"The garden of my childhood days
With hollyhocks was kept ablaze;
In all my recollections they
In friendly columns nod and sway;
And when today their blooms I see,
Always the mother smiles at me;
The mind's bright chambers, life unlocks
Each summer with the hollyhocks."
--Edgar A. Guest
As a little girl, the first bloom of the Hollyhocks was my introduction to summer. Their stalks would grow tall with elephant ear leaves edged in lace. The fuzzy green buds were Peter Pan skirts showing glimpses of pink. Within a day or two each rose-like bud would burst into magnificent bloom, an orange-tipped star stamped firmly into every center. The delicate- looking blossom was deceptive as it could withstand the hot summer sunshine and a sturdy Kansas wind. We would press the flowers up to our noses, inhaling deeply and letting them stick to our faces like a frilly, pastel clown's nose, dotting the tips with a powdery fluff.
But my most vivid memory of the Hollyhock is the lovely ladies we created from them. The full bloom was turned over and served as a skirt; flowing layers of fuschia cinched by a velvet green band. A bud was picked - the stem long enough to be inserted into the bloom - and served as her head and hat. With her elegant headpiece she swirled and twirled amongst the other flowers, nodding her approval, dancing with the bumblebees. Barbie had nothing on her natural grace and beauty.
She accompanied us in the swing and on walks through the garden. She stood proud and upright in the palm of our hand. Her fragrance was sweet, her beauty, unmatched. The loveliness of her arrival was much anticipated and savored. This old-fasioned simplicity and duel delight was something I hold close and cherish in my mind's eye.
I am back in my childhood, sitting on the back porch as summer steps through the door. And the cat tails bow low as the wind passes by to make way for her entrance...