A Fine Grey-leaved Plant for Italian Gardens
Feijoa sellowiana or Acca sellowiana, also known as the 'Pineapple guava' is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can grow to a maximum height of 6m in the right conditions. Although fully hardy, it does require full sun and long, hot summers to mature fully and produce it's egg-shaped, edible fruits. It has grey-green leaves with a white, downy underside, which can become an attractive feature on windy days when the underside is revealed.
In summer it bears ornamental, white flowers with long stamens, formed in dense bunches in the middle of the flower. It can be maintained in a spherical form by annual spring pruning and provides a pleasant silver-grey element within an Italian garden planting scheme.
Feijoa prefers poor, well-drained soil and thrives in full sun, preferably against a warm wall. It is an unusual and original addition to the Italian garden, as it is not used as much as it should be and will surely create interest. It's unusual green, egg-shaped fruits are a definite curiosity but they will not ripen unless the plant experiences a long warm summer, therefore the warmest, most sheltered position should be chosen in the garden for this plant.
The fruit contains a sweet pulp that is also used as an exfoliant in the cosmetics industry. The fruit has an unusual aroma, caused by an esther present in the pulp and this has been used in the flavoring of vodka and yoghurt. The fruit of the Feijoa remains green even when mature but can be harvested when it is soft and begins falling from the plant in late autumn.
The grey foliage of the Feijoa provides a great, Mediterranean feel to any border and this plant can be combined with other grey-leaved plants to provide a harmonious backdrop for pastel colours, particularly soft pinks, mauves and blues. There are few plants that provide the Italian garden designer with such a large grey-green shrub and the fruits are an added bonus that make this an unusual and fun plant to grow in the Italian style garden.
By Jonathan Radford