The spicy scent and long lasting flowers that come part and parcel with being a stock make it a favourite for gardens and then, ultimately, even cut flowers for your favourite vases. Its botanical name, Matthiola incana, was bestowed for Pietro Andrea Matthioli, a 16th century Italian physician and naturalist who first identified it. Even though it’s a Mediterranean native, it is now found all over the world, such is its popularity with gardening lovers.
It was shipped off to England and extensively bred immediately after being identified and named.
According to the language of flowers, stocks symbolise bonds of affection and promptness with a meaning that reads “You’ll always be beautiful to me”. The common name for the most popular variety for bedding is the ten-week-old stock which, as per its name, flowers approximately 10 weeks after planting and could plausibly have some tie to the ‘promptness’ reference.
Not being the easiest of annuals to grow, it is advisable to buy seedlings that are already established and ready to rock in your rockeries and be rolled out into your beds. An important tip to remember if you’re already a stock lover and buy them every year, is not to plant them in the same bed as you did previously.
The soil needs to be left to rest and recover from what is taken out the previous year and can then be used again.
Stocks love sunning themselves in full sun but can handle semi-shade too. Tolerating harsh frosts is one of their plusses with the other major draw card being their scented blooms which are a winner as cut flowers and used indoors during winter and spring. Stocks are not huge on maintenance but regular watering and feeding will make your display come alive with colourful and vibrant flower displays.
Seedlings should be spaced around a 30cm apart into soil that has a healthy dose of compost and fertiliser to give them the best kick start. Depending on the variety, the can grow anywhere from 30cm to 70cm so be sure to check that out before you go and plant a really tall variety in the front of a bed or a really short one behind other taller annuals.
Whether your rockery needs some colour, your flower bed needs a front or back border or just a sunny spot that could do with some brightening up, stocks will do the trick.
Available in colours from purple and rose to cream and white, pop into your local garden centre, grab a few trays and stock up those beds!