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On Gardening: Surdiva scaevola offers  that treasured blue for the garden

Blue is one of the most treasured colors in the garden and right now the new Surdiva scaevola is performing like the champion it is. If you have not tried scaevola yet, you are missing one of the best introductions in the last dozen years.

Known botanically as Scaevola aemula, this Australian workhorse is a must for those hot summer flowerbeds where everything else starts to fade by mid-July. The Surdiva series is rugged, compact and beautiful. It also keeps producing flowers on top while those old selections seem to always reach that state where they bloomed were only on the outer tips.

We have been participating in a trial where we have been using Surdiva in a number of ways. Surdiva Light Blue is showing out as a filler plant in a large ornate urn partnered with the red Abyssinian banana, Red Spread lantana and Goldilocks creeping Jenny. In another area we have the Surdiva Blue growing in beds created in conjunction with a large stone staircase traversing up a steep slope. Though the heat, humidity and rainforest-like rains have been prevalent, the Surdiva has been rock solid and shows no sign of letting up.

Scaevola gets its name from the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who demonstrated unparalleled bravery and somewhat questionable judgment by burning off his own left hand. The blossoms do slightly resemble a human hand, but the common name fan flower is more descriptive of the small blossoms. Despite resembling what some might consider half a flower it absolutely does its part in creating a sizzling summer flower border.

Surdiva does best given plenty of sun and planted in fertile, organic-rich, well-drained beds. Wet, soggy conditions are not satisfactory. Amend heavy soils or poorly drained locations by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and tilling or shoveling to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Plant your scaevola at the same depth it is growing in the container, spacing the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Apply a layer of mulch after planting.

They are very drought-tolerant once established in the landscape, but those in containers will need watering daily just like any other containers. Surdiva is the perfect front of the border plant reaching 8 to 10 inches in height and spreading outward 18 to 24 inches.

While we have it partnered with Red Spread lantanas the blue flowers will really put on a complementary show with almost any other variety. It will last not only all summer but allow you to do other things in the summer without being a slave to the landscape. You will always have welcoming flowers in the garden.

If your garden is already looking summer tired, Surdiva scaevola would perk it up until frost. If you find yourself a little behind in the garden then know that scaevola is tough enough to be planted now with great success quickly followed by that rewarding blue color or an outstanding white if you choose.

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