Actinidia kolomikta is a deciduous woody scrambler/twiner growing 25 to 30 feet. What sets it apart and makes it an attractive garden plant is the foliage, ovate-oblong and six inches long, marked with pink and white variegation once the plant is two to three years old.
Discovered in the mid nineteenth century, actinidia kolomikta was soon being grown on the continent where it hardiness – it can take temperatures as low as -40C – was an asset. It is, however, susceptible to late spring frosts, and a south- or west-facing wall is the best aspect for it. One spring, we had a frost in May once the foliage had emerged, and the leaves on the regrowth remained green all through the growing season. Actinidia kolomikta likes a fertile, well-drained soil in sun or part shade, but will tolerate both acid or alkaline soils.
A relative of kiwi fruit (A. deliciosa), actinidia kolomikta carries small yellow berries on female plants, a near-by male being necessary for pollination. The small, fragrant, white flowers are carried under the foliage in early summer. Some sources claim that only the male plants have the variegated leaves, but plant hunter Dan Hinkley states he has encountered many females with the same trait (but only half the number of males).
Although pest-free, an early propagator in Boston found all his pots of the newly introduced plant bitten to stubs in his greenhouse, before his cat was discovered to be the culprit. The actinidia family contains a compound that felines find attractive, and my first plant was killed by the local cat population rubbing against the stem and destroying it; a guard of rigid wire mesh erected around the replacement protected it from the same fate.