Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Amazing Diversity of Turkey

Isaac and a large, blooming bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species).

After spending the last two years of my life here in Adana, Turkey, it is time to move on. I have enjoyed learning about and growing plants in a Mediterranean climate. This location has an amazing diversity of plants and animals that I will never forget.

Eurasian Siskins (Carduelis spinus) are common here but rarely seen.

White Spectacled Bulbuls (Pycnonotus xanthopygos) are common in these parts.

For those interested, and for my recollection years from now, Adana, Turkey is under 100 miles from the Syrian border. This is considered a Mediterranean Sub-Tropical Temperate Climate. Plant Hardiness Zone 9 (averate annual low temperature is 30-20 degrees F (-1 to -6 C)). AHS Heat Zone 8 (number of days above 86 degrees F (30 C) is 90-120 days). It rarely drops below the 40's F (5 C) in winter and often climbs above 105 F (40 C) in summer. It averages 26 inches (66 cm) of rain here each year with most rain falling in the winter months.

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) in flower.
There is a variety of pomegranate here that has seeds much smaller than the ones found in grocery stores in the U.S.  The fruit is a pale rose color instead of the more common bright red.

Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica), perfectly ripe and so sweet.
These are great to grab and eat on the go while taking a walk.

I took a walk with my four-year-old son today. Within ten minutes, literally, we walked past banana trees with young fruit, pomegranates in flower, a wide variety of citrus (orange, lemon, and grapefruit) all with ripe fruit, a walnut producing large husks, prickly-pear cacti full of unripe fruit, and a half-dozen loquat trees hanging low with branches covered in perfectly ripe fruit... we grabbed a few handfuls and ate these sugary-sweet fruits on our walk, spitting the large seeds in the grass.

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia species).
The fruit is forming under the flowers that have budded off the cladodes (flattened "pads").
Originally from the Americas, it is widely distributed around Turkey.

We saw a single male Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) today.

If we would have walked the other direction, we would have passed persimmon and fig trees just starting to bear, apples, quince, and mulberries dropping thousands of ripe berry-like fruits. In fact, my friend Jake and I took our sons to pick mulberries about a week ago. In just a few minutes of shaking branches over sheets laid on the grass, we had our buckets full.

Jacaranda, from Central/South America, are one of my favorite tropical/sub-topical trees.
The trees here are likely Jacaranda mimosifolia, as they have been widely planted around the world.

The Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus).
Along with the closely related Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius),
these birds are common here in Adana, Turkey.

And that is just the fruit trees within a ten minute walk from our house. Don't forget the dozens of rose bushes, the bougainvillea with their almost-neon-glowing flowers, the beautifully bare trunks and scent of the eucalyptus trees, and the tall jacaranda's with their pale purple-blue, wispy flowers swaying in the breeze.

The Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix), like all crows, are very smart birds.

The Crested Larks (Galerida cristata) are a familiar sight along my running trail.

Then there were the birds... Hooded Crows and House Sparrows all over the place, a few Crested Larks near the open fields, a number of White-Spectacled Bulbuls on low branches and in the grass, a pair of Eurasian Siskins (the male was a brilliant yellow) darting in the shade of the conifers, and a single male Greenfinch sitting proudly on a fence. There was also a quick blur of white, black, and red... either a Syrian Woodpecker or a Middle-Spotted Woodpecker as we have both, and they are difficult to distinguish out of the corner of the eye.

The Oranges (Citrus species) here are quite sour... more in taste of a lemon.

The "heart" of a Banana (Musa species), more acurately an inflorescence (cluster of flowers).
You can see the unripe fruits forming above.

These are the things I will miss about Turkey. Of course the food. Without question the few amazing people I will always call friends. But it has been quite an experience to live in one of the original breadbaskets of the world.

The Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus species) are the tallest trees in this area.
I am not sure which species grow here... just never got to researching it.

I came across this Walnut tree, but I am not sure of the species.
I am pretty sure it is a Persian Walnut (Juglans regia).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Geoff Lawton on the Survival Podcast

I wanted to throw up a quick link to an interview I just listened to. It's Geoff Lawton, the director of the Permaculture Research Institute, being interviewed by Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast. Geoff Lawton is one of the leading and most knowledgeable practioners of Permaculture today. If you would like a general overview of what Permaculture is all about, listen to this podcast.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Video on Comfrey

Comfrey is a "must have" plant in the Forest Garden.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about Comfrey (Symphytum species). Literally the next day, this video was published by Paul Wheaton over at It is a great compilation of interviews of people speaking about this plant. Watch for Toby Hemenway, the author of Gaia's Garden - an excellent book on backyard permaculture.

Why permaculture folks love comfrey.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Lime, Linden, and Basswood

The American Basswood tree (Tilia americana)

Common Name: Lime Tree, Linden Tree, Basswood Tree
Scientific Name: Tilia species
Family: traditionally in Tiliaceae (the Tilia or Lime family), but more recently Tilia has been placed in Malvaceae (the Mallow family).

The leaves of Tilia species are not only edible, they are really good!

The Tilia species are common in temperate climates of the northern hemisphere. In the U.K., Tilia are called "Lime" (with no relation to the citrus tree or fruit). In North America, Tilia are called "Basswood" or "Linden". These large trees have edible leaves, flowers used for teas, and wood with a tremendous variety of uses.

Species of Tilia are native to Europe, the U.K., Asia, and North America. They have been used by traditional cultures for food, medicine, wood, and fiber for thousands of years.

Tilia wood (in this case Linden, Tilia x europaea) is a common craft wood.

  • The name "Lime" likely comes from the Middle English word meaning "flexible".
  • The name "Linden" likely comes from the German adjective meaning "made from Lime wood".
  • The name "Basswood" comes from the term "bast", or the inner bark of trees. Bast fiber from Tilia species was once commonly used to make mats and ropes.
  • In Slavic mythology, the Linden is a sacred tree.

Tilia cordata, the Small-Leaved Lime, is considered the best tasting Tilia species.

Common Species:
  • Basswood (Tilia americana): Tolerates medium moisture soils; full sun to deep shade
  • Carolina Basswood (Tilia caroliniana)
  • Small-Leaved Lime (Tilia cordata)
  • White Basswood (Tilia heterophylla)
  • Large-Leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos)
  • Silver Lime (Tilia tomentosa)
  • Common Lime or Common Linden (Tilia x europaea): Tolerates dry to moist soils

Primary Uses:
  • Leaves - Fresh: young leaves and leaf buds are used as a base for salads, can be used for pesto and in sandwiches. The leaves are mild and slightly mucilaginous (in a good way).
  • Flowers can be eaten raw and are used for tea - only use young flowers as the older ones have been reported to cause a reaction similar to narcotic toxicity. Frequent drinking of this tea has been associated with heart issues - no clear connection or reason for this.
  • Coppiced/Pollarded (for wood or for leaves): for large limbs, coppice every 10-25 years; for smaller diameter wood or for leaves, coppice first when treen is 6-8 years of age and then every 1-5 years afterwards. Coppicing keeps the young leaves at a height that is easy to reach. Pollarding still allows the leaves to be harvesting (with a step ladder) but keeps them out of the reach of deer.
  • Ornamental - commonly grown as an ornamental tree
Secondary Uses:
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Dynamic Accumulator (Phosphorus and Calcium) - leaves are used in mulch
  • Large limbs: Firewood, posts, mushroom logs
  • Small limbs: Poles
  • Small branches: Baskets, Musical Instruments, and other crafts
  • Fiber can be made into mats and ropes and even cloth (inner bark is soaked in water for a month, and then individual fibers can easily be separated).
  • Chocolate Substitute - made from ground up flowers and immature fruit (I haven't tried this yet), apparently tastes good, but doesn't store well
  • Sap reportedly can be made into syrup
  • Trees can be used to support vines
  • Windbreak
Harvesting: Leaves - anytime during the growing season, young leaves are far superior; Flowers - Only during the summer, pick when flowers are just opened
Storage: Best used soon after harvesting
Flowers of all Tilia species (this is Tilia cordata) attract beneficial insects.

AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available
Chill Requirement: No reliable information available

Plant Type: Large Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Tree for large Forest Gardens. If it is coppiced, it can act as a Sub-Canopy Tree for large Forest Gardens or as a Canopy Tree for small Forest Garden
Cultivars/Varieties: Many species available. 

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile
Flowering: Summer
Life Span: There are some trees in England and Europe that are over 2,000 years old.

Size: 75-100 feet (22-30 meters) tall and 40-75 feet (12-22 meters) wide depending on the species
Roots: Flat with some taproots, some species are suckering
Growth Rate: Medium - Fast
Tilia species are stunning in Autumn (Basswood, Tilia americana)

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light to deep shade depending on the species (those in deep shade will grow slower)
Moisture: Tolerates dry to moist soils depending on the species
pH: most species prefer fairly neutral to alkaline soil (6.1 - 8.5)

Tilia make great windbreaks (Basswood, Tilia americana)

Special Considerations for Growing:
  • Coppiced trees rarely flower, so consider keeping a few Tilia coppiced for leaf and wood production, and grow a few full-sized, non-coppiced trees at the edge of the Forest Garden.
  • Does not tolerates juglone (juglone is a natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives). Consider using other trees as a buffer between your walnuts and your Tilia species.
  • These are large trees, so plan well.

Propagation: Typically from seed. Requires a long cold stratification (can be almost 40 weeks). Some species form suckers - these can be transplanted with as much root as possible. Layering has also been accomplished but can take 1-3 years to take.
Maintenance: Almost none once established. Coppicing may be the only chore.
Flowers: only use young flowers as the older ones have been reported to cause a reaction similar to narcotic toxicity. Frequent drinking of this tea has been associated with heart issues - no clear connection or reason for this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Build Your Own Earth Oven

Ever since I had by first taste of naan (an Indian flat bread baked on the wall of an earthen oven called a Tandoor), I have wanted an earth oven. From foods more familiar to those in the U.S., like 2-minute flat crust pizzas and sourdough breads, to more ethnic foods that I love, like chicken tikka and earth oven-baked lamb, some food should only be cooked or baked in an earthen oven.

A sampling of wood-fired, earth-oven pizzas!

I have been leisurely reading about ways to make earth ovens for the last few years, but this book provides everything all in one place. From initial design and foundations to bricks and earth mixes to chimneys and firing, this book has it all. I am really excited giving this a try. When I do, I'll post about it.

Fresh naan... a little piece of heaven on earth!

From the Publisher:
Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field, maker and baker, invite you into the artisan tradition. First, build a masonry oven out of mud. Then mix flour and water for real bread "better than anything you can buy." Total cost? Hardly more than a baking stone - and it can cook everything else, from 2-minute pizza to holiday fowl, or a week's meals.

Clear, abundant drawings and photos clarify every step of the process, from making "oven mud," to fire, and to bread. Informative text puts it all into context with artisan traditions of many ages & cultures. Beautifully sculpted ovens (by the author and readers) will inspire the artist in anyone. And the simple, 4 step recipe (based on professional and homestead experience) promises authentic hearth loaves for anyone, on any schedule.

From weekend gardeners to "simple living," back-to-the-landers; Peace Corps volunteers to neighborhood community-builders; third-graders to earth-artists of all ages, this book feeds many hungers!
Chicken Tikka... a classic Indian dish.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Agama Spotting... and other Turkish animals.

The Starred Agama (a.k.a. Stellion or Star Lizard), Laudakia stellio.

This morning, my family was taking a walk to the park. My two boys were on their big-wheel-type bikes. Isaac, now four years old, was at the front of our procession when he suddenly skidded to a stop. He froze with one arm pointing to a tree a few feet from the sidewalk we were walking, reminding me of a bird dog who had spotted a hidden pheasant.

For a second or two we tried to figure out at what it was he was pointing, but we were obviously too slow in identifying it. Isaac hopped off the bike and ran to the base of the tree, running with his arm fully extended and finger still pointing. This sudden direct charge on its hiding place was too much for the well camouflaged, foot-long lizard.

I can't help but wonder what that lizard was thinking... There I was, sitting in the sun, soaking up the heat, relaxing all morning. It was a great spot. I was blending in perfectly with the roots at the bottom of my favorite tree. I had seen dozens of those gangly, two-legged animals walk right past me. They make so much noise all the time. But as long as I don't move, they keep right on going. Then, out of the blue, one of them stops and stares right at me. He's one of the small ones. They usually aren't that smart. Is he looking at me? Did I lose my camouflage? No. He can't see me. I just have to stay still. Hold my breath. He'll keep on going any second now... Oh, crap! He's running right at me... don't move... don't breathe... ahHH! Forget this! I'm outta here!

These guys can scale a tree in seconds!

The lizard, whose proper name is the Speckled Agama, bolted up the tree. Only, poor thing, it climbed a tree that had a sparrow's nest in it. The male sparrow started to dive bomb it. It hopped from limb to limb dodging the bird until we started to walk away. Then it quickly scurried back down the tree and then hid in a pile of rocks. I am sure it was hyperventilating, saying a prayer of thanks for not getting eaten by that scary animal that charged him out of the blue.

Not a minute later and Isaac spotted another Agama. The scene replayed itself, only without the sparrow attack. After a few minutes of watching the lizard climb in the tree above, we moved on. Now I have studied animals for a long time. I understand their behavior. There are obviously many people who are better than I, but after years of trying to spot and observe wildlife, I can humbly say that I am really good at it. But I think my skill is a learned craft. It is pretty amazing to see a four year old come at it with such ease. It is going to be fun to see how this develops.

Long-Eared Hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)

This just reminded me of how living in Turkey has allowed us to experience a completely new range of flora and fauna. Whether it is the scorpions on my running path, the hedgehogs digging holes in the yard at night, the hooded crows sitting on the fence waiting for my boys to drop some food, or the Hoopoe I wrote about a short while ago, it has been a lot of fun to see the amazing diversity of God's creation.

Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

Indian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica)
Well, we actually only found a few quills on one of our hikes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hold the chemicals... see what happens!

My small-scale monocrop of Kale.

I was speaking to a new friend today about my garden. He is an avid gardener himself and produces a decent amount of food for himself and his family. I was explaining to him about how in Permaculture, we truly strive to be chemical free in all of our gardening and growing efforts. He seemed shocked. I had just told him about all the plants I have grown in my rather small garden... how could I produce all that with no chemicals? I explained to him how there are many methods I use, but the two main concepts are to keep the plants as healthy as possible (which really keeps pests away) and avoiding monocropping - even on a small scale.

When gardeners plant all of one crop right next to each other (tomatoes, squash, lettuce, etc.), I call that small-scale monocropping. This give pests a prime target. The plants are hard to miss; there are so many of them. Once one plant is consumed, the pests will easily move a few inches or feet next door to the next victum. In general, pests don't have to work hard to do a lot of damage in a short time. Avoiding planting the same types of plants next to each other makes the pests have to work a lot harder. This has kept me almost pest free for two years.

Until this year.

Quite by accident, I created a small-scale monocrop of kale. I had planted a number of portable, window-box-type planters with a wide variety of lettuces. These few planters kept us in fresh salad greens throughout the mild Turkish Winter... and that lettuce thrived. Then Spring hit, and with it came the scortching heat during the day that most people in Temperate Climates feel only in the height of Summer. That lush lettuce didn't stand a chance.

Well, after the planters were full of bolted, flowered lettuce plants, I decided to clean out the planters. I flipped the planters on their sides, and I easily slid out the block of soil, tangled roots, and tufts of bolting lettuces. The flowers were small, but rather pretty, so I decided to just stack all the remains from the planters along the fence, right side up, and I tucked them in with some mulch. As expected, the lettuces died, but then an interesting thing happened. The Kale, which I thought was a goner as well, suddenly sprang back to life. In fact, it took off like it hadn't ever before. I am not sure if it was the sudden room for its roots to grow now free from the planters or if the weather was now perfect for them to thrive, but thrive they did.

Now, without planning, I had a mini hedge of Kale growing along the fence.

Then about a month ago, I noticed that the Kale was covered in caterpillars. And I really mean covered. Almost every leaf had at least one, but usually three or four, caterpillars happily chewing away the leaves. My first thought was to try and figure a way to get rid of them all... pick them all off by hand (my boys love to do that), spray them off with a hose and make them work to get back to their food over and over again, or spray them with a soapy mix. I didn't really consider using a pesticide. I don't even own any in the first place.

But then I noticed two of the Kale plants had no caterpillars on them at all. One was right in the middle of the feeding frenzy, and one was at the end. I thought the one at the end just hadn't been found yet, but the one in the middle... there must be something more going on here. Maybe those Kale had a different flavor to the caterpillars? Maybe they had a different compound in them that kept the caterpillars away? I still have no good explanation since all these Kale plants grew from the same seed pack.

I decided I would do nothing. I had violated one of my own rules. I had planted a small-scale monocrop. I deserved to pay the consequences. I was also interested in the Kale that no caterpillars ate. Would they be the next victims after the other plants were consumed?

As it turns out, doing nothing was a great idea. In less than a week, the caterpillars had eaten their fill. They left me with skeletons of Kale along my fence line... and two healthy Kale plants rising about them. However, within about three weeks, the beaten down Kale surged back to life. The photo at the top of this article shows the Kale patch just a few weeks after the infestation. It seems as if almost nothing happened.

I still plan to save the seed from those two Kale plants that survived the caterpillar onslaught unscathed. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I now have some resistant Kale plants. It will be fun to find out.

This small garden event makes me think. I wonder how much improvement in garden breeding is lost when gardeners immediately turn to chemicals to kill their pests. I wonder how many "plagues" in the garden would only result in minor set backs and quick recoveries if we didn't intervene so quickly and so often. I wonder how much man-made chemicals would not be taken into our bodies or pollute our water if we would just wait to see how nature would handle the "problems" we see.

My accidental monocrop of Kale just reinforced my commitment to avoid any and all chemicals in my gardening.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Beauty of Pollination

The following video is an amazing look at some of the most common plant pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, flies, and bats). Stunning slow-motion videography with a peaceful soundtrack combines to make a breathtaking video. I highly recommend you take 4 minutes to watch this. About three-quarters through, there is a bat that is flying, eating, and nursing its pup... all at the same time!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Modern Composting Toilets (Humanure Part 3)

Ed Begley, Jr. with a waterless composting toilet by Envirolet.

A few weeks ago, my beloved wife decided that she would take a straw poll over the course of a few days to find out which of our friends would be willing to have a composting toilet in their homes. I believe she did this for a few reasons. First, I think she really was interested to see what our friends thought of the idea. Second, I think she thought it was fun to point out what she perceives as one of my eccentricities (i.e., my vehemence against wasting water). Third, with her mind already made up about the topic - "this is not going to happen in my house" - I think she wanted moral support to make a stand against this idea.

The vast majority of our friends, not surprisingly, thought I was a bit off my rocker and quickly, and vehemently in some cases, sided with my wife. The only issue, well there were quite a few, but the one I am going to address here today, is that almost all negative opinions were coming from the people who thought that to use a composting toilet one needs to poop in a bucket while trying not to faint from the gawd-awful stench with flies buzzing around your head. I think most had the idea of a nasty porta-potty jammed into the corner of their bedroom in mind while answering my wife's poll question.

So today I want to dispell at one myth. Yes, there are some systems of composting toilets that use 5-gallon buckets. No, they do not smell at all - well, they smell like sawdust. If there is a smell, you are doing something wrong. If there are flies, you are doing something wrong. However, there are many other systems that are slightly more to vastly more automatic and "hands off" than the 5-gallon bucket method.

Let me show you a few of these systems...

A schematic of one type of modern composting toilet system.
This design has a large composting chamber in the basement.

Another modern composting toilet system.

This is a great video highlighting Envirolet Toilet Systems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate

I just came upon this website this morning. PRI Cold Climate appears to be a permaculture organization based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their mission is to be a resource for permaculture in cold temperate climates. It looks like they are a relatively organization. They have a blog that is infrequently updated, but they do have a fairly regular class schedule. I am very interested to see what they will develop. Check it out if you have an interest, especially if you are in the MN area.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Hollyhock

My Hollyhocks grow to over 8 feet tall!
That's my Abigail...
She literally cries if I bring her inside, but will stop as soon as we go outside again!

Common Name: Hollyhock
Scientific Name: Alcea rosea
Family: Malvaceae (the Mallow family)

Just one small sample of the flower colors available.

The Hollyhock is a stunning, flowering plant that towers over the garden and comes in a wide variety of colors. Shooting to over 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall, this self-seeding, short-lived perennial (in cold climates, it seems to act more like a biennial) is beautiful, attract bees and other beneficial insects, has a deep taproot that pulls up nutrients and minerals for higher quality mulch at the end of the season, and is edible as well... the flowers are rather bland, but provide amazing color to a salad, and the leaves have a fuzzy texture and grassy flavor that while edible are nothing to get excited about.
  • Likely originating from Asia and southeast Europe.
  • The modern Alcea rosea was likely developed in England.
  • Grown exclusively for its flowers, but it has retained it edibility.
Years ago, in certain locations in the U.S. the hollyhock was only planted near the outhouse. The towering spires of flowers could be seen from quite a distance, and this gave the "refined" ladies of the time the ability to find the outhouse without having to ask for it.

The young leaves, flower buds, flowers, and roots of the Hollyhock are all edible.
Yeah, that's my 9-month-old daughter's chubby hand!

Primary Uses:
  • Decorative - tall, stunning, towers of flowers! 
  • Leaves - young leaves are best, either fresh or cooked. They do have a fuzzy texture that gets more course as the leaves mature. The flavor is rather bland with a hint of grassiness... in my experience, it is not that great, but would do in a pinch. I like to add just a few, finely chopped, to salads. I know that the deep taproots are pulling up nutrients not usually found in my garden, so I really only eat them for health reasons... not the flavor.
  • Flowers - eaten fresh. Great color addition to salads. Almost no flavor. Buds are said to be edible, but I have not tried it... I love the beauty of the flowers too much to sacrifice the buds! Tea can be made from the flowers as well.
Secondary Uses:
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant. There is not a single day that I do not see bees on the flowers.
  • Roots can be an edible starch source.
  • Paper from the stem fiber - although this seems to be fairly labor intensive.
  • Dye from the petals.
  • Traditional medicinal uses are varied.
Yield: No reliable information on this
Harvesting: Leaves - when young. Flowers - when present. 
Storage: Used fresh

Hollyhocks are tall plants that reseed easily, so plan well.

AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available.
Chill Requirement: Likely as this is a flowering plant, but no reliable information available.

Plant Type: Short-lived Perennial Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer 
Cultivars/Varieties: Many varieties available.

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile
Flowering: May-September... really depending on the USDA Zone where it is planted

Life Span:
Years to Flowering: 1-2 years (earlier if in warmer climates)
Years of Useful Life: 3-5 years, but as it reseeds so easily, it can be treated almost like a long lived perennial. I like to help out the self seeding process by scattering seeds where I want them and lightly covering with soil/mulch.

Honeybees really seem to like Hollyhocks.

Size: Up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall and almost as wide
Roots: Deep taproot
Growth Rate: If in mild temerature regions, the plant will stay green and small until the Spring when it shoots up tall seemingly overnight. In cold regions, where it acts as a biennial, it is a fast growing Spring flowering plant.

Hollyhocks' beauty is enough reason to plant them, but they have many other attributes.

Light: Full sun
Shade: Does not do well in any shade
Moisture: Medium, but can handle fairly dry soils
pH: can handle a wide range of soils
Special Considerations for Growing:
  • Every year I grow Hollyhocks, the towering stalks of flowers seem to topple over, and these plants are not exposed to much wind. Fortunately, my Hollyhocks have been planted on a fence line. I just tie them back up with a few strands of twine, and they do just fine. Maybe I have a weak-stemmed variety, or maybe this is normal for the species. Consider growing this plant close to something that can support it if need be.
  • Tolerates juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives). Consider planting Hollyhocks as a buffer between your walnuts and other plantings.

Propagation: Easily from seed. The flowers produce quite large seeds that easily germinate. Root cutting is possible, but I have not tried it.

Minimal.  See "Special Considerations" above. Some varieties (and regions and planting location) are more susceptible to rust. Toward the end of the flowering season, my plants are routinely attacked. After seeding, I cut back the plants and add them to the compost bin. I've not had any issues otherwise.

Can reseed fairly easily, so can be seen as "invasive" or "spreading" by some. I'm all for it.
The stunning Black Hollyhock (Alcea rosea nigra).