Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Today's poem by Edgar Guest

My mother was not a gardener. She didn't grow and tend a flower garden, but she did have hollyhocks growing up on the east side of the house. In my memory they were there every summer of my childhood, but of course it may have been just one year. I recently heard from my mother's only living sister that their mother also grew hollyhocks on the farm. I have been trying to grow them at Windy Poplars for the thirty-one years we've lived here, with only one year of success. That year I bought a plant from a local nursery in the spring and it produced beautiful yellow flowers. This year I got serious and planted hollyhock seeds under the indoor lights, and wow did they ever grow. They were quite large when we transplanted them to one of the raised beds, and now they are huge, with a couple taller than I am.

I do battle with Japanese beetles, going out every day with a container of water and flicking them into it with my fingers before they fly off.

They've done a lot of damage to the leaves.

But thankfully, so far, the flowers are not bothered one bit. It is a great joy to see these red and pink beauties.

I looked around for a hollyhock poem and found one by the beloved poet Edgar Guest.


Old-fashioned flowers! I love them all:
The morning-glories on the wall,
The pansies in their patch of shade,
The violets, stolen from a glade,
The bleeding hearts and columbine,
Have long been garden friends of mine;
But memory every summer flocks
About a clump of hollyhocks.

The mother loved them years ago;
Beside the fence they used to grow,
And though the garden changed each year
And certain blooms would disappear
To give their places in the ground
To something new that mother found,
Some pretty bloom or rosebush rare--
The hollyhocks were always there.

It seems but yesterday to me
She led me down the yard to see
The first tall spires, with bloom aflame,
And taught me to pronounce their name.
And year by year I watched them grow,
The first flowers I had come to know.
And with the mother dear I'd yearn
To see the hollyhocks return.

The garden of my boyhood days
With hollyhocks was kept ablaze;
In all my recollections they
In friendly columns nod and sway;
And when to-day their blooms I see,
Always the mother smiles at me;
The mind's bright chambers, life unlocks
Each summer with the hollyhocks.

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)


  1. I am so glad your hollyhocks are blooming for you. Those horrible Japanese Beetles. Such a bother and they have skeletonized your hollyhock leaves. Booooo. Love the poem. Such a good cadence. Takes me back to a nice place.

    1. I can't believe how fast they eat! I'm now going out twice a day with soapy water.
      I love the word 'cadence' - and I do love his poems. I've put up a few on the blog. You may look under the poems tab.

  2. Dear Nan,
    What a lovely tribute to your mother. Your hollyhocks are gorgeous and well worth the wait. I love Edgar A. Guest as my grandfather's favorite poem was "House". He could recite every verse. Thank you for reminding me of those poems.

    1. As I noted above to Lisa, there are a few poems of his on the blog under the poems tab. I really do love his work. And what a kind face he had. I think that generation knew a lot of poems by heart.

  3. I have some hollyhocks grown from seeds I saved from city home.
    They grew to about 9 feet high but with dampness surrounding my woods
    did not do well.
    Oh the beetles have hurt so many of my plants. I cannot grow roses by
    my new cottage.
    I did pick a number and put in soapy water but there were hundreds of them

    1. I put some Ecover dishwashing detergent in a container with warm water and those awful beetles just drown. Happily they are pretty dim and stay where they are, mostly, while I pop them into the water. I have no remorse. :<)

  4. I've never grown hollyhocks, but I think I'd like to try next year. They are gorgeous!!

    I use soapy water on my hibiscus to keep the whiteflies away. Something else is eating one of those plants, though, and I can't seem to figure out what it might be. Maybe a grasshopper. It's a bad year for garden pests! So hot and dry, although we did get a little bit of rain (finally!!!!) last night.

    Very nice poem, too. I like the kind that rhyme. :)

    1. Sometimes those bugs/larvae whatever hide underneath the leaves. We have the beetles no matter the weather. Usually they go after the rosa rugosas.
      His poems often bring tears to my eyes. Very heartfelt, and often nostalgic. I really like him. There are some others under the poems tab.

  5. What a nice, simple poem. I'd have to substitute lupins for hollyhocks, if I could think of some rhymes for them! Your plants look great.

    1. Sometimes simple and clear is just the right thing, don't you think?
      'new pins' 'blue pins' ?? :<)

  6. I love them too - but black thumb and all of that. You have inspired me try again. Maybe in front of the barn - do they like a southern exposure? I liked the poem as well.

    1. Honestly, I have no secret. Started the seeds under lights, and added some super duper stuff we bought for the tomatoes, but it seemed to work on the hollyhocks too.

      I do think they like sun. And I think a barn setting is perfect. They seem to go with old places, older ways of life.

  7. Ahhhh yes ~ I love Hollyhocks, though they are reluctant to grow for me most years. I had a big beautiful light pink one this year!
    I have my Grandmothers volume of Edgar A.Guest poems, perfect place to turn when you need just the right poem. :))))

    1. Did you happen to see Sharon's tall one?
      Scroll down to last picture. Amazing.
      I think most everyone in that generation, and the one before had a book of his poems, and they knew many of them by heart. We've lost something, I think.

  8. One of my nice childhood memories is of making hollyhock dolls with my best friend Phyllis. We found the hollyhocks in the alley behind the houses across the street. Several years ago I tried growing them on our farm but one of our local critters or insects ate them to the ground.

    1. A friend emailed me and said she used to do the same thing. Amazing. I'd never heard of this.
      I'm still going out three times a day to drop those beetles into soapy water.
      Did you put seeds in the ground or start them inside? I wonder if ours were strong from being started under the lights so those d#$% beetles could chew but not kill them.

  9. I love hollyhocks too and I have tried to grow them here. I think they would look just right but I haven't managed to keep any alive just yet. Perhaps I will try to grow them from seed as you have. Things often settle best here if they go in when they young and small!

    1. I think that just may be the secret. They were quite tall when we put them out, and are still going strong. How I love them.

  10. Your hollyhocks are beautiful! I can't remember seeing a Japanese beetle anywhere. They're actually sort of pretty with the rainbow shell, sort of like a scarab.


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