I Will Grow Them, Sam I Am!

As I write this post, I am reminded of the treasured childrens’ book by Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs And Ham. If you are like most Americans, you will catch this reference immediately.  If you have never read this classic American literary work, take yourself forthwith to the nearest library and check it out as you have missed a critical rite of passage in growing up in America.  If you did not grow up in America, check it out anyway, it’s a good read.

The way this is relevant to this discussion is that I had previously posted an entry on growing Hollyhocks: https://gardenlifedesigns.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/old-fashioned-hollyhocks-not-lovin-them/ in which I expressed a less-than-successful trial of growing these old fashioned beauties listing the pest and disease problems they are prone to during the three years I have tried to grow them.  As they were forming buds to finally flower, I predicted that the resulting blooms would not be spectacular enough to warrant the trouble to grow them.  Boy was I wrong!  Check out these babies:

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So I will grow them with the pests,

And I will grow them with the rust,

I will grow them here and there,

Heck, I will grow them anywhere!

I’m in love with them, I AM I AM

I do love Hollyhocks in the end.

Happy gardening and remember to “bee” positive!


Old-Fashioned Hollyhocks – Not Lovin’ Them

I have a beautiful cutting garden.  It runs about 100 feet long and about 3 feet deep next to a chain link fence in my alley.  It is the only place where I get enough sunshine and ready irrigation to plant the gorgeous mix of roses, old-fashioned perennials, and annual cutting flowers I love.  Spring 2 years ago I planted six old-fashioned hollyhocks.  I love the vision of tall stakes of flowers so classic from the days of yore. (Yore?)  This is what hollyhocks are supposed to look like:

These pics are not from my garden.  My stubborn hollyhocks sulked in their beds for an entire year and another year after that producing in year 2 some large leaves that immediately became host to leaf miners; a cowardly little larva of an evil moth that actually tunnels into the leaf thus resisting insecticides which I don’t use and hiding from natural predators which I do count on.  These nasty little worms eat away on the inside of the leaf leaving a crazy labyrinthine channel that look like this:

But the plants were otherwise pretty healthy and did grow to about 18″ tall so I left them over the winter to do what they were going to do.  This spring the plants sprang up to about 5′ tall as my attention-deficit dog, Buck, is attesting to and actually look like they will fulfill their promise this year.  The buds have yet to open but they are formed.




So I have been watching them very closely and now see a scabby reddish gunk on the bottom-most leaves that is either scale or rust or some fungal infection, I think.

Now I am scrupulous about mulch and watering practices in this bed because of my roses and further deter fungal attacks with a monthly spray of baking soda as a fungicide. Even so this is what my hollyhocks look like:

In addition they seem to be on the menu for every leaf eating varmint in this area.  I have yet to do anything about these problems until I have researched exactly what I am dealing with and until and if these wimps ever bloom.  I may be so enchanted with the actual blooms that these will be a must every year.

But I doubt it.  My garden is no place for shrinking violets.  I am as attentive as the next gardener but if a plant is not tough enough to withstand the annual hell-worthy hot Texas summers, the occasional ice storm in the winters, and be resistant to the bugs and thugs of the garden, out it goes to make room for a hardier, more robust replacement.  When I first started the gardens years ago, I was happy to have any cutting of anything from any generous gardener or any half-dead plant marked for clearance.  Anything to fill the sad empty spaces in my beds.  But not any more.  Space is at a premium now and I have gotten over my reticence to pull a plant out of the ground while it is still on its last leg. My “2+” rule is in full effect.

I have discussed my “2+” rating system before but in a nutshell, it means that in order to qualify for a trial in my gardens, a plant must have two of the qualities I am looking for: drought-tolerance + long blooming season, shade tolerant + large blooms, etc. In addition the plant must then have one additional attribute to qualify; like heavenly fragrance, stunning foliage, or something along those lines.   And finally, it must survive without a truckload or insecticides, artificial fertilizers, and rivers of irrigation (except for my hydrangeas, but that is another story)

So unless these wimpy little whey-faced princesses can rally and demonstrate something spectacular this season, their days are numbered.  I may sound bitter but have you seen the rust picture?  Eww and this after 3 years.  3 YEARS!  I’ll keep you posted.

Ruthless Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!