Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mowed Down and Rusted

... is the country song hit that my Hollyhocks were singing last year.

When we moved here just under three years ago, I noticed some Hollyhocks growing up through the lawn on the south side of our house. "Who would mow down Hollyhocks?" I immediately notified my lawn caretaker (aka husband) of the NO MOW zone.

Eventually, I removed the lawn around the Hollyhocks and made a small bed as our property line is just about four feet from the house on this side. The Hollyhocks grew up and up, and the beautiful buds I was so anticipating ... turned brown and fell off! The leaves turned brown and withered. I plucked them off here and there and left them to stew in the new withered and brown bed completely disappointed.

The next year, the Hollyhocks sprouted up again, and AGAIN, the leaves turned brown and withered but were oh so much worse! I concluded that THIS was why they were mowed down!

After a little research, I then determined they were infested with rust. Not being familiar with rust, I didn't realize that I had only made the problem obviously worse by leaving the infected leaves and buds to stew in the dirt. Now that I was armed with knowledge, I brutally hacked those Hollyhocks down to nothing - not wearing gloves or anything else that the dreaded rust could infect - and put all the leaves and stems, any type of debris, into the garbage (you could also burn them). I then disinfected my tools and washed my hands making certain that I did not touch any other plants after my slaughter. After a fresh layer of compost and a sprinkling of corn meal (yes, cornmeal - the kind you make corn bread with or sprinkle on your pizza stone), I once again, left the now empty bed with the squeaky clean dirt (oxymoron) to stew. In a few weeks, a couple of brave, new leaves appeared and they looked really good BUT winter was coming. [Big, heavy sigh.] Another year without beautiful blooms.

But THIS year ...

... my Hollyhocks are singing "I Will Survive!"

I'm not the only one enjoying these big, beautiful blooms. And they're white - not brown!


  1. Your hollyhocks are gorgeous! My French hollyhocks also suffered from a disease. I pulled up all of them, but a few reseeded themselves. Some of these were infected, and I yanked those up, too. The few remaining are healthy but paltry in size. I will add fresh compost and also try the cornmeal. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Run that by me again. Corn meal? Why cornmeal? But I see it did work!

  3. There were hollyhocks at my house when I moved in and I had the same problem with them. I didn't know all this about treating them, so I dug them out. I wish I had known -- but now my husband has that area as a zen garden.

  4. Those are some very healthy looking Hollyhocks! I never knew about cornmeal. Mine usually bloom, but then look ugly with the rust all over the leaves. I don't think mine ever get as tall as yours either.

  5. Wow, that's a wonderful story.

    I'm glad you stuck with it.

  6. Beautiful Hollyhocks! The one time I tried to grow Morning Glory it came down with a severe case of rust. I'm curious about the cornmeal - will have to look that up!

  7. Cornmeal is a natural fungicide. (I won't use chemicals.) Rust is a fungal disease that left untreated, will keep coming back - as I proved to myself. Cornmeal works in the soil and will not cure an existing condition but will prevent any future infections. It also promotes beneficial fungi instead of bad fungi.

  8. Beautiful hollyhocks -- and such useful advice for dealing with rust. Thanks! -Jean

  9. yea!! they look amazingly beautiful. mine never get that strikingly tall. congratulations!

    i adore hollyhocks. each year i take their seeds and scatter them everywhere.

  10. Oh they are just lovely and resilient aren't they! I never knew cornmeal was a fungicide. That's handy to know.


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