Who would have guessed that a flower so sweet smelling and beautiful looking could actually be related to cabbage! Well, it’s true. The beautiful stock flower with its long, thickly petaled stems is a member of the Brassicaceae family – the plant family famous for its health benefits far more than its olfactory delights. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the petals (though not the leaves/stems) are edible (and arguably prettier in a salad than kale).
Known in Elizabethan times as Gillyflower, stock – Matthiola incana – is native to the Mediterranean and was named after Italian botanist and physician Dr Pietro Andrea Mattioli by Scottish Botanist Robert Brown. Mattioli was the personal physician to Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, and Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, and was active in expanding the field of plant science (and also holds the honour of describing the first case of cat allergy).
In floristry, stock is extremely popular, both as a filler and a stand-alone bloom en masse due to its scent, shape and beautiful colours (white, yellow, pink, red, purple). For these reasons, and because its flower meaning is everlasting beauty and happy life, it is popular for weddings, especially winter weddings, as it thrives in cooler weather.
Stock have a vase life of around 7 days, but take care to keep water fresh and foliage above the water line, as otherwise, it will quickly turn slimy and get a bit on the nose (and that is when you really come to understand that they are part of the cabbage family!). Stock love room around their blooms, so choose a vase with a generous opening to allow for this otherwise, mildew can form, shorting the vase-life.