Kiwi fruit, properly known as Actinidias but also sometimes called Chinese gooseberries, are a national fruit of China. Love em or hate em, here is everything you ever wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about their history, different species and where you can plant them in your garden.
Kiwi fruit originate anywhere from the moutain woodlands of East Asia to the Himalayas - extraordinarily hardy for a plant whose produce seems so exotic. They have taken so well to New Zealand, now their main producer, that they are universally known as kiwi fruit. Fleshy and sweet, with many small seeds, they are packed full of vitamin C.
Actinidias are also planted for their attractive and deciduous ornamental foliage, which consists of large coarse leaves, elliptical in shape with a lovely coloration. The plant can clamber up to a great height of 8-10 metres if left unchecked. For gardeners, they're not merely plants that produce berries but also include a couple of species that are great for adding colour to walls.
These come from northeast China and right up into Siberia, so are very hardy. The entire fruit is edible, including the skin - like a large green grape, with a sweeter flesh than the larger hard fruit we find in the supermarket. The best and most widely available plant is the self-fertile 'Issai'.
This unusual plant with a smaller edible fruit has gorgeous large leaves, which are regularly covered in a striking silver finish.
A beautifully splashy coloured vine that was introduced in 1878. Varieties include; 'Arctic Beauty' - very hardy, with leaves that open as purple bu then are mottled pink, white and green; 'Arnold Arboretum' – which has a small sweet fruit; and 'Krupnoplodnaya', with red leaves.
This is the one we know. Some varieties are self-pollinating so don't need pairing up. Properly-sourced and productive plants often consist of a male plant grafted onto a full female vine to ensure good pollination. Good choice varieties include 'Hayward', 'Tomuri' and 'Jenny,' which are self-fertile.
Kiwis are perfect for training across sheds and pergolas. They can also be grown as standards, bushes or single stemmed cordons, where they will crop better and produce a greater yield. If you want them to grow to their full extent, ensure they have lots of space and sunshine to sprawl through a tree or over long walls.
Kiwi fruits grow best in fertile, well-drained soil enriched with well-rotted manure. As they are deciduous and vigorous, they need lots of regular feeding with rich organic matter and a general all-purpose fertiliser. In very hot, dry conditions keep them watered. They can take temperatures down to -8C° and actually require a good period winter chilling in order to initiate flower development.
Kiwis are usually pruned in winter, shortening new shoots to develop what are called fruiting spurs.You also need to remove sections of older wood.
Allow the fruit to ripen fully but pick them before the first frost. A mature plant should supply you with approximately 9kgs of fruit.
Generally they are free from most problems in our temperate climate.