Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Himalayan Honeysuckle

Himalayan honeysuckles (Leycesteria formosa) are in bloom right now in Seattle. You can't miss them, with these stunning flowers.
The actual flowers are these little white bells that you see above. The showy purple bracts that surround them are what catch your eye. These flowers will give way to berries (you can see a little red berry starting to form in the photo above) that are popular with birds. The berries start out green, turn red and then finally, black.
Himalayan honeysuckles are shrubs not vines, as are typical honeysuckles (Lonicera sp.) They grow quickly to fill a space 6' x 6'. In particularly cold winters, you may see significant die back on these plants. But don't give up on them right away. Cut away the dead branches and wait a bit. They are vigorous plants and often come right back when the weather starts to warm and the days are longer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Can You Grow Kiwi Fruit in Seattle?

Absolutely! So-called "fuzzy" kiwi do quite well here.

These are newly set kiwi fruits I found growing near my house when I was out for my walk this morning.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to add kiwi vines to your garden:
  • Kiwi vines are fast growing and very vigorous. They need substantial support - think in terms of 2x6s and carriage bolts for trellises. 
  • You may need to be patient. It sometimes takes vines up to 5 years to set fruit.
  • You will need two vines: a female, which is the bearer of the fruit; and a male, which is the pollinator.
At your nursery, look for female varieties 'Hayward' and 'Saanichton.' The latter is a variety from Vancouver Island. A common pollinator is called 'Chico Male.' Sometimes the male plant has no particular name - it's just called "male."

Harvest your fruit in fall, just as it turns brown. Let it finish ripening in the house. Don't let it ripen on the vine or it will either rot or become breakfast for the birds.