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Malcolmia maritima

Virginia Stock, French Forget-me-Not

Malcolmia maritima

As gardeners, we are always in search of fragrance so it’s a mystery why the sweetly-scented Virginian Stock (Malcolmia Maritima) seems to have fallen off the list of popular winter annuals. Here is the case for its reinstatement.

Like Alyssum and other easy annuals, Virginian Stocks can be sown directly into the bed and they flower within four to six weeks after sowing. That’s quick! The simple, four-petalled flowers have a sweet fragrance and the colours are a blend of pink, white, lavender and reddish shades.

The bushy plants reach a garden height of about 20 to 25cm so they are great for the front of flower beds. They can also be planted between bulbs but do not put them in the same bed as Iceland Poppies because Stocks prefer alkaline soil and Poppies acid soil. They also look good in containers and window boxes. To make the most of their perfume, grow them en masse.

They like rich, fertile soil and should be planted in full sun or light shade for best results. When thinning out, make the final spacing about 12cm between plants. They will bloom through winter but will generally die out in the heat of the summer.

The Virginian Stock (Malcolmia Maritima) was formerly known as Virgin’s Stock, or Cross because of its cross-shaped flower. In religious art, it was associated with Our Lady (Virgin Mary) and was planted in monastery gardens, especially those on pilgrimage routes. It is also known as French Forget-me-not.