It is the in-between time as autumn slowly transitions into winter. The rains have not yet pushed in from the coast, so the landscape hues are still brown and taupe. Hints of mossy green will creep into the hillsides with each rainfall. On these clear autumn days, there is a silence, broken only by the bones of the weeds whispering in the breeze and leaves carried to their final destination in the garden beds.
Late fall and winter are peak times for many shrubs that produce fruit loved by animals and humans; however, fruit on landscape shrubs often is overlooked, including the Pineapple guava, or Feijoa sellowiana. Native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina, western Paraguay and Uruguay, this unassuming evergreen shrub commonly is found in the mountains. It has many great attributes, including oval, leathery blue-green foliage and tropical-looking flowers that burst into full bloom in the spring. These waxy, white flowers have blushes of pink. They are surrounded by lush, deep red stamens tipped with yellow pollen. The thick petals, which are edible, give off a spicy flavor.
From late summer into fall, the plant’s grayish-green fruit forms. Its flavor reminds me of a kiwi, but it is most often described as having a pineapple flavor, hence its common name. It can be eaten fresh by peeling off the skin, though some people eat the entire fruit, skin and all. It makes a very tasty jelly.
As a landscape plant, Feijoa sellowiana has a dense habit and a height and spread of eight to 15 feet. It is pest- and disease-resistant. It works well as a hedge or screen, or it can be shaped into a small, multibranch tree.
Plant Feijoa sellowiana in an area with sun to partial shade, and loamy, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Once established, it needs only minimal summer irrigation.
Pruning is not required to keep the plant productive, but a light pruning after the fruit is harvested will encourage new growth and increase yields the following year. Thinning the plant also permits easier harvesting.
Though remarkably pest- and disease-resistant, Feijoa is occasionally attacked by black scale in California, as well as fruit flies, but we have not experienced either of those problems at the Gardens at Heather Farm.