Three summers ago, in an impulsive act common to gardeners, I fell in love with the drawing on a packet of hollyhock seeds and bought them. The delicate illustration showed stalks of flowers of such an unusual purple-black that I knew I had to see them in actual bloom. Hollyhocks are tall flowers demanding space and full sun, both of which are lacking in my small urban plot. But when has reality ever deterred love? I found a space along the bamboo fence that gets a few hours of afternoon sun, and I carefully lined up all the seeds in the packet and planted them per instruction. I waited and eventually two tentative stalks emerged. I watered and watched them as big, round leaves appeared. Both plants reached the height of one foot and stopped. A few more leaves circled the middle of each, and that was it for the season. Hollyhocks are self-sowers, but without blooms there can be no seeds. I bid them goodbye as the frosts appeared, though I couldn’t resist a stern lecture on their ingratitude. I would just cross hollyhocks off the list of plants able to survive in my garden. To my complete surprise, the two plants reappeared the following summer, though they repeated their disappointing performance. Well enough of this, I thought last fall. I know when I’m being manipulated. Something prevented me from pulling them out, and now I’m glad I resisted the urge. This week the first flowers appeared, and as promised, their color is a sultry black tinged with purple. I wasn’t prepared for the alluring spray of pink stamens bursting from the center, though. Ah love!