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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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By Jonathan Radford

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