I should probably put out a neighborhood alert when I go for my evening walk. The neighbors don’t always know what to make of me, especially when I get a mile or so from home, and they don’t know to say, oh, that’s the lady who lives in the stone house with the big oaks and lots of wildflowers and way too many old Mercedes Benz project cars parked at the curb. She’s harmless.
Last night I paused at a lovely yard with a black wrought iron fence and an extended porch that I was sure people sat on. I admired the sun-drops and the dark red crape myrtles in bloom, and then two other things caught my eye. There were a few spires of blooming hollyhocks—exactly what I needed for this blog, because I don’t have any of my own, and I’ve been wanting to write about the joy I had making hollyhock ladies when I was little, from the flowers and buds.
I sternly told myself that I was NOT going to pick this family’s hollyhocks to use for hollyhock ladies. I could just look. But right beside the hollyhocks was a rampant vine with the most unusual flowers. They looked like intricate little space ships. I looked again to see if anyone was on the porch, so that I could ask permission, but no one was there. I took out my iPhone and snapped a picture in the fading evening light.
Whoops. Here came the man and lady of the house, polite but curious. I showed them the picture I had snapped, asked permission (forgiveness?), and then we had a lovely talk about gardening. When I left 30 minutes later, I had two new friends who will be coming by to see our wildflowers when they can.
As I walked away with the photo of the clematis, all I could think was how lucky we all were that I had not tweaked off any hollyhocks. Can you imagine me standing there with some limp hollyhock blossoms in my hand and no place to hide them?
And as for hollyhocks, I’m lucky in another way as well.
This riotous hollyhock garden is near Broadway, Virginia, and sent to me courtesy of my cousin Jewel Hertzler, who grew up in the same family home where I live now and apparently inherited the same bug for gardening.
I shared with her my memories of sitting cross-legged on the grass under the tall hollyhocks with a pack of toothpicks. Assembling buds and opened flowers, I crafted a host of beautiful hollyhock ladies wearing magical sweeping gowns of red and pink and white topped with vests of green.
Jewel made these ladies just for me and my blog, and I’m forever grateful. They are exquisite, Jewel! Now I must remember to ask Lisa if hollyhocks should be planted in the fall like so many other flowers. I want to make hollyhock ladies with my grandchildren next summer.
As a child, I think my first knowledge of saving seeds for the following year came with watching my mother take the dried brown seed pods off the spent hollyhocks and shell out the tiny enchanting wafer-like seeds. I always thought they looked like tiny Necco wafers.