One of the most delightful projects you can try if you are a perennial gardener, is creating a children’s hollyhock garden. Using these tall, long-blooming perennials provides a delightful “screen” allowing children to have a “hideout” where they can play, and imagine, undisturbed. And the best part is that a child can help create the garden!
How to Plant your Children’s Hollyhock Garden
If you already have hollyhocks in your garden, have a child or grandchild help you harvest a handful of dried blooms and open the seed pods. Because hollyhock seeds are large, small hands can easily shake them loose. If you are starting in springtime, simply use purchased seeds. Using a sturdy stick or hoe, help the child draw the outline of the playhouse walls. Sprinkle the Hollyhock seeds along or in the outline, water gently, and wait for them to grow.
An attractive stand of hollyhocks will entice Hummingbirds to the playhouse. The reds and pinks, and the open shape of the blooms cause an automatic response in these miraculous pollinators. They will visit! Also, butterflies can’t resist the rich nectar that the brightly colored blooms provide. Old-fashioned single Hollyhock flowers produce more nectar than modern hybrids and are more open and accessible to the butterflies’ tongues.
The hollyhock is an edible flower. Hollyhock blooms can even be used in salads. Small children are edible explorers and will taste any item they can get in their mouth, so it may be best to use wisdom in teaching a child that they can eat this blossom. Other edible perennials safe for growing in a children’s garden are: Aquilegia, Hemerocallis, Lavendula, Monarda and Oenothera. The plant world is full of perennials with toxic qualities as well. Parents must teach their children not to sample plants, even if they look pretty. The National Poison Control Center has multitudes of frantic calls from parents whose child has sampled a plant of some sort, hopefully nontoxic, so try to keep them safe by teaching the child not to taste plants.
In the fall, follow-up by cutting my best Hollyhock stems for the child to enter in the county fair. Of course a blue ribbon will be won! More important though, is that the child discovers joy and rewards from the earth and another lifelong skill is launched.
Because hollyhocks are prone to attract garden pests, (the large palmate leaves are as tasty for the insects as they are for you). Bottom leaves have a tendency to look tattered so trim them up to thin out any damaged leaves and to improve circulation. For problems with spider mites, and most any other Hollyhock problems, spray the plants regularly with a strong stream of water. Rust on Hollyhocks will develop when the leaves are kept wet, so a happy medium in watering must be met. To help prevent rust, water holllyhocks at ground level or use a soaker hose. Keep the soil moist. Heat-stressed plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases. Is this one more life lesson for children? Drinking plenty of water and a daily shower keeps a person healthy. Nature is surely a kid friendly “down to earth” amazing teacher!
Don’t let the child panic at the sight of a slug or ragged leaf on one of the plant stems. Just like everything in life, gardens are natural systems, and natural systems always have flaws. All in all, planting robust old-fashion Hollyhocks is very rewarding, especially in a children’s garden. These beautiful plants have lots to share and teach about life, and can do it for the old-fashioned cost of only a few seeds.
May every garden grow Hollyhocks!