Selecting an unfamilar plant from the pages of a catalogue or nursery shelf is like going on a blind date. Sure, you can find out a little about your new acquaintance--dimensions (height and width), advertised habits (spreads aggressively or forms neat mounds), colors of various features (leaves, flowers, stems)--and maybe you even have a photograph to scrutinize. But examining vital statistics at arm's length and inviting your date to move in are dangerously different levels of commitment. And after roots have reached down through the soil, you might discover a surprising change of personality.
Case in point . . . my (big) mistake. A large-leafed hollyhock 'Nigra' (Alcea rosea), sitting awkwardly between a sedum "Autumn Joy," Siberian iris "King of Kings," and a peony from SF's Vermont homestead, looks out of place at this ladies' tea party. And can you believe that I initially planted three of these? The other two died. Meanwhile, this fellow is headed towards relationship termination. Hopefully, he won't spoil my longstanding romance with the adjacent larkspur on the way out.
My idea here was to re-create the line of hollyhocks that ran along the white picket fence of my childhood home. Those hollyhocks grew a long time ago and plant stock must have been greatly enhanced since then.