I think of stock as one of the most beautiful flowers I grow. Granted, I say that about a lot of flowers including peonies, lisianthus, and dahlias. But stock has a lot going for it. It has scent!! In the rush to create multiple flower varieties, breeders have all but lost the scent of many flowers. I will often add herbs to a bouquet as mint or basil or dill just for that very reason. Another option is to add scented geranium, of which there are many varieties with differing scents. However, you don’t need to add any additional scent if using stock.
Stock is super easy to grow ( I know you’ve heard that before as well!). Plant each seed in the middle of a soil block, or 6 pack chamber, and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, or if you don’t have that use potting mix. They need a little light to germinate. Germination is quick, 5-6 days, with usually 100% germination. I have been putting them in the ground when they are still quite tiny, and they have done fine. They like cool conditions so now in early spring is the best time to plant them. It is possible to plant a crop in late summer to bloom in the cooler temps of the fall. At that time I’m usually harvesting dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, and ornamental cabbage, to name a few, and don’t bother with a late crop of stock.
Stock can be purchased in single color varieties as white, yellow, red, purple, lavender, and pink, or as a mix. Many varieties of stock will produce 90% double flowers which are truly beautiful, others may havea 50/50 mixture of double and single flowers. The singles are quaint in an old fashioned garden way. You can “ select” for doubles which means culling out all the single seedlings. That is a lot of work and if you want to do it (I don’t) leave all the grey/ green seedlings and cull the green ones.
Returning to smell, stock left in the vase too long will develop a cabbage like smell, so change the water every other day, and use a commercial flower food if available. Stock is part of the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli) so that makes sense. You can plant stock pretty close in the garden. I usually plant 2-3 starts in a 6 inch square area, and will sucessively start stock each week, to insure I have a harvest that lasts a while. It is a “once and done” flower, meaning one plant produces one stem. Cut each stem when about 2/3 of the flowers are open on the stem. The upper most flowers will open in the vase, similarly to snaps.
Enjoy stock! A truly beautiful addition to a cutting garden.
Carrie Kling, Master Gardener
Windy Acres Horticulture, a specialty cut flower farm
Flowers for events, CSA, florists