You don’t see hollyhocks much anymore. Or at least I don’t. Oh, I know there are a number of varieties, none of which seem to be prevalent in the areas I frequent. And to me they’re not true hollyhocks anyway. I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind, which when you’re a kid, are much taller than you are, and seemed to grow not so much in gardens but around garages in the alleys of Aurora’s east side.
In some ways, alleys were more interesting to the kids of my time, that is …to say the 1950s. Well, the boys anyway. There was always something fascinating in the alleys that captured our interest to a greater degree than what could be seen from the sidewalk out front. Backyards, garages and workshops — on our block in the mid-50s there were even two guys building a small airplane in a one car garage. Fascinating.
And gardens. If you like flowers, which I did, the alleys offered a greater floral variety. There was an elderly lady a couple of houses to the east of ours on Weston Ave, a Mrs. Hayes, as I recall, who had a wonderful garden which extended from the back of her house all the way to, of course, the alley. When walking the alley behind our house – perhaps on an errand to the Buy-Rite Market for a pound of oleo, or some other commodity which my mother was out of — I could pause at her garden and enjoy the sights.
And directly across the alley from Mrs. Hayes’s garden was a garage festooned on either side with hollyhocks, the real old-fashioned kind. The kind with big round fuzzy leaves, and flowers which, as I was once shown, could be picked off, the petals turned down and held, transforming the blossom into a ballerina. I didn’t care much about ballet dancers at the time, but I thought the trick was pretty neat.
Now, in my new little house, I have the ability at last to plant my own flowers. And while it may not be a designer’s dream, my little plots and spaces contain mostly things that I like, or fondly remember, such as hollyhocks.
I was pleased to discover in the last couple of days that while still tiny, the plants are already producing flowers. Since I remember hollyhocks as being taller than the eight or nine-year-old me, this is something unique in my experience. The picture I have herein attached is the very first of my hollyhock flowers, and I’m proud of it. I am also pleased that this particular plant, the runt of the litter so to speak, was the first to bloom. I’m looking forward to many more.