Plants - Perennials

A family affair: Mallows

By
Patrick Lima
Photography by
Turid Forsyth

Meet the mallows, cousins of the hollyhock, exuberant plants at home in cottage or formal gardens

If tree mallows prove short-lived, L. trimestris is a true annual. Different from other mallows, and one of the showiest hollyhock cousins, annual Lavatera unfurls satiny funnels from midsummer until frost. L. t. 'Silver Cup' is an eye-catching hot pink veined with maroon. Standing 60 to 90 centimetres tall, well-grown plants branch out freely to form bushy clumps of round, dark green leaves studded with brilliant flowers. We often tuck this hard-working annual in gaps among perennials, where their bulky growth and sturdy habit fit in well with hardy plants and grasses. Every summer 'Silver Cup' stands next to wine red phlox, along with blue sea holly and lavender butterfly bush. I could also picture it with white phlox. 'Mount Blanc' is the same annual Lavatera in white.

One August, while driving through Mennonite farm country on the way to Stratford in southwestern Ontario, my friend and I saw a series of large vegetable gardens bordered with colourful hedges of annual mallows. Although we didn't stop to ask, I'd guess that the flowers came from seeds sown like lettuce or carrots in spring and that the ripe seeds had been gathered at the end of the previous summer. On a smaller scale, the same steps can be followed in any garden, sowing L. trimestris seeds, after last frost, directly where they are to bloom, then thinning the seedlings to 30 centimetres apart. For early bloom, start seeds indoors. We sow three or four seeds in 10-centimetre pots on a sunny window in early May. Seedlings appear in four days; thin out to the strongest plant. Nurseries have begun to stock plants of this showy mallow among the usual annual offerings.

Sources
Key:
Alcea rosea: 1,
Lavatera 'Barnsley': 2,
L. 'Candy Floss': 3,
Lavatera olbia: 4,
L. trimestris 'Mount Blanc': 5,
L. t. 'Silver Cup': 6,
Malva moschata: 7,
Malva sylvestris mauritanica 'Mystic Merlin': 8,
M. s. m. 'Zebrina': 9,
Sidalcea candida: 10,
S. malviflora 'Brilliant': 11,
S. m. 'Elsie Heugh': 12,
S. m. 'Rose Queen': 13.

Canning Perennials: 1, 7, 9.

Hole's Greenhouses & Gardens Ltd.: 7, 11, 12.

Hortico: 7, 10-13.

Les Vivaces de l'Isle, 16 200 boul. Bécancour, Ste-Angèle, Bécancour,
Que. G9H 2M1; 819/222-9768: 1, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12.

Patrick Studio Inc.: 3, 8, 11.

The Perennial Gardens Inc.: 1-3, 10, 12.

Richters Herbs: 1, 7.

T & T Seeds Ltd.: 1, 5, 6.

William Dam Seeds: 5, 6, 8

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