If vegetable gardening is a short term affair, then raising fruits and berries is a long term commitment. Perhaps nothing requires more patience than the kiwi who waits up to five years before bearing fruit and doesn’t hit peak production until year eight. The kiwi is, in its way, old fashioned, almost Victorian in the length of its courtship.
For reasons I can’t remember, we wanted kiwis, built them an arbor 7′ high even before their acquisition.
Arriving at Cloud Mountain we had to take what they had, the small, smooth skinned variety. To make the little fruits one must buy a male plant to impregnate the females. The male kiwi is apparently a lusty fellow, able to pollinate up to eight female plants. Alas, we only had room for two females so our male will have to be satisfied with what he has.
It was probably a mistake to name them. It is always a mistake, I suppose, to anthropomorphize plants. However, kiwi’s Australian roots led us to name one of the females Nicole for Nicole Kidman (Australian actress), the other Olivia for Olivia Newton John (Australian singer) and the male Colby for Colby Donaldson. Colby Donaldson isn’t an Aussie. He’s and American who appeared on Survivor Australia, subsequently on a Seinfeld episode where he argued with holocaust survivors that his experience on the CBS reality show had been as difficult as theirs and is now the host of the History Channel’s Top Shot. We realized the connection of Colby to Australia was weak at best. The other choice was Russell for Russell Crowe (Australian actor). But, I am still very upset about the film Master and Commander which made hash of my favorite series of books. So, Colby it will be.
We put the tiny plants in the ground, surrounded them with a cage to keep the deer at bay, tied a piece of cord to the arbor to guide them to the top and began to wait. Progress was painfully slow. Yet, by the end of the season Colby in a demonstration of testosterone-fueled competitiveness made it to the top where he now waits, spreading his members, for Nicole and Olivia who, coyly, are inching their way up. Poor Colby. Dude has a long wait.
In the garden there’s a lot of pollinating going on. We now have about 30,000 honey bees on the premises and they are everywhere promiscuously sticking their proboscis into any flower they can find.
Not all plants are as romantically involved as Nicole, Colby, and Olivia will be. There’s a lot of asexual reproduction happening in the garden and in the flower beds.
(Watch this boring BBC video)
Ignoring all this asexual activity, one might note that gardening can get a bit kinky from time to time. Winter squash planted in proximity will cross and you will end up with interesting hybrids that won’t breed true in the next generation. To control this the gardener must insinuate him or herself into the equation and hand pollinate. Strapping tape is involved. I hate to use the word “bondage” in a post about gardening but that’s where the strapping tape comes in as the gardener, watching carefully for ripeness (a hint here is that size matters), restrains both the male and female sexual organs of the squash plant and subsequently tears off a couple of male flowers, removes the tape… or to quote The Resilient Gardener, Carol Deppe, WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE FOLLOWS: “Pluck a couple of taped male flowers, take them over near the taped female flower you want to pollinate and RIP the tape and the end of the petals off the male flowers and STRIP off the petals so that each becomes a paintbrush topped with pollen. Then RIP the tape with the end of the petals off of a female flower and holding the male flower by its stem, … daub pollen onto all three parts of the female flowers stigma. Repeat with the second male flower. Retape the female flower. Keep an eye out for bees and work fast…” Rough stuff if you ask me. There is also something called dehiscence involved. “Dehiscense” sounds naughty to me.
We visit Colby, Nicole, and Olivia almost daily. The girls are getting close to the top where Colby waits to have his way with them. It will be a long wait for old Colby—2015, I expect. Which means a long wait for us too before we get to enjoy the fruit of their involvement.
**Some may quibble and suggest that we should have named our plants after famous people from New Zealand, cuz the kiwi doesn’t actually have its roots in Australia, but we couldn’t think of any famous people from New Zealand and Australia is pretty close.