The night-scented stock - Matthiola longipetala is a hardy, bushy annual primarily grown for its ornamental blooms and fragrant, evening scent. Native to the combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia, it is is low-growing and highly branched in habit with long narrow, grey-green leaves. It has single, four-petaled purple to white flowers, which are approximately 1 to 2 cm wide and carried on 45-60 cm spikes in July and August. The blooms open at night to reveal a delicious, heavy scent, reminiscent to some gardeners of vanilla, rose, spice and even cloves!

Night-scented stock will thrive in any good garden soil in a position of full sun, although they will also tolerate partial shade if necessary. However, to perform at their best the soil should be a slightly alkaline, fertile, medium loam. If the soil is poor then it may need to be enriched by digging in plenty of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost. Staking may be necessary for tall specimens and any leggy plants growing in the shade.

When purchasing packs of seedlings in the spring, only plant out the healthiest examples. Any which have been allowed to dry out or have suffered rot damage will produce premature and dwarfed flower-spikes. They can be grown in containers  or directly into the front of beds in areas where their scent will be enjoyed the most.

Later on in the spring once the plants have become established, apply a pinch of pre-packed dried blood fertilizer or some other fast acting, high nitrogen fertilizer around the base of each plant. This will improve both the plant and its flower size.

Water regularly, and when the flower buds appear provide a liquid soluble fertilizer every week or so encourage blooming. Remove flowerheads as soon as they begin to fade in order to encourage further blooms to develop.

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