since I am interested in cottage gardens, I had to have a look at the article.

Of  the group of flowers mentioned in the article I discovered that I grow about half of them in my garden.

The list of ten includes the hollyhock. [below]

Hollyhock [Courtesy of The English Garden article]
I am not surprised at that choice since it is a popular flower, showy, and easy to grow.

Easy for everybody that is but me.

I have tried to grow it many times, but without success. It could be that I have too much shade in my garden.

The hollyhock has a long history, and is not native to Europe or America. 

The Latin name for the plant is Alcea rosea, but sometimes the name Althaea rosea may appear.

Nineteenth century Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) preferred Althaea.

Vick wrote in his magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly in 1878, “The true name of the Hollyhock is Althaea Rosea, and it is supposed to be a native of China, from which country it was introduced into Europe three hundred years ago [1578]. In regard to its origin, however, there seems to be some doubt, some authors claiming Syria as its native land, which an old work on Gardening, in our possession, published a hundred and fifty years since, calls it the Egyptian Hollyhock.”

Horticulturist Noel Kingsbury connects this flower to the cottage garden. In his new book Garden Flora: The Nature and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden he writes, “”These are short-lived non-clonal pioneer plants, as can be appreciated by the alacrity with which the cottage garden hollyhock grows in paving.”

He too recognizes the hollyhock’s ideal fit for a cottage garden.

He writes, “By the 18th century the hollyhock had become a cottage garden plant across Europe.”



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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hi Tom,
    Thankyou for your suggestions.
    I contacted O H Gardens this morning and found three suitable varieties that are still available.Plan to order more next year.
    Many Thanks

  2. Good Morning Tom,

    Noticed that you mixed up your photo on this mornings post,digitalis as opposed to alcea.Have enjoyed your articles throughout these winter months,and I plan to introduce some of the plants you featured into the Warner House garden this year.We have only one variety of dahlia ,the tried and true red which is very reliable.Do you have any favorites that pre date 1935? We have laid out a herb garden for this years project and plan to offer a garden Tour this June when the Portsmouth Pocket Garden Tour takes place.
    Looking forward to Spring,Best Regards,Caroline

    1. Hello Caroline, I changed the photo. I appreciate the quick notice you gave me.
      Check out Old House Gardens for heirloom dahlias. They have a website and a catalog. The owner Scott Kunst just retired but is still involved.
      Dahlia ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ dates to the 1880s, so that is an old one. ‘White Vision’ is another.
      Remember there are now 57,000 varieties of dahlias. One constant with this plant is that newer varieties, through hybridizing, outshine earlier forms of the flower in color, size, and durability.
      John Claudius Loudon said in the 1820s in his English garden magazine that it would be pointless for him to give a list of plant names since new varieties of the dahlia appeared so quickly.
      I too hope for spring.

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