Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Blessings of Hollyhocks

Last fall, I planted Hollyhocks and I see that they are peeking through the soil! I love old-fashioned flowers and Hollyhocks are one of my favorites. Having graced outbuildings on farmsteads for over a century, these dazzling beauties have also been a favorite in English cottage gardens for hundreds of years. Years ago Hollyhocks were planted next to the outhouse so that refined ladies could just look for them without having to ask, “Where is your privy?” While there isn’t a lot of “sophistication” in my family background, I do remember them growing next to the outhouse at Grandma’s! With some varieties growing up to 9 feet tall, in their rich and delicate colors, standing so majestic and proud, Grandma’s Hollyhocks “marked the spot”!

One of my favorite neighborhood memories is learning to make dolls from Hollyhock blossoms and buds. My friend and neighbor, Amy Pumfrey taught me how. Guess where we found the flowers? Yep; next to their outhouse! While I wasn’t very old, I still remember how to make these pretty dollies! Carefully peeling off the green of a bud, Amy showed me its gleaming white face under an elaborate bee-hive hair do. Breaking off a section of a toothpick and threading it into the base of a blossom with about a quarter inch remaining, we placed the head onto the protruding end of the toothpick. We then gave our dolly arms using more toothpick pieces.

Voila! She was absolutely stunning in her eloquent dress frilled with heart-shaped petals!

Hollyhock dolls love being creative – they like floating in a bowl of water or decorating the top of a cake. They even like being carried on a skewer as a bouquet.

As a young girl, I had no idea that Hollyhocks offer so many blessings.
Not only are they pretty and fun, they also have medicinal properties!

Having a soothing affect on mucous membranes, tea from the blossoms is used for treating:
• coughs and bronchitis
• earaches
• gastrointestinal problems
• bladder infection
• skin inflammation.

Just before they fully bloom, harvest the flowers and air-dry them at 95°F. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over one blossom. Steep 5 minutes. Add a bit of honey and/or lemon if desired. One cup daily is recommended.

Hollyhocks are usually easy to grow. When planning their permanent home consider that they are drought tolerant, but they bloom best in moist soil and full sun. They are heavy feeders and we have plenty of horse poop if you need any! Hollyhocks bloom from the bottom up and pinching off the dead flowers encourages new blooming. Keep in mind, however, that they don’t bloom until the second year!

When the bloom's petals fall off the seed pods are exposed. Resembling an old draw-string coin purse with little coins (seeds) inside, its best to leave the pod undisturbed until it opens by itself. You may then pick the pods and scatter the seeds where you’d like to grow more Hollyhocks or collect them in an envelope and freeze them to kill any potential weevils. Once the pods are spent, trim the plant to about 8 inches and cover with coal ashes to keep the slugs away. While Hollyhocks do best when their roots are undisturbed, you may dig up short side shoots in September and October for transplanting or sharing with a friend.

I can hardly wait until my Hollyhocks bloom. I bet you’ll never guess where I planted them!


P.S. Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at: You may also contact me at:
Bonnie Jaeckle
In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life
Diagonal Progress
505 Jefferson St.
Diagonal, IA 50845

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