I suppose it is rather fitting to have a monster plant presented on a day like today - in a bright orange colour, my monster will be known to a lot of people as something they initially put in their garden as a nice, small plant they picked up at a nursery - and then forever regretting doing that.
Meet my monster, Physalis alkekengi var. Franchettii, Chinese Lantern.
For 4 years it grew in a small pot and didn’t even flower, I almost threw it in my compost bin but decided to give it one more chance and lo and behold, last year I had a few lanterns – but the plant was still quite small.
This spring I thought I would give the plant a bit more room and re-potted in a container. I knew Physalis is a terribly invasive plant so I had already decided never to put this plant in the ground. In the container it grew, and grew and grew, and look how many lanterns I got this year!
The lanterns are surprisingly solid, not as delicate as they look in the photo.
They light up as, well.... as lanterns in my flowerbeds!
And when the lanterns go off they dry and get this see-through look which I think looks just as nice, almost like Christmas decoration.
Inside the lanterns are berries, not the edible type though, but decorative enough.
My monster plant has grown so much in just one season that it is already time for splitting the clump, although I wasn’t prepared for what I would find when tipping out the content of the container.
Well, talk about monster plant, all these roots in just 6 months! The roots have just gone round and round inside the container, I can imagine why this is such an invasive plant in a flower bed. This plant will never, ever get in one of my beds!
It was easy enough to tease out the roots, looking even more like a monster now – like a giant spider!
I ended up with 4 good size clumps, they could probably have had a container each the size it was growing in, but I decided to squeeze the roots into pots and try to restrict the growth a bit.
The fruits of Chinese lanterns, Physalis alkekengi looks very much like the Physalis berries you can buy in supermarkets here in UK, but they are not the same type, there are several edible types and most supermarkets here sell Physalis peruviana.
A bit of info from Wikipedia:
Physalis peruviana is also known as Cape gooseberry, Inca berry, Aztec berry, Golden berry, Giant ground cherry, Peruvian groundcherry, Peruvian cherry, and just Physalis. Physalis peruviana is closely related to the tomatillo, a fellow member of the genus Physalis. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, aubergines, potato and other members of the nightshades. Despite its name, it is not closely related to any of the cherry, Ribes gooseberry, Indian gooseberry, or Chinese gooseberry.
Physalis peruviana has a long shelf life after it is harvested, up to several months and next spring I am going to try grow a couple of plants and see if I can get some fruit. If we can have another summer like we had this year it should certainly be possible. Seeds and plug plants can be bought from Suttons here in UK. And they also sell Physalis edulis, a much bigger plant, which also can be grown in UK. The plants are not frost hardy so need protection during the winter or can simply be treated as annuals.
All Physalis plants are apparently equally invasive and I intend to grow mine in containers. I love the berries of Physalis, I use them in both savoury salads and fruit salads, but they are quite expensive to buy so if I can manage to get my own production going it would be brilliant. Anyone here in UK who has tried growing Physalis peruviana or edulis outdoors? I’d love to hear about it.
And here is the finished result of the Chinese lantern from the container, a huge pile of leftover roots that ended up in my compost bin and 4 little monsters to take care of. I am certainly not keeping them all so I hope I will be able to get rid of some through the Plant Swap website, anyone who would like to adopt a well-behaved little monster please let me know, just promise to keep it in a container, never let it run free in your garden!
And finally, St Jude came and went here in London in the space of just 8 hours last Monday, it made havoc for the transport system, killed several people, uprooted hundreds of trees and made misery for several hundred thousand people who lost their electricity. My garden survived with minimal damage, nothing that can’t be replaced. I had taken lots of precautions, I put all the pots on the ground and all the garden furniture were safely stored flat on the ground. I have a young magnolia growing in a container and I laid it down on the ground which probably saved it from snapping. The wind was ferocious at times, it flattened some of my plants but only things that were due to go in the compost bin soon anyway. All in all I am very relieved at how well it went, I think I was lucky, it was rather hit and miss where the real damage happened. Now I just need a day or two out in the garden picking up leaves and clearing up, haven’t had time to do that yet and the garden still has that ‘after the storm’ look!
Until next time, take care.
Until next time, take care.