What I love about hollyhocks is how much they give and how little they ask in return. Right now they’re in their prime and when I’m working in my study it’s hard to get much done because I just want to stare at them. Each spring they take over the southwest corner of our garden with absolutely no effort on my part. The thousands of seeds each stalk produces guarantee that the hollyhock crop will be plentiful every year. A couple years ago the kindergarteners counted the seeds on just one stalk and the estimated total was well over 4,000. Even our neighbors on the other side of the wall have bright pink hollyhocks, thanks to ours. I love how many color variations there are: light pink with dark pink centers, magenta, pink with red centers, red, medium pink with magenta centers, solid medium pink, and my favorite, a deep maroon bordering on the velvety darkness of the night sky. The only hue missing is yellow and I plan to collect some seeds from the 3rd/4th grade garden to remedy the situation next spring.
Hollyhocks have a sentimental place in my heart. As kids, we used to play behind my grandmother’s garage where there were tons of hollyhocks. We’d cut off the flowers and tie the petals back with string to create a bodice and gown, exposing the pistil that resembled a neck with a fuzzy head attached. These little creations were hollyhock princesses that became characters in our imaginary play. I still think of those summer days in my grandmother’s yard, pretending with flowers. It was warm, but not too hot. We were having adventures, but in a safe place not far from home.
The hollyhocks come up like weeds and so many of the seeds sprout that I have to uproot quite a few or they’ll take over the garden. They are strong and elegant, in a plain, midwestern kind of way. They remind me of where I’m from, where my roots are. Yet they also bring me to the present moment as a symbol of what living in the desert can bring to fruition. As they rise up toward the sky, each five-petaled flower forming a star at its center, I know that extraordinary beauty can thrive here, too. My work is to see that they have a place to keep growing, that their seeds will have a nurturing place year after year from which to make their offering to the world.