How well do kiwis grow in the UK?
John Langford from Cornwall noticed kiwis apparently doing well at Stourhead Gardens in the west country. He asked the National Trust head gardener there for some information. Advice on the climbing layer for a forest garden often includes kiwis, but how realistic is this in the UK? There were several comments from FG forum members about successful growing of fruiting kiwis in South Devon and Brighton, but some definitive information has now been supplied from Stourhead. Here is the original query from John and the helpful reply from National Trust Head Gardener Alan Power.
To: Stourhead Estate
Subject: fao Head Gardener
On a recent visit to your garden I saw a mature kiwi plant bearing an abundance of large fruit - I am most interested to know (a) do the fruits ripen to an edible state? (b) what is the variety and is it available from you? - I have started to develop a 'forest garden' in a sheltered area of Cornwall and have planted some kiwis in the hope that they may produce an edible crop in the future - any information on this subject would be most appreciated.
Yours in anticipation
Here's the helpful response from the head gardener at Stourhead
The Kiwi variety is Actinidia chinensis, there are 2 females and one male plant on the railings at Stourhead and it is kept pruned annually to control its size, it can ramble for up to 10m. It is a beautiful plant and the fruit is a real talking point, the fruit do ripen but we need to be lucky here for the right late season sunshine and a touch of frost, as you are in Cornwall you should have fruit ripening slightly easier than us.
It is essential to have both male and female plants (as I expect you know) but you really only need one male for several females and planted close by will do. Your plants should fruit well as long as you have both. Many nurseries supply this species but I am afraid we do not sell it here.
Best of luck with your garden, from your mention it sounds lovely.
Garden and Estate Manager, Stourhead, National Trust