The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening Vol. 6 (1887)

George Nicholson, John Garrett, James William Helenus Trail

STOCKS (Mathiola). Stocks are well-known and very popular plants with every class of cultivators, because of their beauty for flowering in pots and in the open border, and of the sweet perfume which their flowers emit; . There are several distinct classes or types, all of which have been greatly improved, in course of time, by florists and seedsmen in this country and on the Continent. The different types may readily be divided into Summer and Winter Stocks, the former embracing the whole of the Ten-weeks varieties, and the latter the Brompton, East Lothian, and Intermediate types.

The greater portion of the Ten-week Stock seed is imported annually from the Continent, in spring. It is well to divide the supply, and Bow a part towards the end of March, and the rest during April; the least heat from fermenting material is of great help in assisting and hastening germination. So Boon as the seedlings appear above ground, plenty of air must be given during favourable weather, and water should be carefully applied, as damping and mildew generally prove very destructive sources of evil. If either commence an attack, the best thing is to prick off all the uninjured plants, about 3in. apart, in new soil. Advantage should be taken to transfer Stocks from a frame into the open border during showery weather; it cannot be done very successfully at any other time, unless the plants have been prepared in small pots. The soil for Stocks can scarcely be too rich; it should, therefore, be well dug and manured; and a top-dressing of leaf mould or short manure is also of great benefit in affording nourishment, and preventing evaporation during dry weather. Summer Stocks are not generally grown in pots; they form good beds outside, when the plants succeed, and their flowers are excellent for cutting.

Of Winter Stocks, the most extensively cultivated are the Intermediate and the East Lothian Intermediate; the latter succeeds well in Scotland. The Brompton Stocks are very vigorous; they flower about May and June, and the seed should be sown nearly a year in advance, or not later than the early part of July. It is always safer to preserve a quantity of plants in cold frames during winter, than to place them outside; they usually suffer more from excessive moisture than from cold. Stocks intended for flowering in pots, should be inserted singly, in small thumbs, early in autumn, and plunged in ashes, in a cold frame. When sufficiently established, and in need of more space, they should be transferred into 5in. pots; this is generally done late in autumn, or early in the following spring, when the double and single-flowered plants can be distinguished from each other. The Intermediate and East Lothian varieties should be selected for cultivating in pots in preference to the Brompton; they have a branching yet compact habit, and flower profusely. The soil used for potting should be of a loamy description, with nearly one-fourth of sifted old mortar intermixed. When the plants are growing, plenty of water is requisite, and manure water is of great help when the flower-buds are developing. Stocks kept in frames through winter, for planting into outside borders, should be transferred to their permanent quarters during March, or as soon afterwards as the weather is considered favourable for their well-being.

Saving Seed for Producing Double Flowers. The following remarks are extracted from the appendix to Dr. M. T. Masters' classical work, "Vegetable Teratology," published by the Bay Society in 1869. The reader is also referred to a leading article in the "Gardeners' Chronicle," 1866, p. 74, and to a separate work by Mons. E. Chaté, "Traite des Giroflées." The last-named author observes that the gardeners of Erfurt "have, for a long time, to a certain extent, monopolised the sale of seeds of these plants. To obtain these seeds, the Erfurt gardeners cultivate the flowers in pots, and place them on shelves, in large greenhouses, giving them only sufficient water to prevent them from dying. So cultivated, the plants become weakened, the pods shortened, and the seeds less numerous, and better ripened; and these seeds give from sixty to seventy per cent. of double flowers. The seeds from these plants are said to be mostly of an abnormal shape, which is so striking that experienced cultivators are able to separate those which would furnish double flowers from those which would produce single ones."

M. Chaté's method, which he calls the French one, gives still greater results, viz.: eighty per cent. of double flowers, and these produced by very simple means. "When my seeds," he observes, "have been chosen with care, I plant them, in the month of April, in good dry mould, in a position exposed to the morning sun, this position being the most favourable. At the time of flowering, I nip off some of the flowering branches, and leave only ten or twelve pods on the secondary branches, taking care to remove all the small weak branches which shoot at this time. I leave none but the principal and secondary branches to bear the pods. All the sap is employed in nourishing the seeds thus borne, which give a result of eighty per cent. of double flowers. The pods, under this management, are thicker, and their maturation is more perfect. At the time of extracting the seeds, the upper portion of the pod is separated and placed aside, because it has been ascertained that the plants coming from the seeds situated in this portion of the pod give eighty per cent. of single flowers. They yield, however, greater variety than the others. This plan of suppressing that part of the pod which yields single flowers in the largest proportion, greatly facilitates the recognition of the single-flowered plants, because there remains to be eliminated from among the seedlings only from ten to fifteen per cent."

This separation of the single from the double-flowered plants. M. Chaté tells us, is not so difficult as might be supposed. The Single Stocks, he explains, have deep green leaves (glabrous in certain species), rounded at the top, the heart being in the form of a shuttlecock, and the plant stout and thickset in its general aspect; while the plants yielding double flowers have very long leaves of a light green colour, hairy, and curled at the edges, the heart consisting of whitish leaves, curved so that they completely inclose it.

Such is the substance of M. Chaté's method of securing so large a proportion of double-flowered plants, and then of separating them from the remaining single ones—a method which commends itself to the good sense of the intelligent cultivator.

Another plan for the separation of the single from the double-flowered plants, in vogue amongst a class of cultivators, is the degustation of the buds, that is to say, the chewing of the young buds: the single plants can be recognised by their crispness and greater consistence, and can thus be weeded out. The disadvantage attending this method is that the plants, single as well as double, must all be grown up to the period when these buds are tolerably well advanced.