Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Acca sellowiana

In 1996 I bought my current house and garden.  One of my first plant purchases was a small Acca sellowiana (an older name is Feijoa sellowiana) - the pineapple guava.  I'd like to say that this was a carefully considered purchase but the truth is that it was going cheap (£1) in an end of season garden centre sale.  I put it in a newly carved bed - the garden I  purchased was a mess that needed a lot of work over the next few years - and we promptly had the worst winter for a fair few years.  10 days sub zero temperatures in January 1997 completely defoliated the poor little thing.  I assumed I'd lost it but, by early summer, it had recovered.  It's come unscathed through every winter since, including the last two.  And, once again, July has come around and it's flowering.

Acca sellowiana flowers
I don't get a mass of flowers - it's out of it's comfort zone, after all - but the individual 4cm blooms are fascinating things.  Thick, fleshy petals and an explosion of white tipped red stamens.  The petals are edible but, to be honest, don't taste of much so, apart from an exploratory sampling when the plants first started flowering in about 2000, I've never harvested them for use in a salad.  I've also never seen fruit.  My specimen isn't a named variety and is probably self infertile.  In warmer climates - New Zealand is a good example - this Chilean native is a popular fruit.

What I like about it is it makes an attractive evergreen bush.  The leaves are small and oval, dark green above, coated with silver indumentum below to give a very attractive two toned effect.  Mine has grown steadily over the years and is now about 3metres tall. 

Acca sellowiana on my west boundary

Acca sellowiana foliage detail
Left to its own devices it would have been just as wide.  I've had to prune it quite severely to produce more of a tree like form.  I'll continue that pruning regime from now on to produce an attractive feature on my rear garden west border.  Over pruning isn't a problem - the shrub quickly regenerates and, if I had the room, could be trained as an effective hedge.  I was interested to see an edging of these at the Eden project when I was there a while ago.  Still young - but no doubt planted to produce a decorative hedge.  (If they weren't they were in the wrong place!)

It's also become entangled with my plant of Abutilon 'Patrick Synge'.  This insinuates it's thin, twiggy growths through the Acca to produce flowering stems like pins from the more rounded cushion of the host.  Now all I need is a good climber up there and the picture will be complete.

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