Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hollyhock Nigra

(Alcea rosea 'Nigra')

My dad called me this morning to tell me that a lady from the Landreth Seed Co. was in the city harvesting the Hollyhock Nigra, "Which," said Dad, "is very rare. And Jody, YOU have them all over your garden! Don't forget we asked you for some seed this fall!"

I found out that the Landreth Seed Co. is the oldest seed house in America, established in 1784 in Philidelphia. Some of David Landreth's customers were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother). Landreth's claim that they have sold seeds to every US president from George Washington to FDR. (how's that for vintage?)

Isn't it funny that when something is labeled "rare" we get all in a dither and want to make sure we have some of the precious seeds? All I ever knew about my hollyhocks was that they came from old Doc Marousek's clinic garden (which is now an accounting firm and the hollies are now removed). I picked some after a baby appointment for one of the kids many, many years ago. Doc would be thrilled to know his old hollies are now "rare" and "heirloom." Perhaps I ought to take him a packet of his own rare seeds!

This afternoon I did harvest some of my Hollyhock Nigra seeds to share with friends and family. Perhaps some of you would be interested in my rare, heirloom seeds too? Well then, let's have a little drawing. If you're interested in seeds, just leave a comment telling me you'd like some and I will draw for a few packets.

Here's the label from Landreth Seed Co.:

FULL SUN. Native to Turkey and other parts of Asia, the HOLLYHOCK was introduced into Britain in 1573. It was a versatile medicinal plant which was used for tuberculosis, bladder inflammations, soothing swollen horses’ heels, etc. The name originated during the Crusades when the plant was referred to as “holy hoc” (hoc being the Saxon word for mallow or salve). HOLLYHOCK NIGRA was described in 1629. Its huge, black-red flowers have been prized by gardeners for centuries.

*I wonder how hollyhock was used for these medicinal purposes? Anyone know?

Questions about growing hollyhocks from Anna in the comments.....

Anna, Hollyhock seed can be planted in the fall or early spring. Naturally, a hollyhock drops her seeds on the ground in the fall and those little seeds come to life early in the spring but do not flower until summer or even late summer. These are biennial plants so that means that they bloom every other year. Actually, these hollies reseed themselves year after year so you won't have a year without flowers. The first year they *might* only come up and make a big green plant and then the second year they will flower. The hollyhock is a large plant. Sometimes they can tower up to 6' in height so plant them as a background or next to a building. Since they reseed profusely, take care where you plant them so they don't take over an area. They will. Or plant them where you don't mind having them take over. They need very little special care. Most will come up, leaf out and bloom without any help at all. When I was growing up, these flowers were often found in back alleys and my MIL always called them the "Toilet Flower" because people in the olden days planted them alongside their outdoor least the country folks did.


  1. Oooh, that sounds awesome! Do you just plant them in the spring? do they come back every year? Do they need special care??? I have questions LOL!

  2. Jody - I'd love to be growing your beautiful hollyhocks!!

    I'm enjoying the same garden grown tomato sandwiches except I've never added Parmesan - I usually put a few thin slices of cheddar. And of course Miracle Whip - nothing else will do!

  3. Oh, I would love to grow some of your hollyhocks!! I am growing some zinnias from Renee so this would be fun to have flowers from you too!
    ~Lisa L

  4. Oh these are som of my favorite hollyhocks. That deep plum color is amazing. xoxoxo Clarice

  5. (Puts virtual hand up in the air and shouts, "please miss, I know the answer!")

    You can make a decoction out of Hollyhock flowers and drink it as a tea when you feel a chest complaint coming on.

    You can also make a cold compress out of the flowers to stop inflammation and bruising.

    I've never done this, but I bet you can make a salve out of the flowers too, just as you would for marigold flowers.

    PS. I've never actually tried this as I love the flowers too much to pick them when they're out. If you try lit out let me know how you get on.

  6. Beautiful color!! I have some similar colored hollyhocks, but am not sure if they are nigra. Thanks for the history :)


  7. THat's really cool mom! What a fun history lesson.


  8. Please add me to your drawing, I'm not sure if I could grow them, the hurricane seemed to wipe out almost everything in my yard...

  9. ha..I actually was stopping by to invite you to join in "The Great Blog Land Seed Exchange that is fixing to start over at my blog.
    hope you'll join in.
    and you know me..I'd love to join your drawing especially if flowers are involved.:0)
    anyhow I hope you'll join in the fun.
    p.s. the hollyhocks are splendid.

  10. I love the deep rich color of your hollyhock! And what a neat story behind them, too!

  11. I'd love to throw my psuedonym in the hat too, for chance to win ~ thanX! I've never grown hollyhocks, but they look beautiful in the piX and their colorful history makes them eXtra special.

  12. Thanks for the postscript Jody.They would be great along our barn - I'm going to keep them in mind for next spring.

  13. gorgeous! I LOVE Hollyhocks! How cool is that? Yeah! WTG! I will try planting them next spring. Pretty pretty!:)

  14. Well, I finally got the comment box to load, so yahoo! I'd love to be in the drawing, Jody. Those flowers are gorgeous, and heirloom to boot. Thank you, Jody, for being so generous! :-)



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