The Brompton Stocks are stalwarts of Victorian gardening, being in cultivation for well over a hundred years. Robust, branching, fast-growing, vigorous plants, they are wonderful for flowering in late spring and early summer.
These upright bushy, early flowering biennials produce gloriously scented flowers in a good colour range which are splendid for cutting.….and as so often happens, the extra patience required for growing the plants as biennials will be rewarded by plants of a much finer quality, particularly if over-wintered in a cold frame.
Sowing: Sow in early spring to early summer or sow in autumn.
Matthiola incana can be grown either as an annual or a biennial. Seeds be sown indoors in pots or can be sown directly outdoors where they are to flower
They can be grown as an annual and planted early in spring, for flowering in late summer through autumn.
Grown as a biennial, they can be planted later in the year and overwintered to give flowers the following spring. The extra trouble of overwintering the plants is more than compensated by the showy spring floral display.
If seed is sown in succession, they will provide continuous flowering. Stocks also make magnificent winter flowering pot plants for the cold greenhouse.
Seed can be sown directly outdoors in spring, and in mild-winter regions they can be also sown in late summer/autumn. This later sowing will often produce flowers in winter as well as spring. (The plants will take moderate frost but will not set flower buds if the nights are very cold).
Sow in a good free draining compost, but do not exclude light, which is beneficial to germination. Germination usually takes 8 to 12 days at 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F). Transplant indoor plants when large enough to handle. Grow on under cooler conditions at about 10 to 15°C (50 to 59°F). Gradually acclimatise pot grown plants to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days and plant out 30cm (12in) apart after mid-May. Find a sunny position for them in well-drained soil.
Stocks originated in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands but thrive in our climate and can even withstand a light frost. The plants need a position in full sun with moist well-drained soil, they will benefit from a light dressing of lime. The taller species will need staking and should be sited in a protected position where they will be sheltered from wind. Where winter rainfall is heavy, plant in raised beds for good drainage.
The flowers open from the bottom of the spike upwards and are valued for their spicy sweet perfume. They are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds and perfect for cut flower arranging.
Stocks can have a vase life of up to four weeks. However, you need to be careful to regularly change the water, remove any foliage below the water line to prevent slime growing, add flower food and recut the stems.
Flowers can be dried by hanging in a dry spot out of direct sun. The deeper shades hold their colour best. The fragrance also endures.
Cottage/Informal Gardens. Flowers Borders and Beds, Coastal. Cut flower arranging.
Named for the 16th century Italian naturalist and physician, Pietro Andrea Matthioli (1500 to 1577) who first identified Matthiola incana. He was renowned for his botanical as well as his medical knowledge. This is quite an honour for the Stock flower, as Matthioli was also the first European to identify the Golden Apple, better known as the Tomato.
The species name incana means gray or white with, or as if with age and refers to the downy leaves.
This species develops a woody base in areas where it grows as a biennial or short-lived perennial, hence the common name of Stock.
Imported into England immediately after its discovery and identification, Matthiola incana was bred extensively and soon became a favourite in English gardens. It wasn’t until the 19th century that William Townsend Aiton identified it as a member of the Brassicaceae, the mustard family.
Gerard wrote, "...a pleasant purple colour, and the others white...we have some that beare double floures, which are of divers colours, greatly esteemed for the beautie of their floures, and pleasant sweet smell."
Sea stocks, wallflowers and wall-gillyflowers are old English names. Gillyflower or gillofloure, as John Gerard spelled it in 1597, also referred to pinks and sweet williams. The Elizabethans called them "Stockgilloflowers" for their carnation, of gilliflower-like fragrance and woody "stock" or stem. Today, Stock is the vernacular for species of Matthiola and in particular, Matthiola incana
Stocks were once grown for medicinal purposes, and a comment attributed to Pierandrea Mattioli that he grew these plants only for matters of love and lust, suggests the medicine had much to do with the scent.
Gerard had little respect for the medicinal use of stock. "...they are not used...except by Empericks (empirics, practicing medicine by intuition or experience) and Quacksalvers (vain pretenders to medical skill), about love and lust matters, which for modestie I omit."
Matthiola is a genus of 55 species. Matthiola incana is a short-lived perennial, native to the lands along the Mediterranean from Spain to Turkey and south to Egypt. It is a plant of rocky cliffs and harsh dry land.
In the US, Jefferson listed 'Gilliflower' as a hardy perennial in 1771.
Over the years, a huge number of stock varieties have been developed, mostly hybrids involving M. incana, M. sinuata and M. odorata. Strict species plants are no longer available.
The annual variety, M. annua will bloom quickly and has fragrant, double flowers. M. longipetala bicornis (Night-scented stock) is an annual that bears single pale violet flowers that emit a pervasive sweet scent each night.
For horticultural purposes, the stock, Matthiola incana has four cultivar lineages.
Modern varieties of stock derive from various interbreeding among the species Matthiola incana, M. odorata and M. sinuata. The blooms are often doubled and come in almost every colour except true blue and orange.
They may be treated either as annuals or biennials. If treated as annuals they give a fine late summer and autumn display. Treated as a biennial they will flower in spring.
The Brompton varieties. Robust, fast-growing, vigorous plants, branching and usually treated as biennials. One of today's most popular cultivars, the Brompton, was bred in the Brompton Gardens in London, site of the present day South Kensington museums. (Occasionally incorrectly spelt Brampton). Brompton stock produce 60 to 80cm (25 to 30in) flower spikes.
Intermediate varieties. Similar to Bromptons but are of a dwarfer habit.
Sometimes called "East Lothian" stocks, as they originated in southern Scotland.
Column varieties. Grown for the floral industry.
Column stock refers to cultivars that grow tall with narrow, unbranched flower spikes, making them ideal cut flowers for production in fields or greenhouses. They grow 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) tall.
Ten Week Stocks. Fast growing, the Ten-week Stocks are usually grown as annuals and sown in spring to give a good summer flower display. Of the Ten Week line, there are a number of named series, some tall, up to 60cm (24in), and others dwarf, under 30cm (12in) and spread 15 to 25cm (6 to10in).
The commercial cultivation of double flowered stocks is fairly complicated but there is a method that the industry uses to be able to select double flowered forms. You can have a go yourself and select them to suit your own taste.
After sowing them indoors at around 18°C (68°F) in March-April, they allow the temperature to fall drastically after that, and note which seedlings develop a dark green colour; these are the single-flowered plants. Those which remain light green are the double-flowered varieties.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 200mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Family Brassicaceae Genus Matthiola Species incana Cultivar Lady Mix Common Name Brompton Stocks, Winter Stocks Hardiness Hardy Biennial Flowers Mix of Pink / Rose / Mauve / Purples Natural Flower Time Late Spring to Early Summer Height 45cm (18in) Spacing 15-22cm. (6-9in) Position Full Sun to Partial Shade Time to Sow Sow in late spring to early summer. Germination 8 to 12 days at 15-18°C (60-65°F).