'Vicky's Vintage Violet' Stocks
Origin: Philomath, Oregon
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~60
Germination tested 11/2023: 91%
Life cycle: Annual
Stocks, or "gillyflowers", are a beloved old-fashioned garden plant in the Brassica (cabbage) family. Native to southern Europe, from the Balearic islands to the former Yugoslavia, it is commonly found growing out of stone walls and on cliff faces. It's typically grown as an ornamental, but the whole plant is edible as well. The leaves are boiled as a potherb or dried and ground and used to flavor and thicken sauces, stews and soups. Seedpods are eaten raw or cooked. The seeds themselves are used as a coffee substitute or as a baking powder substitute. Germinating shoots and tender shoots are eaten. The edible flowers are often used as a pretty and fragrant garnish for salads.
This most-ornamental variety is the result of many generations of breeding work aimed at increasing the number of "doubles," which are flowers with at least twice the normal number of petals. This variety should have at least 50% doubles, or even over 60%. Wild Garden Seeds reported that a recent grow-out of this variety was over two thirds doubles!
Wikipedia has a great write-up on the complicated genetics of the double-flowering trait in this plant:
"Double-flowered stocks are prized by gardeners for their floral display but are sterile. They therefore have to be produced from the seed of single-flowered plants. The double-flowered form is caused by a recessive gene variant (allele) in the homozygous condition. Therefore, according to the Mendelian laws of genetics, heterozygous single-flowered stocks should produce one quarter doubles in their offspring and one third of the singles should be pure breeding singles incapable of throwing doubles.
"Selection over the centuries has greatly improved these ratios, resulting in the so-called "ever-sporting" stocks, in which pure-breeding singles are absent and the proportion of doubles is one half or greater. The reason was first worked out by the Danish geneticist Øjvind Winge. In these varieties, the singleness allele is closely linked to a pollen-lethal gene. Thus the pollen (male) contribution to seed is always a doubleness allele, while the female contribution is either a doubleness or a singleness allele. The result of this linkage is that doubles and singles are produced in 50:50 ratios and there are no pure-breeding singles.
"Furthermore, many modern strains produce doubles in even higher proportions: 60% or even 80%. This is due to generations of selection for further linked viability effects, producing higher mortality of heterozygous singles, relative to homozygous doubles."
Pretty cool, right?
GROWING TIPS: Plant in early spring, direct-seeded. Grows to around 15 inches tall. Likes cool weather.