ArtQuartet News – Summer 2024

©Summer Sunflowers, Sally Parker, ArtQuartet


by Sally Parker

Welcome to my Summer blog.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Summer has finally arrived in Wiltshire, bringing warmer and drier weather. I’ve been taking advantage of this beautiful season to explore, observe, and gather inspiration for my painting and storytelling.

This season, I’m focusing on hollyhocks in the ‘Healing Garden’. These fascinating plants have always captivated me, and they are the stars of the first painting in my new collection.

Stay tuned for more updates and insights into my creative process!

Salisbury Hospital Exhibition

I was very pleased that my painting was selected for Artcare’s hospital exhibition which opened on 3rd May and finishes on 21st June. The vibrant exhibition of paintings has provided an array of colour and hopefully upliftment for patients, staff and visitors.



Hollyhock photo
©’Hollyhocks in the garden’, photo by Sally Parker

Hollyhocks in the Cottage Garden

Gardens in summer are a constant delight, often showcasing a range of colours and forms, which constantly change before our eyes. Known as a cottage garden favourite, Common Hollyhocks belong to the genus Alcea rosea, the Malvaceae (mallow) family.

Healing Properties of ‘Mallow’

If you’ve read my book, Four Noble Ladies of the River Garden, you might recall my haiku poem ‘Hollyhocks’, where I describe these plants as ‘wild mallow roses’. Pliny the Elder, the Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher, mentioned the healing properties of mallow in his work Naturalis Historia (Natural History). However, although the marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) and the hollyhock are related, they are distinct plants. Although hollyhocks were used in the past to soothe irritations and inflammations, however, they are not as commonly used in modern herbal medicine.

Manuscripts and Illustrations

Anne of Brittany [1477-1514], queen of France, patron of artists and poets commissioned a beautiful manuscript called the Book of Hours. The carefully studied and painted illustrations of the hollyhocks were described as ‘roses d’oustremer‘ or roses from overseas. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘hoc‘ means ‘mallow’. Great Herbal publication by William Turner, described them as “holyoke” from Middle English ‘holy‘ or ‘blessed’ from the ‘Holy Land’. During the Crusades, the plants were used as a salve for the hind legs or “hocks” of injured horses.


The tall-stemmed hollyhocks, with their range of coloured flowers, have been associated with various symbolic meanings across cultures. Folklore often links them to abundance, fertility, and protection. The way they emerge in the most unlikely places, pushing through cracks in the pavement may be the reason why Victorian floriography associated them with the attributes of ambition and fruitfulness.

With this in mind, hollyhocks therefore seemed a perfect choice to include in my first painting of a new series. I love the form of hollyhocks as they are very similar to roses with their romantic flouncy petals.

Sally Parker painting in the studio
©Sally Parker painting in the studio

Lastly, I have chosen this poem to share with you as I like how Effie suggests that hollyhocks can evoke memories with their humble presence and yet emphasise the fleeting beauty of life.


To-day as I sit by my window
With an unread book in my hand,
My hollyhocks close by the lattice
Are beautiful and grand.
I think of an old-time garden,
No other flowers were there,
Except the hollyhocks growing
Without tending, thought or care.
They were masses of bloom in summer,
So beautiful and so high,
And swayed and nodded coyly
To all the passers-by.
The house that stood in that garden —
Its keeper is dead and gone! —
But around it still in summer time
The hollyhocks bloom on.

Effie Waller Smith (1879-1960)

I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season!

With best wishes,

Sally Parker, ArtQuartet

If you have a particular favourite tree or flower and would like me to include it in forthcoming seasonal blogs, please let me know.


Jane Mathieson, (Elizabeth Gaskell House) 2023