Stock

COMMON NAME:  stock
GENUS:  Matthiola
SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS:
M. incana   ‘Trysomic Seven Weeks’-blooms in seven weeks from seed.
FAMILY:  Cruciferae
BLOOMS:  spring
TYPE:  annual
DESCRIPTION:  Stock is as easy to identify from its perfume as from its appearance. The fragrance is strong and spicy. Flowering stalks are 2 to 3 feet tall and bear many large blossoms. Colors include white, yellow, pink, rose, purple, and lavender.
CULTIVATION:  Sow stock seeds outdoors in a sunny spot with light, well-drained soil that is high in fertility. In areas with a mild climate, seeds can be sown in late fall. Water the plants regularly.

Wild stock has grown on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight for centuries. Sea-going men used the leaves and roots on their voyages to ward off scurvy, for stock is high in vitamins.
The botanical name reflects the medicinal value of stock, for the genus was named for an Italian botanist and physician, Pietro Andrea Matthioli {1501-1577}, who wrote many papers and books on medicinal botany. He was royal physician to Roman Emperor Maximilian ll and used stock only for “matters of love and lust.” The common name comes from the Latin word stoce, which means “trunk or stick,” and is, perhaps, descriptive of the straight flowering stalk.
This plant was often found growing within ancient castle walls. Manuscripts dating back to 1578 describe stock; one praises the “beautie of the flowers and pleasant sweete smell.” The fragrance of the flowers is still quite pleasing, particularly that of the night scented stock, M. bicornis. Its scent fills the air, making the garden a place of magic in the early evening.
In the late 1600’s, gardeners believed they would get the fullest blooms from this plant by sowing the seeds in April on a night when the moon was full. On the next full moon, they dug up the seedlings, added sand to the earth, and replanted them immediately.
During Elizabethan times, stock was known as stock-gilloflowers. Gilloflowers was a favorite name for carnations, and the scent of stock is similar to that of carnations. Shakespeare wrote of “streaked gillovors,” obviously referring to cultivated bi-colored forms.

Purple stock makes a wonderful blue dye, and all colors make good cut flowers.

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