Friday 31 July 2015

Musk mallow

It seems to be a month for happening across plants with deeply cut leaves. This cheery customer has made its presence known in several gardens – sadly, not mine – over the past few weeks, having certainly found its way there of its own accord. If God loves a cheerful giver, then the gardener can spare the odd warm fuzzy for the generous self-sower, particularly in the case of one as pretty as Malva moschata f. alba, the white form of the musk mallow.

Standing at around 60cm high (two feet in old money), with five pure white, crepey-textured petals surrounding the typically exotic-looking pistil and stamen arrangement of the mallow and hollyhock family tinged, in this case, with the pale pink of the anthers. Although some of the flowers are born in the leaf axils, a characteristic of this plant is the collection of fat, round flower buds with pointed tips, opening in order from the outer edge towards the centre.

In the border, this achieves an effect of white, butterfly-like flowers floating over frothy fresh green foliage, in much the same way as Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity', or one of the white flowered forms of Nigella damascene ('Miss Jekyll White', for example), while in height occupying a position somewhere between the two.

Weedy? Not particularly, it would seem, although its prowess at seeding itself about has been referred to above. I think its somewhat refined features might cause the discerning to refer to it being in possession of more ‘garden-worthy’ credentials than certain of its burlier relatives – certainly rather more genteel than Malva sylvestris with its whopping great leaves. Now there’s a plant that invites itself in, smokes your pipe, drinks your brandy and sticks its feet up on your table.

The white musk mallow is an altogether more restrained affair, albeit one that found its own way in uninvited. That said, you can be sure I’ll be saving seed as soon as it appears ripe.