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Crusaders' holiness: Hollyhock, Alcea 'Parkrondell', Rostrup-Park der Gärten, Bad Zwischenahn, Germany

Hollyhocks are such wonderfully old-fashioned flowers! As a boy I could spend hours quietly watching the insects' to and fro at eye-level because these high-stalked flowers were so tall and I so small. Then they somehow left the horticultural landscape... but now they're coming back in full force, often in city plots or even where sidewalks merge with walls. A small crack is enough for them to find a hold!

Hollyhock: strange name for Alcea or less correctly Malva. They originate in Asia and were introduced to Europe perhaps by Chinese traders to the Near East at the beginning of the CE. Holly - 'holy' - and 'hock' - 'hoc', the name of a European mallow: The 'holy' because they were brought home to Western Europe by Crusaders returning from Jerusalem, and 'hoc' because they looked familiar to the mallow which went by that name in the Anglo-Saxon tongue. In Dutch or German they don't go by this or a similar designation but rather by 'Stokroos', 'stick rose', apparently because of the long stick-like stalks which bear their flower clusters.

This beautiful hybrid is called the "Parkrondell", I'm not sure why. I'm told it was developed in Hungary...

This photo was taken in the glorious Park der Gärten at Rostrup on the Zwischenahner Meer in Lower Saxony not far from Oldenburg in northern Germany.

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Taken on August 13, 2008