Today was another hot one here, and I have to admit (shamefully) I didn't venture out too far, save for going to work and back home ... yet another Monday (blah!), so I'm going to resort to some more photos from my Saturday expedition around the garden. (7/07/07)
This is another Mallow (which regular readers know are some of our favorite plants around here) we got started a few years ago out in the front corner boulder bed. We started with a pack of seeds, some of which came up, others not ... and the first year here they behaved much like Hollyhocks ... they came up, grew, put out a lot of leaves but no blooms the first year. So, we figured, okay, it's another biennial, we should see some flowers the next year. Even though we were under the impression (from the seed packet) that they were an annual Mallow, we figured we'd just let them do what they would do. And indeed they came back the next year, bigger than ever and looking oh so much like miniature Hollyhocks (topping out at about 36" or so), with blooms all along and up the central stalk of the plant ... smaller than Hollyhocks as we conceive of them, but offering a delicious purple veined and white combination that we really liked. And the bees love them too, so you'll probably see more of these over the summer with bees involved ... But being the pro-bee fanatics we are, we're happy to provide them with some luscious IBs to feast upon and ensure us of future flowers to come.
Given their behavior in the last few years, we're still not quite sure whether to classify them as a true perennial (they've been acting like it lately, perhaps due to milder winters?) or a biennial, but in any case, they reappear every year and produce (like most Mallows) tons of seed and have self-seeded with a vengeance, much to our delight. And they tend to move around a bit too ... we've got them coming up at the base of the rocks this year, all throughout the bed itself and beyond, so I suppose at some point we'll have to get a bit ruthless with them. Even so, it's really gratifiying to see that something so beautiful introduced into the larger garden space will proceed to mark its territory and rejoin us every year. This year they seem to be acting as annuals, as they have just begun to bloom, so who knows what permutation they will exhibit next year? Frankly, we care little, because we're glad to see they have decided to make a permanent home in the front garden....
These would be an ideal choice for gardeners with more limited space, who just don't have the room for traditional Hollyhocks (who can reach 5-6' in height in their second year), or just want the look, but in a smaller space. Given our experience with this species, we think they're well worth the effort to get them established, and they make great companions to other Mallows (such as our numerous Hibiscus moscheutos and the Prairie Mallows).
I'll have a more detailed post at some point about the many rewards of growing Mallows, but for now, take my word that if you have a sunny garden, with average soil and the inclination to pamper them just a wee bit at first, the Mallows are a plant family you want to encourage. And soon, Zebrina Mallow's cousins the Hibiscus moscheutos, will be starting their magnificent eye popping display ... where these Zebrinas may be small (about 2" across), the moscheutos varieties often reach dinner plate sized blooms that really stand out for their brief moment of glory (they last but one day).
More to come soon on these marvelous troopers of the garden ... give them heat, no problem, humidity? they love it ... drought even? they scoff at it ... truly, Mallows should be a garden staple for us Midwestern gardeners, because they offer so much for so little effort!