Mom’s hollyhocks

I’ve been away for a week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, visiting my mom. We spent several pleasant (mosquito-free!) afternoons in her cottage garden brimming with hollyhocks. Crowded around her purple garden shed, towering more than 6 feet tall, with flowers as broad as salad plates, Mom’s hollyhocks bloom in a rowdy mix of colors ranging from blush peach to hot pink.

I can’t grow hollyhocks in my hot, dry Austin garden. Man, am I jealous now. Her garden is full of these exuberant, old-fashioned beauties, jumbled willy-nilly among her garden art. Here are some of the hot pinks next to a blue bottle on her bottle tree.

It’s more of a bottle bush. Mom created her version of this Southern yard-art tradition by poking garden stakes in the ground and sliding colored-glass bottles upside-down on the ends. Now I’ve got to have a bottle tree too. More on this later.

More pink hollyhocks . . .

and more . . .

Even the potting bench is cheerfully decorated.

This bumblebee staggered from hollyhock to hollyhock, completely covered in pollen, seemingly drunk on the stuff. It would crawl into a blossom and wallow around, then buzz over to the next flower.

A blanket flower, I think

A red-hot poker blossom

Mom has even more lilies than hollyhocks. A few spring bloomers were still going, but the daylilies hadn’t quite started when I was there. Here is an orange lily that reminds me of the freckled tiger lilies we used to see growing wild on roadsides in the Smoky Mountains on family trips when I was a child.

Blue flowers—I don’t know what they are.

Another hollyhock

Birdhouse with more “hollies.” Mom’s garden is noisy with birdsong. Wrens and sparrows nest in numerous birdhouses tucked all through the garden.

Her garden at sunset

A pink lily

Dusk in the garden

The beast amid beauty: Minnie, a Chinese crested. Yes, she is nearly hairless, except for a scruff of fur on her head, around her paws, and on the tip of her tail. I think she looks a bit like a hyena. But what she lacks in comeliness, she makes up for with her sweet temper.

When we returned I found my own garden looking fairly fresh. An inch of water in the rain gauge and a full pond told the tale: recent rains have refreshed the garden. As always I came home with garden plans in my head. Having completely removed the lawn in front and in back, I’m now itching to put a little grass in the back garden—a very small, token lawn. Kind of like a pet lawn. A small space to rest the eye and tickle the toes. I have some designs on my garden shed/greenhouse too. I’ll keep you updated.

18 Responses

  1. Mom says:

    My garden looks so much more interesting when viewing it from some one else’s lens:-) We share so much more than just our
    DNA. Makes me want to go out and start weeding, which is where I was heading before stopping in to check your blog. OH
    by the way….Minnie is quite lovely too…no resemblence to a hyena at all.

  2. susan says:

    All great stuff. Love the close-ups, love your mom’s garden. But here’s what I want to know. Has she ever met Paul James (HGTV’s Gardener Guy)? We know he’s there in Tulsa, so tell us all about him.

  3. June Tarr says:

    Don’t know Paul James. Sorry.

  4. r sorrell says:

    My mother managed to grow what I think were hollyhocks in her garden in Seguin, TX. Isn’t that strange? I’ve seen them in my favorite nursery (in central Austin), but didn’t buy any because I figured they’d die right away.

  5. melinda says:

    Your photos are fabulous. The litte mysterious blue flowers look like rain lilies, but all the ones I’ve seen are white. Might be the Oklahoma clay.

    I’m interested in planting a Vitux like the one you have near the front of your house. You seem quite handy at growing them. Any advice? Are they evergree?


  6. Pam says:

    Thanks, Melinda. Vitex trees are easy to grow in Zones 7-11; northward vitex may die to the ground in winter. But you do have to shape them a lot. They want to be thicket-like bushes. By pruning out all but 3 or 5 trunks, and pruning up the branches as it grows, you can shape it into a small, vase-like tree. Here in Austin, where we have a very long, hot summer, vitex is extremely drought-tolerant once it’s established. Mine grows in full sun, and it gets watered deeply, along with the rest of the garden, only every 10 to 14 days in the summer if we’ve had no rain. However, vitex grows quite happily on blistering highway medians here with no supplemental water. It seems to be untroubled by pests or disease.

    Does vitex have any downsides? Yes: it drops little berries in early summer, it requires frequent pruning, and it can look twiggy in winter when it drops its leaves. But its late-spring bloom, when it’s covered in purple spires (which continue to a lesser degree all summer), can’t be beat, its foliage is pretty, and its small size and light shade won’t overpower a small garden.

  7. Annie in Austin says:

    Pam, any chance the lovely little blue flower belongs to this one’s family?

  8. Pam says:

    It sure does look like Brodiaea, Annie. Thanks for the link.

  9. June Tarr says:

    It’s a Rudy Triteleia: “Rarely seen in the U.S.! Be among the first to grow this popular, Dutch cut flower. Clusters of 12-15 small, star-like flowers, each held on a wiry stem, appear in late spring to early summer. Unique, white- and blue-coloured blossoms look impressive in borders, bouquets and naturalized areas. Zones 5-10. 5-6cm bulbs. Height: 24″ Bloom Time: Spring-Early Summer”

  10. […] My mother’s own pink-and-purple shed. Hmmm, I wonder if this deviant color preference runs in the family? […]

  11. […] My grandmother died years ago. Her gardening legacy carries on though. My mother’s garden is a tumble of old favorites like hollyhocks, irises, lilies, and roses. When I talk to her on the telephone, I often picture her in the garden, checking on her plants or resting in the shade of a jasmine-covered trellis. […]

  12. […] Fall arrived on Friday with a last gasp (I hope) of oppressively hot and humid weather. Despite the mugginess, I worked outdoors with a circular saw, cordless drill, and concrete all morning, creating a bottle tree in the back garden. As regular readers may know, I’ve been coveting a bottle tree since visiting my mother’s house last June and admiring her bottle “shrub” (bottles stuck on flexible, green garden stakes). […]

  13. Patricia Hulbert says:

    What a lovely presentation! I really enjoyed my trip through your mom’s garden!!

    I have been looking for the same type orange spotted lily as shown above. They were growing in our yard in Eldon, OK. They did not look like the true Turk’s cap tiger lily. Is there a source to purchase these lilies?

    I would greatly appreciate being able to plant such lilies in my garden. I am a transplanted Oklahoman. I was born on a farm in Eldon, OK, in Cherokee County. I now live in Auburn, California and have several varieties of lilies, but yearn for my momthers “tiger Lily.”

    Patricia Hulbert

    Hi, Patricia. Thanks for your comments. I talked to my mom about that orange lily she’s growing. She doesn’t remember which one it is, but she says she buys her lilies from either Wayside Garden or Park Seed, so you might look through their catalogs to see if you can find it.

    Good luck, and happy digging! —Pam

  14. sheila says:

    okay, i have to comment on the sweet little dog. ugly but prescious!

  15. t. avini says:

    Is that red hot poker growing in austin?

    No, as I said at the beginning of the post, these photos are from a garden in Tulsa, OK. —Pam

  16. Loretta Craig says:

    Just ran across your mother’s garden post from 2006. I was surfing for info on Hollyhocks as my hubby is wanting to try to grow them here in Austin. When he was a boy living in Ark., he loved to play with them. When they are dry, the centers have a nickel sized round that looks like a car wheel. He would make fleets of toy cars, with wheels that turned, using tacks to attach them to small blocks of wood. Also sent the picture of the bottle tree to my daughter, as she loves colored glass.

    How fun! Children can be ingenious in making toys from natural objects. Thanks for commenting, Loretta. —Pam

  17. […] favoritism here, I promise! But I delight in my mother’s cheerful, hollyhock-festooned garden, which includes this humble, copper arbor made of welded tubing. The dangling, pastel ovals spell […]

  18. […] shadier than it once was, Mom’s Tulsa garden has always been loaded with iris, daylilies, and hollyhocks—all cottage-garden favorites. I […]