These are the famous old hollyhocks called "Chater's Mix". As you can see, they're fully double, and the plants often top out at over 6 ft. We're giving three of them (one of each color) free with all our perennial orders, so I was clicking around the web the other day to see exactly what "Chater's Mix" is. Well, for one thing, I read somewhere that they're "Martha Stewart's favorites", and "she grows them for fall arrangements." I imagine Martha has very big vases, since these beauties would really be monumental in an arrangement! And that's something I really like about Martha--she's not totally into the latest thing; she really knows her stuff and how to maximize classic things, like hollyhocks in big arrangements. Anyhow, Chater's are hybrids from Victorian days, and ours are guaranteed to bloom this summer. That's an important fact, since, as you may know, hollyhocks are biennials. That means that like wild foxglove and black-eyed susan, they make just big leaves the first year from seed, and then bloom the second.
The hollyhocks we have this year are "vernalized" which means they "think" they're two years old. It's a process that was invented long ago to trick biennials and perennials into blooming their first year. Normally, they wait until their second season, but someone figured out that if the seed is planted and grows for a certain time (it doesn't have to be a whole season), is then forced into dormancy, and then allowed to grow again, the plant "thinks" it's been through a whole growing season and a winter, so it's ready to bloom.
By the way, if these hollyhocks aren't old enough for you, we also have the classic ancient singles, but with those you'll have to start with seed. They're the big wide open bi-colored beauties that some people think are the most beautiful (Photo at left.) They're not really wildflowers, but we had so many requests from wildgardeners who want them in their meadows, we now carry the seed of the old singles in our wildflower species list. And by the way, nothing's easier to grow.