Friday, August 19, 2011

Flowers and Fur

The Hollyhocks in my Front Yard

Hollyhocks seem to be a very popular southwestern subject for painting. You can probably enter any gallery in Santa Fe or Taos this time of year and find at least one hollyhock painting. Usually you see the flowers juxtaposed against some sort of adobe structure.

In a way the Southwest seems to have claimed the hollyhock as its native symbol.

The recent post by my painting buddy Sue McCullough of a hollyhock painting started me to think about what is really going on with these flowers. I should also mention that I have raised hollyhocks in our front yard for several decades. As I come in and out of my driveway I am treated with displays of these colorful flowers several times a day.

My research reveals that the hollyhock originally came from India and China. It was imported to England about 400 years ago and was brought over with the colonials into New England. From there it spread its way out to the garden's of New Mexico- and into my front yard. I am curious to know if these plants took a different route ( Spain to Mexico?) If any one knows I would be grateful to hear.

The Chinese used the hollyhock flowers for their medicinal qualities as well as eating the fresh blooms. In New England the dried flowers were used as a soothing tea, especially by women. It also has diuretic qualities. I would like to find out if the curanderas of the Southwest also used to hollyhock as an herb.

Hollyhocks lend themselves to my own brand of green -thumbery ( lazy gardening.) I essentially gave over a section of my yard to them and they reseed themselves every year. They are a biennial which means they grow for two years before dying. The second year usually produces more robust plants.

In the late fall, winter or early spring I help the process by stripping and crushing the dried pods and let them scatter where they will. It is always a pleasant surprise to see where they sprout up when the following spring arrives.

This year is unusual in that I was able to actually take advantage of my front yard spectacle with a plein air painting session.

Our two cats were very curious when I set up my french easel.
The yellow long -haired, Leon, decided to pose for me and I obliged him in the painting shown.

" Around the Front" 12x9 plein air oil

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Dave. We have similar experiences with hollyhocks. They move around the garden (with a little help from the resident artist). They now are one of the few things I can grow. This year we had the most beautiful hollyhock ever, that grew over 8 feet, and went above the roof!