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Virginian stocks are probably one of the easiest of all plants to grow from seed, thriving in part shade to full sun.

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Virginian Stock 'Enchanted Evening' picture courtesy www.mayford.co.zaVirginian Stock 'Enchanted Evening' picture courtesy www.mayford.co.zaThis delightful little annual is hardy and deserves a place in every winter and spring garden. Not only does it flower profusely in delightful shades of pink, rose red, lilac and creamy-white, but it also smells heavenly. It must be the easiest annual to grow and quickly produces small bushes +-20 to 30cm tall and 10 to 15cm wide.

Malcolmia maritima is a popular annual garden plant from the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family and native to South Albania and Greece. It is naturalized in France, the Iberian Peninsula, the Apennine Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula. Because it occurs in sandy maritime habitats and in waste places, the species name “maritima” refers to this plant’s affinity for the seashore. The genus name “Malcomia” honours William Malcom, the founder of a seed company based in 18th century London.

In the Garden:

Virginian stocks need to be sown in mass to be really effective in the garden, and go perfectly with all spring-time bloomers, especially bulbs. Try sowing them on top of taller bulbs like daffodils or Dutch Iris for a stunning effect. They also pair well with poppies and other taller spring flowers in borders; along pathways, and even in the crevices between paving stones and rocks. Mix it with the night scented stock for brightness and wonderful fragrance.

Because of its rapid growth and appealing fragrance, this plant has been a special favourite of young gardeners for generations. Children love to sow the tiny seeds and watch them grow, so if you see seed packets for sale, grab a few!

Cultivation/Propagation:

Virginian stocks are probably one of the easiest of all plants to grow, thriving in part shade to full sun. They are hardy and grow throughout the country, doing well in coastal gardens; thriving in enriched sandy soil, but adapting to most well-drained garden soils.

Because the seeds are tiny, the hardest part of growing Virginian stocks is scattering the seeds wide enough apart to allow each plant to grow to its full potential. To make sowing easier, add the packet of seed to a bucket full of slightly damp, fine compost and mix together well before sowing. Adding cake flour to the mixture will lighten it so when you spread the soil over the beds, you will be able to see where you have sown. This is especially good when small children are sowing the seeds.
 
Seeds are sown directly into well prepared beds in autumn, as soon as the weather has cooled down significantly, and will take approximately 80 days to flower. Cover the seeds lightly with soil, or gently rake them into the soil. Keep moist until germination, which usually occurs within 7 to 20 days, depending on soil temperatures. Thin the young seedlings out to about 10 to 15cm apart and water regularly until they become established. Despite seed packet warnings to the contrary, if your plants germinate too close together, you can transplant them to a different location, but this is quite time consuming.

Mature plants are fairly drought tolerant, but will appreciate moderate watering in dry weather. For a continuous display of blooms, sow in various places in the garden at two to three-week intervals.  Sowings made in curves, rather than straight lines, often create a more pleasing effect. Remove weeds regularly by hand, as they compete with the seedlings for light and water.

After the flowers fade, slender seed ponds will develop. Wait until the seed heads have fully formed before cutting them off and placing into a large paper bag or envelope. Once completely dry, carefully strip the seeds out of the pods and store in a cool, dry place until next season.

Pests & Diseases:

If grown correctly, Virginian stocks do not suffer from any serious pests or diseases.

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