a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

It’s Hollyhock time!


Hollyhocks back border

I never realised what a difference the hollyhocks make to the garden.  They are a bit the emblematic flower of this region of France and now pop up everywhere.

Hollyhock along fence

They are a natural for along our back fence.

Hollyhocks side gdn

But they are happy in rough, partially shady spots.

Hollyhocks rear atelier

They keep us company growing against inhospitable walls.

Hollyhocks front atelier

They’ll fight and win against Acanthus for their right to survive.

Hollyhocks through drainpipe

They pop up in strange places and find the sunshine regardless.

Hollyhock taller than tree

They can grow taller than trees!  Well, O.K. a small tree.

Hollyhock bumble

Of course, they are well-beloved by the bumble bees.

Hollyhock halictes

And are frequented by lots of different solitary bees like this Halictes bee lapping up the nectar at the base of the flower.

Tetralonia ready for the night

The hollyhocks also provide shelter.  I took this picture by flash at half past eight in the evening.  I often find these bees (Tetralonia malvae, I think) asleep for the night.

Hollyhocks self seed easily and it is usually my husband who cannot bear to mow down any that appear in the lawn and who takes the trouble to transplant them.  Now I have got more sunshine in my borders I am going to make sure I help him so we can have even more next year.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

26 thoughts on “It’s Hollyhock time!

  1. I share your husband’s inability to cull the volunteers. Sun-seekers, all…


  2. Beautiful flowers. They always very specifically remind me of one neighbor from my childhood who grew a mass of them by her mailbox next to the road.


  3. Nice . . . we’ve been meaning to plant them, but we literally forget every year.

    However, right now there are two packets of seeds on my counter, and they are going to get planted tomorrow. We’ll not have flowers until next year, so meanwhile we’ll look at yours (pictures – we’re not traveling to Europe for Hollyhocks).


  4. At Niall and Antoinette’s home…
    [of the “Chez Charnizay” blog further up the Aigronne Valley]….
    there is a wonderful antique pink specimen….
    a volunteer, too…
    but it is so strong at the root, it is lifting and breaking a 2″ thick concrete path!!
    Be warned…
    plant them where they can thrive…
    but do no damage.

    Pauline has sown some of its offspring…
    and we now have two beauties on their way….
    she’s also raised healthy youngsters from a packet of bought seed…
    not sure what variety, but they are apparently a rich red.
    I purchased a black one that has yet to flower….
    it doesn’t like it in the temporary pot, too small for its ambitions….
    but has put on good bulk this year, so may flower when it goes into its final spot over this winter….
    we will keep and sow the seeds of these….
    lovely colours come up from the crosses, as you have no doubt found.


    • That is the fun of hollyhocks. We started ours off from seeds we gathered from plants we liked in the region and they have gone on from there. You never know what colour they will be. Amelia


  5. Hollyhocks are great BUT do you have the secret for avoiding leaf rust? Or maybe you don’t have that problem where you are. RH


  6. I love the thought of a bee sleeping in a flower. I also love hollyhocks but Japanese beetles will eat almost every leaf off them here.


  7. They are gorgeous! They look so pretty along the fence next to your lane, and against walls too. I only have one that reappears faithfully every year at the moment. Hope it sets some seed this year too!


    • They are supposed to be biennials but the ones that come up here in the spring will flower in the summer as long as they are in a sunny spot. Mine also will continue as perennials and come up in future years. I find they seed very easily. Amelia


  8. I love the photograph of the bee sleeping and your back fence is far too lovely just to called a back fence!


  9. Love your hollyhock photos. I remember the hollyhocks from the big country garden of my grandmother and the big city of my mother, they have such special memories associated with them.


  10. Hi Amelia, I do like hollyhocks but the rust started to depress me too much though someone did tell me that there are resistant strains now. Your garden looks very inviting. Dave


  11. I also like hollyhocks and yours look very beautiful but I gave up on them some years ago when, living in another part of the country, mine were badly affected by rust. I cant see that they are going to do very well in wet Devon.
    PS the rain is currently beating against the window. Philip


  12. I have tried hard to get them to grow in my garden, but no luck. So beautiful lucky you.


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