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I couldn’t find any big orange pumpkins to carve up to make Jack o’lanterns for today’s Halloween celebrations so I improvised and took photos of Chinese lanterns instead. Though the carving of pumpkins has its roots in ancient harvest celebrations, I don’t much care for the modern commercialisation of seasonal celebrations like All Hallows’ Eve anyway, whereas I do very much like the beautiful Chinese lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi) (particularly in the autumn when it produces such a wonderful display of vivid orange seedpods), so for me this choice was a no-brainer.

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As a garden plant, the Chinese lantern can be invasive, sending its roots out far and wide, so you do need to keep it in check a little, but the effort is worth it. When most of the summer colour has faded from the flower bed, this plant’s bursts of brilliant orange are a visual delight. And the ‘lanterns’ are just as pretty when the papery covering falls away from the seedpod, making its intricate lacy structure visible. The stems of orange pods make a lovely addition to a dried flower arrangement, retaining their colour for a long time, and, even without their orange skin, the seedpods look pretty in a bowl or mingled with other ingredients in a potpourri.

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