When I was going to school in North Vancouver we did our practicum at Park & Tilford Gardens. This is a tiny jewel which is now part of a larger shopping center. It is divided into several gardens which feature particular themes and styles. there are rose, herbal, oriental, native, white and a colonnade garden. The colonnade garden was a long curving walk which as under a massive pergola which was covered by enormous vines and flanked on both sides with many hanging baskets of Fuchsias. The vines had enormous green leaves which were covered with tiny hairs. To my surprise and delight discovered they were hardy Kiwi(Actinidia deliciosa) vines which produced a crop of tasty fruit every fall.
At the time I saw these Kiwi vines at Park & Tilford Gardens, the fruit was relatively new to the grocery scene and was seen as an exotic novelty. When I moved to the Victoria area I would drive by several fields of what I thought were grape crops, I soon realized that they were actually Kiwi fruit vines. Kiwi have been grown as a commercial crop in the Saanichton area since 1985. The first crops were harvested in 1988 and amounted to 1/4 million pounds of fruit. Now we get fresh organic fruit every year and products such as wines, jellies and syrups are made locally.
Actinidia deliciosa and A. chineisis where at one time considered to be the same species, both produce large fruit with chinensis having less green pulp. There are many crosses between the two species and many of these are now grown commercially. There are 55+ species of Actinidia and all species originate in Asia from Siberia through into more tropical areas.There are several other species which are much hardier that deliciosa or chinensis which are grown in colder areas. Another interesting thing is that these plants are single sexed(dioecious) in other words: if you want fruit you will need two Kiwi plants, a female and a male to produce fruit.
Actinidia species are vigorous vining plants which can grow to 30 m(over 90ft). When developing plants for producing optimal crops regular pruning is done. Kiwi fruit are best grown with support just like you would with grapes. They require 1 male to 9 females to get the best pollination for fruit developement. The male should be situated up wind from the female.
Kiwi plants grow best in full sun with moisture retentive nutrient rich soil. They will tolerate some wet soils as long as it is well-drained. They are sensitive to fertilizer, so if you use it dilute more than normal so it odes not burn the plants. Kiwis have fairly large leaves therefore they should be placed in areas without high winds which could damage them. Pruning is done when they are dormant and 1/3 of the vine which has grown that season should be removed.
Actinidia deliciosa and chinesis and their hybrids tolerate zone 8(-10c or 32f), it kept colder for any length of time damage will be done to the vines. Other species of Actinidia are much more coldd tolerant, taking zone 4(-30c or f). They offer a touch of the exotic to your cold climate and give you attractive foliage, large flowers which are fragrant. These plants would not necessarily be grown for their cherry size fruit. I think Actinidia kolomitka is the most attractive with the tips of it’s leaves seeming to have been dipped in white and pink paint.
More on the fuzzy fruit:
All you want to know about Actinidia deliciosa: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/kiwifruit.html
How to Grow Kiwi fruit: http://www.ehow.com/how_4686554_grow-kiwi-actinidia.html