Hollyhock hunting in Skåne, Sweden 

In my blog post about my visit to York in August, I hinted at my appreciation for hollyhocks, especially when they are contrasting against a painted wall. My family holiday to Skåne in Sweden has only enhanced my delight in hunting for hollyhocks, to the point where I couldn’t pass one without taking a photo and as a result I have photos of almost one hundred hollyhocks. I thought I’d share my favourite photos, plants and paints.

First, let me tell you a little about Skåne, as like me six months ago, you may not of heard of it. Skåne is Sweden’s southernmost region, connected to Denmark via the Øresund Bridge (which, if you are into Nordic Noir as I am, you will have seen in the series “The Bridge“). I was draw to Sweden because I’d seen so much of it in such detective programmes and, when investigating further, I found Skåne to be the ideal destination for a holiday. The region offers not only long white sandy beaches but, maybe more importantly for a keen kitchen gardener, it’s dubbed “Sweden’s Pantry”: Almost 50% of the country’s food production happens in Skåne. Farm shops and organic locally-grown or home-grown eateries abound.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll blog more about the kitchen garden side of things another time, but for today, I want to focus on those hollyhocks.

Now, for some reason, it’s important to me that in my photos the hollyhocks are set against a backdrop of a painted wall. Many of the towns and villages in Skåne are old fishing towns, with pastel coloured half timbered houses on cobblestone streets and sun dabbled squares. This creates a rainbow of buildings in blues, yellows, whites, greens and sometimes black. We found little streets like this in places like Ystad, Kivik, Arild and Molle, I’m sure there are many more. And they formed the perfect backdrop to photograph hollyhocks.

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Rather than listing all the dozens of hollyhocks I fell for in Skåne, I’m going to pick out my favourites below.

1. Pink Hearts

I love the simplicity of this bright pink flower consisting of five perfect hearts. The blue window frame and white wall in the background are a bonus really, but as they are my favourite colours, they deserve a mention.

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2. Double hollyhocks

I found three beautifully flouncy double hollyhocks, in baby pink, lemon and cerise. I think the lemon one is my favourite.

3. Black contrast

How fabulous are these two bright pink hollyhocks contrasting against the chalkboard black paint of these two wooden houses?

4. Star centred

I feel drawn to the centre of this hollyhock, whose petals form a perfect lime-yellow star. I’m also pretty keen on the green and cream paint of this house. The whole composition makes me think of pink nougat with pistachios.

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4. Spray painted centre

To me, this is a miracle of nature: the oh-so-delicate whispers of magenta which gets darker towards the centre of this flower. It’s almost tropical, or like a hibiscus flower. And I love that the wall paint almost entirely matches the petals, to highlight the veins of colour even more. Which came first do you think, hollyhock or paint?

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7. Dark beauty

This, near-black, hollyhock flower was so dark but because it was also so waxy it reflected the light and looks a lot redder in my photo. I found the wispy pink strands of the stamen fascinating, like frayed cotton you’d tried too many times to force through a needles head.

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8. Contained in Copenhagen

I had to include this poor fellow, found in Copenhagen. These metal plant supports were pretty common in the cities, for holding up roses or large shrubs. But after seeing hundreds of free hollyhocks, waving and welcoming passers-by, what a sorry sight this was.

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