Mountain Gardening

Hollyhock stalks produce seed pods that can be plucked and transported for sowing. Wait until the pods turn brown and develop a burlap-like texture before gathering seeds.

This summer was a good one for growing garden flowers. It must have been just the right amount of heat and moisture because they bloomed so beautifully.

Did anyone else notice the hollyhocks around town? These old-fashioned favorites send up impressive stalks that may grow taller than I stand. Large blossoms flower up the thick stems in a beautiful range of colors.

By mid-Septembe most flowers have finished blooming and have gone to seed, including hollyhocks. If pollination has occurred — bumblebees are frequent visitors — you will see green seed pods developing after the flowers wither and fall off.

Given a little time the seeds inside expand and the pods will turn brown and develop a burlap-like texture, like covers. When these start to split open, then you will know it’s time to gather hollyhock seeds.

Hollyhocks will readily reseed right off the plant if the flower stalks are left in place. Often you’ll find volunteer seedlings sprouting close to the plant’s base. You can gather the seeds and sow them in other places.

Simply snap off the ripened seeds pods into a paper bag; don’t store them in plastic because hollyhock seeds have a tendency to mildew. After a few days the tightly packed seeds can be broken apart to dry further.

The dark circular seeds remind me of coins. They are thick and flat and easy to handle. Even little kids can join in a hollyhock seed- gathering project.

“Cured” hollyhock seeds may be sown in the fall. Scatter the seed where you want hollyhocks to grow and cover very, very lightly with soil. Hollyhock seeds will need a bit of light to germinate.

Hollyhocks are often considered a two-year plant, but gardeners tell me that their plants may live three or even four years.

Recently, at an out-of-town farmer’s market, I bought a box of homemade hollyhock “bombs.” These are balls made of clay and dirt that have been rolled up with flower seeds and left to dry. If the bombs are thrown out in bare rough places they will stay in place until the rains break them open and expose the seeds. Flower bombs are interesting to make and interesting to give as presents to anyone who likes to grow plants and wants to brighten the landscape.

Gardening guru Marilyn Quinn shares her green thumb knowledge every other week in the late summer. Contact her by email, columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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