Fuzzy or not? Now you can choose which kind of kiwi fruit to grow.
During the 1980s, home gardeners in the West really got to know the
fuzzy kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa), particularly how to manage such a
large plant in the garden. But now that Westerners are discovering the
delicious vine-ripened fruit of smaller kiwi plants-whose compact growth
fits readily into most gardens-the focus in the '90s will likely be
on them. Garden-friendly smaller kiwis Not well known when fuzzy kiwis
were first introduced, smaller kinds (A. arguta and A. kolomikta) were
assumed to be inferior; in fact, they're inferior to the fuzzy ones
only in fruit size, and they have numerous advantages over their larger
relatives. Not only do they occupy less garden space, but fruit ripens
on the vine, so you can eat it fresh, with no hairy skin to peel off.
And unlike fuzzy kiwis, they're hardy in cold-winter areas. Of the
small kiwis, A. arguta varieties are the most available. These are three
good choices. 'Ananasnaja' (pronounced "banana snya"
without the "b"; it's Russian for "pineapple")
is named for its slight pineapple overtones. This kind needs a
pollenizer. 'Issai' is self-fertile, flavorful, and relatively
diminutive; in five years, the vine might grow to 15 feet. It can bear
fruit the second year; other kinds take five or six years. A. kolomikta
is grown mostly for the leaves on the male plants. They open green,
become variegated during summer, and go red in fall. A. kolomikta
females have less colorful leaves, but several new Russian varieties
produce good fruit. Not recommended for Southern California. Growing
fuzzy kiwis? Here's how to manage the space problem If you decide
to grow the large kiwis, train them over a patio trellis, where their
shade is useful and harvesting is easy. Two vines (male and female)
planted at opposite corner posts can easily cover a 20- by 20-foot
trellis in about five years. Where overhead trellising isn't an
option, build a 30-foot-long, 6-foot-tall, three-wire trellis supported
at 10-foot intervals by pressure-treated 6-by-6 posts. Plant a female
kiwi 'Hayward' is the standard, or Vincent' in mildest
climates) at one end, and a male at the other, training the male along
the center wire and the female along top and bottom wires. If you have
space for just one vine, buy the self-fertile 'Blake'. It
bears fruit that is sweet and fuzzy; scoop the flesh out with a spoon.
Sources Kiwis are increasingly available in nurseries around the West.
But if you can't find exactly what you want, you can mail-order
them from Northwoods Nursery, 28696 S. Cramer Rd., Molalla, Ore. 97038;
or Raintree Nursery, 391 Butts Rd., Morton, Wash. 98356 (both have free
catalogs). Where water is limited, you may want to wait to plant; kiwi
needs ample water and fertilizer to thrive and bear fruit.