"Kolomikta!"

It seems right to blog about a dioecious plant on Mother’s Day, so here’s a kiwi update.

If you’ve forgotten what “dioecious” means, it refers (in the botanical world) to having male and female flowers on separate plants, so that you need both for reproduction. Actinidia kolomikta, the Siberian kiwi, is a dioecious species. I have three plants, one male and two female – the male is the one going wild on the left side of the arbor, while the females are quietly advancing up the other side (having put more energy into bearing fruit). But they are a good five feet tall now, which is great. And everyone is in flower at the same time, with bees buzzing, so pollen exchange is happening.

Closeup of the male plant with flowers and leaves:

Those white blotchy leaves will turn partially pink in a week or two. It’s an odd kind of look but really quite attractive.

This is what the fruit will look like when it forms this summer:

I usually only get a couple of handfuls that ripen over a month or so, but it’s still fun to pick as a snack. The tiny fruits taste just like the fuzzy kiwis you buy at the store, which are not quite hardy enough to grow here. If you want a larger harvest, you can grow Actinidia arguta, but those plants require much stronger trellises and plenty of space for the vigorous vines. Most argutas are also dioecious, though the variety ‘Issai’ is self-pollinating. We are growing this one at the Derwood Demo Garden, along with Siberians that unfortunately keep widowing their partners; right now we have just the male.

My Siberians are doing fine on a regular rose arbor on the northeast side of my house. They prefer afternoon shade and sometimes end up looking a bit tired by the end of a hot summer, but come back each spring with renewed enthusiasm.

I think the species name sounds good as a mysterious toast, so: “Kolomikta! Happy Mother’s Day!”

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