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Actinidia kolomikta - Arctic beauty kiwi (hardy kiwi, kishmish, or Manchurian gooseberry)


The variegated leaves of the Manchurian gooseberry are striking even from a distance. In early summer they look as if their tips have been painted white. After flowering, this white colour fades slowly, or turns reddish. Generally, the species is dioecious, i.e. individual plants are either male or female, but wild plants from cold areas include some monoecious individuals (i.e. the same plant bears both male and female flowers). The variety ‘Annikki’, sometimes available from nurseries, is of this monoecious type. The more generally planted vine with its handsome white-splashed foliage is a male variety.

The foliage of the female plants is usually totally green but their fruit make them interesting. The berries are oblong, from 2-4 cms long and 1-1.5 cms diameter. They taste like kiwi-fruit, and the species belongs to the same genus as the true kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa); the best vines produce fruit with fine aromas when fully ripe. The berries ripen individually and have to be used immediately after picking as they don’t keep; berries picked before ripe taste unpleasant. 

The Manchurian gooseberry also has attractive white flowers but they are mostly hidden by the luxuriant foliage, though their sweetish sharp scent spreads throughout the garden. The flowers are best seen from below when the vine grows over a pergola or similar framework.

Actinidia arguta - Tara vine ( Yang-Tao)


The leaves of this strong-growing Japanese vine are dark green, thick and shiny. It is usually dioecious, i.e individual plants are either male or female, so to produce fruit both sexes are required. The fruit themselves are about the size of grapes, hairless, and can be called kiwi-berries; peeling is unnecessary, in contrast to the true kiwi (A. deliciosa). The Tara vine is grown particularly in areas which are unfavourable to the true kiwi.

The Tara vine grows successfully in the very south of Finland though the summer is so short that the berries seldom ripen, but when successful it can produce crops of 30-40kg. The commonest variety on sale here is ‘Issai’, which is also less than hardy. Plants from the wild of good provenance, i.e. from cold mountain areas, produce berries ripening in the south of Finland in early October, before hard frosts destroy them.

The foliage is attractive, as are the flowers, and shoots grow over a metre even in Finnish summers, all characteristics making this vine worth growing, whether or not they produce ripe fruit.


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