[Named after Mathioli, an Italian physiciam.]
A perennial or biennial. The stem becoming woody at the base, and branching above; leaves smooth or downy. This species has produced many varieties, with different colored flowers, more or less double. The colors vary from straw color to pure white, and from rose to deep-purple and violet. It flowers in the winter or spring after sowing the seed, which if good will produce plants one-half of which or more will have double flowers. A variety is called M. perennis, the Perennial Stock. This species and its varieties will not endure our severe winters and are cultivated only as green-house or parlor plants.
This is an annual, and has produced a great number of varieties, some of which are even biennials, differing in habit, time of blooming and character of the leaf, while in color there is a great range of shades. Some of the German florists devote great attention to the Gilliflower, and have produced several distinct groups, the seeds of which are sold in collections of ten to thirty-six varieties. In the larger collections there are so many shades so nearly resembling one another, that the smaller packages with distinct colors are preferable.
The Pyramidal-flowering Stocks are among the finest of the annual sorts; of these there are: the Large-flowered Pyramidal Ten-week Stock; Large-flowered Branching ditto; New Dwarf Large-flowered ditto. Other varieties of the Ten-week Stock are: New Dwarf Bouquet, New Large-flowered Lavender-leaved, New Giant, Dwarf Early-flowered, Branching Loose-spiked, Wall flower-leaved, Miniature, which is two or three inches high, and others.
The Emperor or Perpetual-flowering, Hybrid Giant Cape or Corcadeau Stock, with all their variety of colors, are suitable only for the green-house or sitting-room; they do not flower the first season, and cannot be kept through our winters in the open ground.
William Cobbett, a celebrated English politician, in opposition to the government, left his country in disgust and settled on Long Island, N. Y., and amused himself in the cultivation of the soil. He was quite an enthusiast in this line, and published a book of some interest on the cultivation of vegetables, flowers, etc. In speaking of the cultivation of flowers, he says: "If I were to choose, amongst all the biennials and annuals, I should certainly choose the Stock. Elegant leaf, elegant plant, beautiful, showy, and most fragrant flower; and with suitable attention, blooms, even in the natural ground, from May to November in England, and from June to November here. The annuals are called the Ten-week Stocks, and of all these, there are, with a pea-green leaf, the red, white, purple, and scarlet; and then, there are of the same colors, with a Wall-flower, or sea-green leaf.
"Of the biennials there are the Brompton, of which there are the scarlet and the white, and the Twickenham, which is white. As to propagation, it is of course by seed only. If there be nothing but the natural ground to rely on, the sowing must be early; the earth very fine and rich. The seed is small and thin, and does not easily come up in coarse earth. If the plants come up thick, thin them when very young, and do not leave them nearer together than six inches. They, however, transplant very well; and those that have not place to blow in, may be removed, and a succession of bloom thus secured.
"If you have a green-house, glass-frame, or hand-glass, you get flowers six weeks earlier. The biennials are sown at the same time, and treated in the same way.
" They blow the second year; but if there be great difficulty in preserving them in the natural ground, through the winter, in England, what must it be here? Indeed, it cannot be done; and yet they are so fine, so lofty, and such masses of beautiful and fragrant flowers, and they continue so long in bloom, that they are worth any care and any trouble. There is but one way; the plants, when they get ten or a dozen leaves, must be put into flower-pots.
"These may be sunk in the earth, in the open ground, till November, [Long Island,] and when the sharp frosts come, the pots must be taken up and placed out of the reach of hard frosts, and where there is, however, sun and air. When the spring comes, the pots may be put out into the natural ground again; or, which is better, the balls of earth may be put into a hole made for the purpose; and thus the plants will be in the natural ground, to blow.
"In this country, they should be placed in the shade when put out again, for a very hot sun is apt to tarnish the bloom."
Thus much for Mr. Cobbet, but since his day the varieties have multiplied amazingly, many more varieties than any one would be likely to cultivate.
The double varieties of rich, distinct colors and pure white, greatly ornament the garden when grown in beds or masses. All the summer Stocks, except the early Ten-week, will be much'stronger and flower much earlier if forwarded in hot-beds, transplanted into pots, and turned out into the ground in June.