The hollyhock was introduced into Britain from China in the early eighteenth century, and reached the height of its popularity as a garden flower in the very early Victorian age. By the time that Hibberd wrote in the latter nineteenth century he reflected sadly that the hollyhock had lost much of its appeal, and was not grown so widely as once it had been. The occasion of this decline seems to have been a ‘paltry fungus’ that was spread by the native mallow along the burgeoning railway lines of Britain and which decimated the garden hollyhock.
New varieties of hollyhocks used once to be grafted onto the roots of ‘nameless seedlings’ to be raised in the steaming heat of greenhouses to promote quick growth and thus sale. This practice, however, only weakened the new varieties, and by the late nineteenth century hollyhocks were generally raised by seed.
Seeds could be sown anytime from March to August to produce plants which would flower the following season. They needed good rich soil and perfect drainage, as well full exposure to air and light.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.