Scrumptious veined flowers in juicy blackcurrant, fade to paler berry shades around the edges of each double, semi-double and single bloom, that can miraculously be found on each stem. Height: 150-180cm (5-6ft).
Culinary note: try crystallising the flowers for a tasty cake decoration, or use them to make a delicately flavoured syrup to use with puddings.
Sow February to March or September to October. Germinate at 15-20C (59-68F) on the surface of a good free draining, damp seed compost. Cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator or seal container inside a polythene bag until after germination which usually takes 14-21 days. Do not exclude light, as this helps germination. Alternatively, sow late summer in a cool greenhouse and overwinter plants in cool, well lit conditions. Plant out the following spring. This produces larger plants and is recommended if the soil is heavy or badly drained.
Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into trays or 7.5cm (3in) pots. Grow on in cooler conditions for 10-15 days before planting out after all risk of frost, 45cm (18in) apart.
Plant out Hollyhocks in sunny borders in fertile, well drained soil. Choose a position that is sheltered from strong winds. Space hollyhock plants at least 60cm (24") apart to improve air circulation and help prevent hollyhock rust.
Feed and water regularly until hollyhocks are fully established. Support their tall stems with bamboo canes as the flower spikes develop. In autumn, cut back the old foliage and faded hollyhock flower stems, and apply a mulch of well rotted manure or garden compost to the base of the plant.