They are frothy indulgence, like adding an extra scoop of ice-cream on to an already towering cone or using half a bottle of bubble bath on a rainy afternoon. Stocks flowers are one of our favourites for adding a pastel pop of colour to any display and, did you know, you can make their gorgeous scent last by air drying them? There’s so much more to this popular flower than first meets the eye…
Where are stocks from?
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but stocks, also known as the Gillyflower, are part of the Brassicaceae family, aka the cabbage family. Considering other relatives include mustard, broccoli and turnips stocks are definitely the prettier, flouncier sister!
Originally native to South Africa and some parts of the Meditteranean, they were first brought over to Europe by the Italian botanist and doctor named Pietro Andrea Mattioli – who is said to have cultivated this bloom because he believed it possessed medicinal values. This is also how they got their botanical name Matthiola incana.
However, the different array of colours of stocks didn’t happen until the the 19th century, when stock flowers became increasingly popular among the weavers of Upper Saxony. They tried minimising cross-pollination that would ultimately lead to colour dilution, and were successful. Each village was assigned a particular colour and within each village, gardeners would cultivate flowers of their assigned colour only. Today you’ll find stocks in everything from peach to vivid lilac.
What’s the history behind stocks?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pay our mortgage in flowers? During the middle ages that’s exactly what stocks were used for. In England, stock was used as currency in feudal tenure contracts, the blooms were deposited while buying land or paying rent. Historical records state that in 13th century Kent, landowner and diplomat Bartholomew de Madlesmere was paid by King Edward I in clove gilliflowers.
While Shakespeare immortalised their beauty in The Winter’s Tale, with Perdita’s line praising the flower, saying: The fairest flowers of the season/Are our carnations and streak’d gillyvors.” We definitely have to agree.
Are stock flowers edible?
If you smell them they have a peppery-clovey scent, that translates when placed in food. As the flowers are edible and make a wonderful addition to summer salads, adding that pepper-like flavour (as well as a beautiful flourish.) However, we’d advise you keep ours just for your vases, as they’re too pretty to eat… and specific edible stocks available from supermarkets will be a much better option.
What do the stock flowers represent?
Placed in an arrangement, these flowers overflow with charm and beauty – and that’s pretty much exactly what they mean in the Victorian Language of Flowers. Individually the colours mean different things but collectively they symbolise overflowing affection and contentment.
What do Freddie’s Flowers match stocks with?
To create that floral ice-cream feel, we love to use stocks flowers in our early summer arrangements, pairing them with peonies. They have a gorgeous aroma so we’d recommend keeping your arrangement in a hallway, so as to be blasted with their scent each time you enter or leave your home.
Also, remember to trip the stocks lower leaves so no leaves are below the water line, to keep the arrangement fresher for longer. They also look wonderful cut down into smaller arrangements or bud vases. That can then be popped around the house for some extra floral flare. Then, to truly make the very most of them, know that stocks air-dry beautifully when they are tied loosely and hung upside down in a warm, well-ventilated area. If they’re dried fast enough, their fresh scent will be preserved along with them.
Where do we source our stocks from?
A lovely small family business, run by our wonderful grower Sue Lamb in Lincolnshire. We have been partners with Sue for years, she first provides our Spring boxes with tulips and, come summer, her farm is growing the array of colourful stocks you’ll find in your boxes. Using recycled rain water to quench the buds on her farm, she’s definitely one of our favourite growers.