Sunday, 10 July 2011

Counting my blessings in hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are abounding in gardens all over Blogland and as they are one of my most favourite cottage garden flowers, I thought I would show you some pictures of the ones in my own little cottage garden, and look into the symbolism of them as well.

'How very worthy you may say', or even 'How interesting!' if you are of a polite and complaisant turn of mind. Well, unfortunately for me, in the language of flowers hollyhocks seem to be associated with female ambition, and we all know that in ancient lore, female ambition is very definitely Not a Good Thing, and associated with all sorts of dreadful ends for its proponents, so I decided to investigate no further. There are also hints of fertility in the mythology, too, and being a bit past that stage in my life, I just hugged my cardi tighter and tucked my vest in before venturing out into my little plot to take some photos in the grey morning light of an English summer.

Spot the laundry

Which photography is not as easy as you might think on a Sunday morning here in Arcadia, when the garden seems to be festooned with sleeping bags hanging out to dry, and yellow snakes of hosepipe out to trip you up, and those pesky blue bins which try to interpolate themselves into every picture (or possibly interpellate, but my academic days are gone, so I will not trudge down that semantic route).

Not far from a blue bin


The hollyhocks in my garden arrived with one small plant many moons ago, and have settled into a relatively small palette of colours ranging from pure white to palest pink. They move around at will, I am never sure quite where they will pop up from year to year, and I live in slight trepidation that one day they will forsake me entirely for pastures new.


Hollyhocks creeping in everywhere
In terms of cultivation, they seem to enjoy kerosene fumes, as the encampment by the boiler outlet grows tall and vigorous and seems to spread a little further every year, in spite of being against a north-facing wall.


Hollyhock in front of sewage treatment system

In a vaguely similar vein, a small hollyhock has crept in on the edge of the WET system, which treats the black and grey water emanating from the homestead - and no, a WET system doesn't smell; yes, it looks very pretty all year round, and provides a haven for wildlife, and for those of you worried about what you might see, what we euphemistically call the 'solids' are corralled in an underground tank (formerly the cesspool), there in the dark to rot away gently, out of sight and mind, before reaching the first of the five ponds.

Small hollyhock venturing further

Moving on from noxious gases and sewage (and I did so want this to be a pretty post, but there's hollyhocks for you, vaunting ambition, and a determination to get everywhere), I also have a memory of hollyhocks past, flowers dark as night, growing up through the cracks in the paving in the greenhouses belonging to the house of my dear-departed grandmamma. Those hollyhocks towered up above me when I was small, leaning over with a predatory and sinister air.  I feared their strange touch, and they were part of the trepidation I felt in venturing so far from the familiar and predictable safety of the house and the known and friendly part of the garden into a hot, dry world which smelled of dust, where birds flew frighteningly past my ears and hurled themselves at the enclosing glass. The hollyhocks lined and leaned over a path I had to negotiate anxiously to where it led into the dank darkness of the potting sheds, a rope- and clay-beridden gloom where a terrifying figure of a gardener might emerge at any moment from the shadows and speak incomprehensibly to me. But then came the light from the open door, and the kitchen garden, and the Commander-in-Chief and the scritch-scratch of his hoe, and carrier bag upon carrier bag of peas and beans to be shelled in the sunshine of the back step to the sound of the cricket on Radio 4.

Now those shadows are long gone, I regret that I didn't collect the seeds of those beautiful, eerie, night-dark flowers when I had the chance, but you can see pictures of something like on Marigold Jam's blog. And there are also hollyhocks of a beautiful clear pink that I covet on Millefeuilles (not to mention another beauty of the cardigan kind). I have one more little corner of beauty to share as part of the Bloggers' Garden Tour, my Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose patch (the pinks are not in flower, and the rose seems to have slipped off the edge, but I am getting there).


This week I have received one of the loveliest compliments that I have ever received in my comments from Momof3girls, not to mention medical confirmation of the value of knitting to the psyche here. It has reminded me of the need to count our blessings and seize the day, and the importance of giving out blessings, too.

And in a week when great sadness has touched the lives of some dear people I know, I would urge you to count your blessings and seize the day, too. So as I go to take my own day into my hands, I hope you are enriched by yours ...

31 comments:

Annie said...

Aren't hollyhocks the most amazing plants! We have none in the courtyard garden here - I'm afraid that if I plant some they will soon take over in such a small space - but then I see hollyhocks like yours and I think ... it would be worth it!

millefeuilles said...

Yippee, I am first in line on the 'Praise Be to Hollyhocks' comment roll.

The older I get the better I become at counting my blessings or maybe it has something to do with the obstacles one faces and how one manages to overcome them. 2010 was a tough year for my family but 2011 is looking rosier each day. Every day I give thanks to who ever wishes to listen.

Thank you Pomona for another beautiful post.

Crafty Green Poet said...

lovely variety of hollyhock colours - they're beautiful flowers. Great that you have a WET system that is so productive for wildlife

susan said...

You write beautifully! And I think that I am far more thankful of all the little things than I was a few more years ago. And often those very little things mean far more to me than the much bigger.

Thanks for the lovely post - sewage and all!

Amy said...

I just love hollyhocks. I am afraid to try them though. For some reason, I am certain that they won't grow for me. Are they actually easy?

Little Blue Mouse said...

I love hollyhocks but only just bought my first one a couple of weeks ago and have yet to decide where to plant it. Sadly there's no space near the boiler flue!
It has (allegedly) black flowers but we shall see...

marigold jam said...

A beautifully crafted post Pomona - as is always the case what with you being such a wordsmith and all! Thank you for the little mention - before I reached that stage in the post I was already thinking to myself perhaps Pomona would like some of the seeds from my deep dark hollyhock in due course and then there I was mentioned in dispatches as it were. Do let me know if you would like some dark hollyhock seeds but do be warned they come of giant stock as mine is now over 10 feet tall and I had to use the lopper rather than the secateurs recently to remove a stem which had fallen in the heavy rain we had a while back as it was at least an inch and a half in diameter!

Frances said...

Your marvelous writing and terrific closeup photos have brought me back to some delicious childhood memories.

I remember when hollyhocks seemed to be as tall as I was, and how my childhood friends and I just to make dolls from the flowers. These dolls were loose, abstract constructions and featured multi-layers of multi-colored skirts.

What fun we had in those hot summer days!

xo

Menopausalmusing said...

A garden with lots of them here too, and we have one really dark one arrived this year. We do, however, get problems with rust on the leaves. I have lovely memories of the station master's cottage in the small town I grew up in. We would cross the rails and look back at his garden resplendent with Hollyhocks each summer. Lovely.

faith76 said...

Holly hocks are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your memories and enjoy the rest of your day x

Leah x

Ruth said...

Hollyhocks are wonderful! They are so much a bee magnet too. At school we have lots of pale pink ones and they are so lovely to look at.

greenrabbitdesigns said...

What a lovely post! I think being close to nature does make you count your blessings!
I love hollyhocks, mine are a dark purple almost brown in fact but I've no blooms yet, still waiting patiently!
Vivienne x

summerfete said...

they are graet!

I am posting about mine next week.
I think if you have a garden where they like growing, you'll have them forever!

I've just had one open that is pink with a darker centre!!

Lovely!

harmony and rosie said...

I too am totally smitten with the delights of hollyhocks. I seriously fell in love following a summer holiday in the Ile de Re where they are literally everywhere. Actually I brought back some seeds (including the darks) and threw them all around the garden in Dorset but we they didn't really flourish for some reason. Probably not enough sun. I pilfered some seeds from a double flowering hollyhock in Clapham a few years ago but seem to have lost them somewhere along the way. Come to think of it, I brought back a linen tablecloth embroidered with hollyhocks from the Ile de Re and haven't seen that in a while either. Not doing very well am I? Loved looking at yours though x

VintageVicki said...

I love hollyhocks and how they just appear in random places.

We've none in our current garden and I keep meaning to collect some seeds when I find some growing wild.

wendz said...

Such a lovely post. Beautifully crafted. It took me back to my grandmothers gardens and some childhood memories of my own, as well as placing me right in the middle of yours. I could have been there with you.

We have hollyhocks too and this year there seem to be a whole lot more than the two previous summers (this is only our 3rd summer in this house) and honestly, I am not terribly fond of them. Too tall, too untidy. But then, neither do I like neat ordered gardens very much. Oh I am all confused.

Rosa-Munda said...

I'm trying to introduce holyhocks into my garden, I started off with five little plants in the spring. Slugs have munched their way through all but one whose colour I do not yet know. Lovely to see your beautiful blooms popping up everywhere and looking absolutely glorious.

Lyn said...

beautiful garden. I did Race for Life today and this also makes you think about counting your blessings.
xxx

Jenevieve said...

Love the flowers! Hollyhocks are just beautiful! :) x

Cathy said...

your flowers are lovely!

Barbara said...

Fascinating post. Brought back memories of time spent on a relative's farm as a child. I was terrified of the cesspit at the back of the cottage because I was always told I must keep away. The days when sanitation there was an outhouse with a wooden bench and 3 different sized holes that had to be emptied!

Love Hollyhocks especially when they are standing tall against cottage walls.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Love your Hollyhocks and your garden Pomona - and I'm most impressed by the wet system. Well done. x

Lisa said...

A lovely post about some very lovely flowers. Just near us there is a house where the front garden (I use the term very loosely)is full of hollyhocks.
Lisa x

Mrs. Micawber said...

I think "interpolate" was the right choice. "Interpellate" sounds like an adjective - will have to look it up now as it's a word I don't know.

There are some beautiful hollyhocks of the huge and flaunting type growing in gardens near me. They always look like something out of a fairy tale, I think.

Beautiful pictures.

Bengts fotoblogg said...

What a lovely garden, very nice.

Catherine said...

I think I may just interpolate myself in to this wee space in the running hollyhock commentary. I love the pastel colours of your gorgeous "girls". The doubles are rather divine too as I recall. My grandfather used to grow them in his small front garden in his later years which was quite a surprising choice for a snip & tidy man. ♥

sarah-jane down the lane said...

I will count them, each and every day! Those Hollyhocks in your Grandmas' garden weren't the cousins of Triffids were they? Only they did sound so sinister.
On a positive note I am now much more focussed on what to plant in front of the barbed wire that seals off our sewage treatment plant!

Sarah x

Wendys Hat said...

I simply adore hollyhocks and yours are beautiful!

Arianwen said...

I love hollyhocks and lupins. Unfortunately the slugs around here love lupins even more than I do and they ate all of mine this year.GRRRR!

Catherine said...

Looks like you've got a beautiful cottage garden and your hollyhocks are amazing and I didn't realise how prolific they were without too much encouragement.

Anonymous said...

I'm told that you can't rely on hollyhocks to come up the same colour each year; that they may be yellow one year and pink the next. To me it seems unlikely. Does anyone know?

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