This genus contains many beautiful species and varieties of plants, with fragrant, handsome flowers, which have been so much hybridized by florists, that it would puzzle a botanist to define the species in most of the cultivated sorts. The German stocks are very much celebrated for the great variety of their color and size of their flowers.
I give Cobbett's description and mode of cultivation of this: fine tribe: "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 these there are, with a pea-green leaf, the red, white, purple, and scarlet; and then, there are all 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 purple.
"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."