Kiwi Vine

The Hearty Kiwi – A Vine That Holds Up

Bob Hill Hidden Hill News & Updates

One of my very few rules of gardening is to never plant anything whose name contains more than five syllables because you’re already on verbal thin ice with your more literate garden-tour guests, so why push it?

Then there is Actinidia kolomikta, which translates to, well, Actinidia kolomikta, which translates in English-teacher speak to ak-tin-ID-ee-ah koe-lo-MIK-tah. If you’re looking for something simpler, go with variegated kiwi vine, which, according to my math, is at least one syllable shorter.

There are about a dozen reasons to love this plant, the first eight or nine of them involving its incredible, ever-changing variegated foliage. The other three or four reasons would be it’s easy to grow, it can produce slightly fragrant white flowers and a sweet, yellow-green berry, and it’s ‘Arctic Beauty’ cultivar is reportedly hardy to minus 45 degrees. Anyone within reading distance of that temperature can contact me in Costa Rica.

I already have an almost pathological fondness for variegated plants, but this one seems a little more classy than most. Granted it can sprawl to somewhere between 15 and 50 feet depending on which source you read, but just keep that in mind when planting.

The books also say it prefers part shade to full sun – with the full sun taking a toll on the variegation while adding to the fruit production. The male cultivars have the more interesting foliage, and you’ll need a female and male plant to get the berries. Yeah, that old story.

Trust me, go with the part sun site and more variegated foliage. Our vine gets along very well with morning sun, although that sweet white variegation will also fade to a sort of light pink with time.

Kiwi Plant

The hardy kiwi only requires moderate watering, will bloom in summer and should be pruned in late winter to spring or it will climb down the far side of the trellis and head for the neighbor’s garage.

And yes, the vine is no relation to the kiwi bird, the flightless creature which is native to – and the national symbol of –New Zealand. And yes, if you ever get a chance to go to New Zealand take it; easily the most colorful, diverse, fun and interesting place Bob and Janet Hill have ever visited. The whole country is just sort of one big happy sports bar.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, the hardy kiwi vine is actually native to the Russian Far East, Korea, Japan and China – none of which is very close to New Zealand. According to the mostly always correct Wikipedia, it made its way to our gardens and overpriced nursery shops after one Charles Maries found one in Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in 1878 and sent it on to his patrons, Veitch Nurseries, in England. He also sent home about 500 other species new to England – but this space is too small to list them.

Neither Bob nor Janet Hill can remember how the Actinidia kolomikta came to be planted behind the morning-sun-soaked shed that protects our Hidden Hill G-Scale model train, but it’s been there for maybe five or six years. It’s just a fun show; the variegation constantly in flux.

In a relatively unrelated but sort of interesting fact, one of the Wikipedia reports said cats are particularly attracted to the vine, and as a result one propagator in Boston found all his pots of newly introduced plants bitten to stubs in the greenhouse.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.