A Tale of Two Hollyhocks: The Galena HollyhockBy Benjamin Hill (BennysPlace)
April 17, 2009
As dawn brings her light to a new day, you awake in a land that is completely new and unfamiliar. Home is a feeling that was left behind along with all the comforts and joys of the garden you tended throughout the years. Across a barren landscape, loneliness sets in and all you long for and desire is to have anything that can bring back that feeling of home once again.
I know many share these feelings when attempting to settle down in a new location. You have had to move for whatever reason and your soul longs for something familiar just so there could be a moment or two of comfort and joy. When I arrived in Arizona from England, I allowed feelings of loneliness to creep in and today I understand why. As gardeners, we develop strong, spiritual connections with our little bit of earth. Through the years, we watch our saplings mature to beautiful trees, our perennial beds offer color, form and texture year upon year and through time and passionate work, we are familiar with all the nuances of our beloved space. When contemplating a move, there is a feeling of dread even before the "For Sale" sign becomes your latest lawn decoration. We know we cannot take our garden with us and we know the next owner may not appreciate the rogue geraniums or perhaps even hates roses and will consequently rip them out without a thought or care. It makes my heart race just thinking about it all over again.
These feelings of sentimentality are nothing new and the best we can do is to take what we can with us when we travel. I have read countless stories of passionate gardeners who have gone to great lengths to bring some of the old and mix it with the new. There are tales of Italian immigrants waiting months for some herbs or perhaps a grapevine from the old country. Thanks be to them for when bringing their old plants, they also introduce them to a new audience to love and appreciate. There is another tale that illustrates this point perfectly.
(From the Galena History Museum website):
Mrs. Frank G. Meller, an English lady who emigrated to America, longed for the beauty of her native country's flower - the hollyhock, England's most popular flower. She eagerly searched every seed catalog only to find hollyhock seed was not listed.
Mrs. Meller then wrote a letter to her parents asking them to send her the seeds of the hollyhock. The seeds arrived and were strewn about the lawn. Thus, Mrs. Frank G. Meller introduced the hollyhock in Galena.
When the flowers began to bloom, her friends admired them, asked for seeds and planted them. Mrs. Meller's children threw seeds along the hillsides spreading the beauty of the flowers from the private gardens to public places enabling everyone to behold their beauty
For those that have read my previous article about Priscilla's hollyhocks, you will know that I am absolutely in love with this flower. When trying to discover a source for the Priscilla seeds, I discovered yet another wonderful hollyhock that I just had to add to my collection. I thought of Mrs. Meller arriving in Illinois when I wrote the opening paragraph of this article. Illinois is vastly different from the relatively mild climate of England. Like many of us, Mrs. Meller longed for that feeling of home to bridge the gap created by moving thousands of miles away from most everything she loved most in the world.
Like Priscilla in my previous article, Mrs. Meller felt the connection of all she loved by one simple flower. What is it about the hollyhock that can evoke such sentimentality and emotion? Is it the majesty of the stalks that can grow as tall as eleven feet (as mine are now)? Perhaps, it is the deep, rich hues that brighten the back rows of our garden border? Whatever "it" is, the power it holds of over us mere gardeners is unmistakable. I am thankful yet again for yet another beautiful story to grace a corner of my garden.
Though my love for the hollyhock is strong, it is actually not the plant I had shipped over to remind me of my home in England. For me, the plants I desired most were the little daisies (Bellis perennis) that appear in the lawns seemingly everywhere in England. They are small, petite and very charming. I have managed to keep some alive over the years by placing them in nearly full shade but that is another story for another time.
Thank you Mrs. Meller for bringing your hollyhock to us and for all the others that have done the same over the years.
Leaving your garden behind is tough. There are some great articles that offer great advice for the move and what to do with the plants you love:
Can You Take It With You? by Toni Leland
When It Is Time To Move by Mitch Fitzgerald