March 19, 2019

Tall, Dark and Handsome

Editor’s note: This week we are featuring heirlooms from The Heirloom Garden of Maine, located in Montville. Their expansive catalog offers an array of heirloom plants — some well-known and some obscure — that have graced gardens for centuries as much for their beauty as for their usefulness. You can view their catalog here and visit their website here.

Black Hollyhock

Black hollyhock | Photo Courtesy of The Heirloom Garden of Maine

Perhaps the most surprising bloom color in the garden is black and never is it displayed quite so strikingly as on Alcea rosea ‘Nigra.’ Mention of this heirloom black hollyhock goes back to 1629 where it was described as “a darke red like black blood.” Hardy to Zone 3 and reaching up to 8 feet in height, this stately flower was grown in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello gardens. Hollyhocks are biennials, but this variety can live for several years, like a perennial. It also readily self-sows if it is happy in its location, which should be full sun to partial shade and in soil that is not too wet. According to The Heirloom Garden of Maine catalog, which features this exquisite plant on its cover, black hollyhock was used as a dye plant.

Diana George Chapin of The Heirloom Garden of Maine will speak on heirlooms Tuesday at Merryspring Nature Center. Click here for more information.