What do you do when there is a Polar Vortex swirling above you with temperatures near -30° F and 2-3 more months of winter ahead? You shop for seeds, of course!
Last summer, my annuals saved me from total despair as the midge ravaged our rose garden. The color and beauty they provided, not to mention the plethora of pollinators busying themselves from dawn to dusk in their petals, were a wake-up call to me. Annuals are so easy to grow, provide so much season-long beauty, and comparatively cost practically nothing. In the midst of garden-heartbreak (happens to the best of us) I realized I needed to shift my focus from rosesrosesroses and geez, just lighten up already!
Stocks have been one of my favorite flowers since I was a gardener in California growing plants like Jasminum polyanthum with the greatest of ease–a garden below zone 9 yet a twinkle in my eye. I recall one evening some friends of mine and I visited a grower in Half Moon Bay where there must have been acres of stocks all in bloom. I’m sure you can imagine the fragrance that greeted us. It was quite memorable and every time I smell a bouquet of these flowers I am transported back to that moment.
Last spring I purchased a packet of “Ten Week Bouquet” from Renee’s Garden and added them to my little greenhouse along with my usuals. I’d never grown stocks from seed before but found it to be pretty easy so if you’re new to that as well, give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. They were planted out in May and flowered until the end of June until the temperatures started to crank up and then they went kaput. Looking ahead, it might have been better to have started my Calendula earlier so that I could replace the spent stocks when they were pulled and/or mix in more Cosmos among them to fill in the gaps of color. (I did an experiment with a few plants and pinched them back after the main flush of blooms. They did produce a couple more flowers after that, but it wasn’t much and I don’t think it was worth it. You could also try letting them go to seed and resowing themselves in your garden. If you do, let me know how that goes!)
These “Ten Week Bouquet” stocks looked gorgeous underplanted with our roses so if you’re looking for a spring-early summer companion plant in pretty shades of pinks and purples, these might be worth a go!