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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Hollyhock ‘Halo Mixed’: New bicoloured mixture

Posted by Graham Rice on 23 Sep 2011 at 05:47 PM

Hollyhock 'Halo Mixed, Alcea. Image © Thompson & Morgan Most gardeners love hollyhocks. They’re quintessential cottage garden plants and while new varieties come along every few years, especially doubles, there are few that are both genuinely new and that also retain the spirit of traditional types. ‘Halo’ seems to do just that.

The flowers of ‘Halo’ single, but all are bicolours - they all have a ring of contrasting colour round the yellow heart of the flower. The Halo Series was developed by Thompson & Morgan breeder Charles Valin whose new varieties, including Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’, have featured on this blog before. He told me how the ‘Halo’ hollyhocks came about.Hollyhock 'Halo Cream',Alcea. Image ©Thompson & Morgan

 

“The hollyhock breeding program was started in 1997 when some slight bicolour plants were spotted in an old fashioned single mixture,” said Charles. “In each generation the best bicolours were selected and plain coloured plants removed. The progress was slow and in 2005 I started manually crossing the best bicolours together or self pollinating plants to speed up the process of fixing the colours. The main difficulty was to keep the bumblebees away!

“After years of hand pollinations under bags to keep the bees out, we had created eight bicolours: apricot, blossom, blush, cerise, cream, pink, red, and white. The purity of each shade is exceptional and ‘Halo’ hollyhocks, with their painted light or dark eyes, look like exotic Hibiscus.

“Each colour is unique. ‘Halo Pink’ has a lavender cast that makes it look blue in the shade and ‘Halo Blush’ is actually tricolour if you look closely at each flower. The variety of colours makes the Halo Series very versatile; it can brighten up a cottage garden border, give height and a tropical feel to containers or even be used indoors as cut flowers.”

Seed of ‘Halo Mixed, containing all eight colours, can be sown now to flower next year.

You can buy plants of hollyhock ‘Halo White’ and seeds and plants of hollyhock ‘Halo Mixed’ from Thompson & Morgan.

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