Hollyhocks are perhaps the ultimate old-fashioned cottage garden plant. Their tall, pointed spires are right at home alongside foxglove, delphinium and love-in-a-mist. Gardeners befriended the standard red, pink and cream colored varieties years ago and have had little need to meddle with their simple beauty. There are also the purple-black varieties which lend a mystique to the garden that is found in few other plants.
One reason hollyhocks have stuck around is their ability to plant themselves. The seeds germinate readily wherever they fall, so growing hollyhocks is more a matter of taking stewardship of a patch rather than planting and replanting. What more can you ask for in a plant?
The seeds make great gifts among gardeners, who have always traded their favorite varieties back and forth, helping to preserve the lineage of the most treasured varieties. If you want to share your hollyhocks with a friend, simply wait until the flowers fade and the seed heads ripen. Once the papery shell around the seeds turns brown and dry, clip them off and squeeze the seeds out into a paper bag. Be sure to scatter a few back into your own hollyhock plot and then share the rest with friends.