Hollyhocks, an American Garden Staple
Hollyhocks recognized today are believed to be of Asian origin, because they are depicted in Chinese art as early as the 9th century, symbolizing passing time.
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Inexpensive seed that was easy to send by mail made them a common sight on the frontier. Old photographs often depict these flowers against picket fences of homesteads and farms. This is because they are top-heavy plants that become unstable in the wind. Rather than staking they could be conveniently tied to a fence.
The Achilles heel of the plants is their "ugly shins". This is caused by discolored leaves, often spotted with rust and chewed by pests as the plant ages. This made them a staple for the back of beds and flower borders where shorter dahlias would cloak the bottom third.