Let me share a few things about this plant, some learned, some experienced. The learned facts first.

French mallow originated in Europe and is as almost as old as written history. Some varieties are used as edible leafy vegetables and feature in traditional dishes from around the shores of the Mediterranean. The French name of this plant, mauve de bois, was chosen by William Perkin (the inventor of the first synthetic dye) around the mid-nineteenth century to define the specific purple hue which is the only color these wild flowers come in.

French Mallow is a biennial plant that thrives in sunny open fields and as any naturalized wild flower is very low maintenance. Like its cousin the hollyhock it has emollient properties, which makes it a great ingredient for cosmetics and topical applications to soothe inflammation and bruising. The flowers yield a natural cream color on textiles and the fibers of the plant can be used for the production of paper.

Now the experienced facts. If these plants show up in your garden, on purpose or by chance, plan the garden around them, because they will never go away. I planted a few seeds three years ago, and their descendents are still going strong. They are wild, relentless, taller than their surroundings and unaffected by anything. It is a great thing they are pretty and a purple flower border looks very nice up close or from a distance.

The reason for this resilience is their unbelievable fertility. Each one of their pretty flowers turns into a little wheel of seeds (a nutlet or a cheese - mallows are nicknamed cheese flower for this reason) that spreads easily when dry. They bloom all summer and reseed all summer. If you want to keep any semblance of control over your flower border but would like to cultivate these plants, make sure to deadhead them as soon as the blossoms fade, which is not an easy task, because their flowers are many and form thickets.

They need a lot of room to grow, of course, which they make for themselves with their broad leaves growing close to the ground to smother the competition. Frankly, between the nicotiana and the French mallow you won't even have to bother planning your garden, because they'll take up all the available space.

If the first vegetative season is unusually long, like it happened this year, they will bloom very late during the first year, which is an uncommon occurrence for a biennial plant.

Do I regret planting these heirloom flowers in my garden? Absolutely not, are you kidding?

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.