1130 Matthiola incanaCommon Names: stock, gillyflower, Brompton stock Family: Brassicaceae (cabbage Family)
Wild stock and the many cultivars and hybrids are mostly short-lived, semi-woody subshrubs grown in beds, borders and containers for their sprightly colorful and fragrant flowers. Although the species is technically a biennial, many of the cultivars are grown as annuals. Leaves are 2-6 in (5-15 cm) long and gray-hairy. The flowers are borne in dense, upright clusters 8-30 in (20-75 cm) tall. Individual flowers are about an inch (2.5 cm) across, and may be white, yellow, pink, red, violet, purple, or even blue. Wild plants have single flowers, but most of the cultivars have double flowers, some extremely so, almost like rosettes.
Most types have a spicy clovelike fragrance. There are many groups and series of cultivars and hybrids available in the trade. Some are short, some tall, some with double flowers, most include flowers with a range of colors, all are pretty. Look for the Trisomic hybrids, which bloom early and get 30 in (75 cm) tall; the Miracle Series which get 3 ft (1 m) tall; the Midget Series which get only about 10 in (25 cm) tall; the Sentinel Series which include blue colored flowers; and the Cheerful Hybrids which include yellow flowers.
The original, wild Matthiola incana is native to the Mediterranean region in southern and western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
CultureSome of the taller cultivars of stock may need support. Light: Grow stock in full sun or light shade. Moisture: Grow stock in moist, but well drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 8. Propagation: Grow most cultivars of stock as annuals, planting seeds in early spring. Some cultivars are better treated as biennials, and they should be planted in summer, overwintered with protection, and planted out the following spring. Where summers are not hot and humid, sow seeds in situ; otherwise, start in containers indoors in winter, then plant out after the last frost.
Stock cultivars are used as bedding plants in spring and summer. They tend to suffer in hot, humid summers, but some types rebound during the cooler days of autumn. Plantings of stock add masses of color to borders and beds. They are good as long lasting cut flowers in bouquets, and they make fine container plants.
Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) is one of my favorite plant families, and I take a lot of stock in broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cabbage, kolrahbi, and all the other wonderful, edible brassicas, as well as the ornamental ones like nasturtium and alyssum. The family includes more than 3000 species, divided into some 390 genera, and is cosmopolitan in distribution.
Steve Christman 2/1/11