The pretty candy colours and spicy fragrance of Stock,Mathiola incana, and its many hybrid cultivars have earned this attractive relative of the cabbage a treasured spot in many airy and drier, sunny, well drained gardens.
The dwarf 10 Week Stock are excellent for bedding and containers. These are very hardy annual cultivars which are easily grown from seed or seedling. Their diminutive size of roughly 30cm/1ft. make them ideal for bedding borders and containers.
The taller Brompton, Trysonomic, and Giant Perfection Stock and its many hybrid cultivars make bushy hedge plants or intermediate near-shrubs to 1m/3+ft in the border. These are usually grown as biennials. They are started from seed or seedling in the Spring/Summer/Autumn/Early Winter for flowering the following Spring and Summer. In ideal micro-climates these shrubby varieties can sometimes live on as short-lived perennials.
The Giant Column Stock are the most brilliant cut flowers. These spectacular hybrids usually produce one enormous long and thick spike of sweetly clove-scented blooms on a robust stem. Seed starts easily in flats or pots placed in a sheltered spot, cold frame or glasshouse. And these are true glasshouse favorites, being produced by the millions for the commercial florist trade each year.
In the garden, Giant Column Stock can be a bit more temperamental as its heritage is as a hybrid glasshouse cultivar and seldom do outdoor conditions rival the constant and controlled environmental conditions of the glasshouse. Still in mild or moderate climates which experience almost no frost or freezing weather and sunny drier conditions, these can put on a remarkable performance.
Stock really thrive in constant cool and dry, sunny spots. Just like most of their Brassicas relatives (Cabbages, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Mustard, Radish , Turnip and Horseradish) these are cool-season plantings which quickly bolt into seed with the arrival of hot weather. Consequently, they are often planted during these cooler months as seedlings with the intent of their springing into bloom in the earlier days of Spring into Summer before the heat arrives.
Growing instructions are the same as for Broccoli, Cabbages, etc. Provide an organically enriched soil with plenty of minerals. They require a 'sweet' soil with a high pH so dig in plenty of lime along with aged manure and mature compost. Side dressing growing plants with a general balanced garden fertiliser such as 10-10-10 will keep them growing strongly. And this is very important. Just like their more edible relatives, if ever their growth is checked, they often stunt permanently, so keep them growing strongly at all times.
Stock flowers are produced as single female and double male blooms on separate plants. The single flowers are most graceful and somewhat willowy, while the males are surely the showmen. When grown from seed, single-flowered seedlings often outnumber the males. The easiest way to tell them apart is to observe the growth habit as the young seedlings develop. Single flowering female plants are usually a bit willowy and taller with very thin leaves. The males are much stockier with broader and thicker leaves.
Prick out seedlings when young. Overcrowding and over-watering must be avoided. Later transplant into a well-dug soil rich in lime, old manure, and a dusting of good general plant food. Sowing high quality seed and maintaining the plants in constant, healthy growth will result in a successful crop of the largest fully double blooms.
For beautiful, large spikes pinch out all side shoots. Bushier plants come from nipping out the central leader. In mild climates with little severe frosts or freezing, seed planted now in Late Autumn/Early Winter and kept warm and growing strongly will begin flowering in Early Spring. Advanced seedlings transplanted now will [possible begin to flower much sooner if planted in a warm, sheltered corner.
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