Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chinese Lanterns

Winter is not far off and the days are getting shorter and colder and I decided to paint one of my favourite plants from my childhood.

I have always liked the Chinese Lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi) with their bright orange pods which look like some of the traditional Chinese lanterns in shape and even have a texture similar to paper.

It is also known as Bladder Cherry, Japanese Lantern, Strawberry Tomato and Winter Cherry.

This popular ornamental plant has white flowers, which form into green pods in late summer and by the end of the growing season in September to October depending on the zone in which they are planted they change to their characteristic bright pumpkin orange or darker red orange colour, with each of the pods containing a berry with seeds.

It is at this time that the plant can be harvested. They are cut at ground level, the leaves are stripped off, then the entire plant is suspend upside down to dry in a cool dark place with good ventilation for a couple of weeks.

However, this beautiful perennial does have a down side in that some parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested and they are subject to many plant diseases and attract a variety of insect pests which like to munch away at them.

It is also highly invasive with its wide-spreading root system sending up new shoots some distance away from where it was originally planted. This was something I had never realized, but then where my Mom planted them was inside a small filled in concrete fish pond where the roots could not escape and spread.

I would like to thank Mrs. Heather Grant of Lakefield, Ontario on her purchase of this original 1-3/4" x 5-3/4” watercolour painting for her art collection.