Mom had a hollyhock flower bed in the backyard right at the fence when I was a child. It served as a colorful screen. In the city we were never really out of sight of any of the neighbors, but her hollyhocks gave us a sense of privacy from the alley. Our neighbor had the same planting in his yard. His son and I, now all grown up and tending our own flowerbeds, wonder if our parents shared seeds and gardening tips.
When we moved to the country from the city, Mom did not have the same grand impressive flowerbeds, though her azaleas still bloom when winter and spring keep their do-si-dos limited. The sun must be the key. The hollyhock bed at the city alley was in full sun and received tons of water from our little pool and the sprinkler. The rural residence, though, has an abundance of oak trees, so shade sashays across the yards throughout the day. I live in that country cottage now, constantly searching for a spot where hollyhocks might thrive. I have a single hearty one that manages to grow tall and full of blooms at the back downspout. No others ever come up from seed in the same vicinity or anywhere else I have planted them.
However, when I taught at the local high school, the French Club helped me develop two beds at the front and back entrances of my building. Then that soil was compacted red clay full of rocks and glass and spit wads. The hollyhocks thrived as did the forsythia bushes. Over the years many have helped themselves to seeds in the fall. Seed-sharing is a good thing. Some bold souls, though, dug up entire plants when they were still in full bloom! Eleven years ago I retired and though sprouts still appear, they seldom make it to the flowering stage with all the weed-eating and spraying going on now that there is no French Club to provide interference.
To celebrate retirement, I made a trip to France. My adventure to Giverny still awes me. Monet lived and painted there. Yes, his home was impressive to see, but what remains most vivid in my memory is the walk down the street toward his home. Hollyhocks grew everywhere, on both sides of the lane, thriving in flowerbeds, growing from cracks in the pavement, around every corner, under windows, behind the trees, adjacent to porches. Everywhere. I visited in June so they were in full bloom. How my mother would have loved that sight!
Maybe there is a hollyhock haven in heaven. If so, she is there. While I am here, I will keep trying to create my own in her honor. Spring is coming. I am ready to play in the dirt.