Time to tidy up the cottage garden and harvest the hollyhock seeds
Golly its been a busy summer and a long while since Ive posted a blog. Apologies for that. We’ve been busy looking after the cottage and the cottage garden for our guests, and also making You Tube gardening videos of the cottage gardens and visiting inspirational gardens around Norfolk.
This week it feels very much that autumn is in the air, and our thoughts have turned to tidying up the cottage garden, and collecting the seed from the hollyhocks, so we can grow lots more Hollyhocks from seed, and hopefully have some spare Hollyhock seed to give away again.
Well its been a varied spring and summer in the cottage garden in Blakeney this year. After the heatwaves and droughts of the previous summers of 2020 and 2021, we had been expecting more of the same this year in North Norfolk, but the British weather is nothing if not unpredictable.
We’ve had rain, wind, and sun, rain in a repeating cycle for months now and this has played havoc with the hollyhocks who of course like drought, sun and no wind. The varied weather conditions has resulted in a lot of damage to the hollyhocks, and we have had to cut many of them back sooner than we would normally do, and in many cases before they have set seed, just to tidy up the cottage garden for the guests.
The cool spring this year ,meant the hollyhocks were much later coming into flower than in the previous 2 years, and so have they been later setting seed this year as a result. The wet weather has also meant they have grown very quickly with a lot of lank growth, which means things are more susceptible to wind damage. Its certainly been hard to see the hollyhocks get to an enormous height, and be about to flower only to be taken out by the rain and wind. We do not stake the hollyhocks in the cottage garden as there are so many of them. A few lucky ones are against the house or against a wall in a sheltered position and they have survived intact to flower and set seed thankfully.
It can be daunting to know where to start, as this year the hollyhocks have taken quite a battering, so here are my five top tips for caring for your hollyhocks and tidying them up for autumn and collecting, sowing and drying Hollyhock seed for next years Hollyhocks.
Hollyhock care and growing-our 5 top 5 tips for autumn
Start to tidy up the hollyhocks in late August or beginning of September by cutting any broken flower spikes down to the ground. Any spikes that are still upright and flowering leave, and only cut them back when they have set seed, or if they become broken. You could stake them if you wish. We don’t usually as we have so many.
Keep the section with the Hollyhock seed heads on and either lie it where you want hollyhocks to germinate or place it somewhere to dry if you are going to collect the seed to save. I find if you place the head into a paper bag and store it somewhere cool and dry (for example a garage or shed) they dry out very well.
The Hollyhock plant may put up further flower spikes after you do this which is great and will give you late flowers. The autumn hollyhock flowers are usually smaller than the first summer ones, but they are always very welcome. In a very mild winter we have still had Hollyhocks flowering in the cottage garden up to December, but the garden is very sheltered and part walled, and Blakeney has a microclimate.
Collect the fallen hollyhock leaves from around the base of the hollyhocks and either burn them (if you want to reduce rust in your compost ) or compost them. We compost ours as our compost process is very slow. This help to reduce the rust load around the plant and reduce the risk of the base of the Hollyhock plant rotting due to large fallen leaves at its base trapping moisture.
Remove any of the large leaves on the Hollyhock plant that are badly affected badly by rust. Rust on hollyhocks is almost ubiquitous. If you grow Hollyhocks you will have rust. We are wildlife gardeners and we do not spray for rust. We find this method of reducing the rust load on the plant seems to help the Hollyhocks to cope better with the rust.
If you have enjoyed this post about growing hollyhocks then you may also find our blog how to grow hollyhocks from seed useful.
For more information about growing hollyhocks and lots more gardening tips visit our You Tube channel Gardeners Cottage Blakeney
The Hollyhock seeds are free you just pay for postage and packing.