Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Mixed Bag of Emotions

More than any other plant in my garden, the Chinese Lantern leaves me with mixed feelings. I don't know whether to celebrate it or lump it into the category of evil invaders. I go from hating to loving this plant and back again many times in any given growing season.

I made an egregious mistake when I put my first tiny pot of Chinese Lanterns into the ground. I assumed it would stay put. Little did I know that its roots travel great distances underground, taking over any bit of available soil for their own selfish purposes. It is not an exaggeration to suggest this plant will take over your border if given even a bit of leeway. Every spring I pull out dozens upon dozens of Chinese Lantern stems. Even a tiny piece of root left behind in the soil will take on a life of its own and blaze a trail toward reproducing itself. That is a situation I created for myself. I'll just have to deal with it. If had to do it over again, I would plant Chinese Lantern with some sort of barrier around them to stop the roots. Maybe even plant it in a sealed planter buried in the garden soil.

While the Chinese Lanterns give me a lot of grief, I can't bring myself to get rid of them altogether. They grow well in shade. Their lovely lantern blooms change from green to a spectacular orange. They bring colour to the garden late in the season when just about everything else has faded. The lanterns make an excellent cut flower. And come Thanksgiving, there is nothing prettier than a Chinese Lantern to decorate a dinner plate. I carefully pull apart the lantern sections to create "petals" that fold away from the orange fruit inside. Spectacular (I'll be sure to post a picture in fall).

I'd say the main problem with this plant is how it makes me feel at the very moment I see the first lantern. Usually my reaction is something along the lines of: "Gasp! Summer can't be over already." But before I break out the parka and boots, perhaps I'll take in the weeks and weeks of blooms still to come in the summer garden.


Pam/Digging said...

Here in Austin, I start looking for the American beautyberries to turn from white to purple. Then I can say, "At last! Summer's almost over."

A different climate brings a different perspective on summer, doesn't it? ;-)

Connie said...

I bought a packet of seed for these last spring but never got them planted. Thanks for the heads-up on it's invasive nature.

Owin & Irena said...

hi pam, i'll be sure to look up those beautyberries.

connie, I do love these chinese lanterns. but be careful. I would say with the right approach they could be easily managed. a little extra effort to rein them in and you'll still be able to enjoy their fall splendour.


Iowa Gardening Woman said...

First Chinese Sumac and now Chinese you see another Chinese plant you will probably run and hide :). I have never grown them and did not know they were invasive, they are great for drying, aren't they?

Owin & Irena said...

Hi iowa. i didn't even notice the chinese connection until you pointed it out. yes the chinese lanterns are great for drying. i had an arrangement that looked good for years.