Friday, September 4, 2009

Chinese Lanterns




Look what I found growing behind the Fairy Rose at the back corner of the house...Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi). Most people will probably shrink back in horror yelling, "Get that thing out of my garden!" It's highly invasive--coming up where you least expect it to and wherever it pleases, like where I found it in my garden, because of it's wide spreading root system. But the papery orange and green balloon shaped flowers are truly beautiful. In dusky evening light, they actually take on a bit of an "airy" glow that lends texture to the surrounding foliage--somewhat like big orange fireflies popping out of the green darkness.

Despite it's tendency to take over a garden bed, if left unchecked and not weeded out properly, Chinese Lantern is a perennial herb related to tomatillos and some people say they are edible and used for different medicinal purposes, although I would do more research on them if you have any you plans to ingest them. Like anything, I'm sure it comes with it's own set of warnings and problems.

As for me, I don't eat the stuff and don't care to even try a taste. I bought one small plant several years ago at a garden fair for the purpose of drying it for decoration and planted it in a bed where I grow assorted everlastings for flower arrangements. Every year since, I get a couple of weak looking branches that produce a few bug-eaten lanterns. But, this year, it came up unexpectedly in an unassuming corner with plenty of moisture and shade...(note to self--don't let it get out of hand next year even though it looks so unassuming, unique and totally innocent this year!)

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