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Autumn flowers in vibrant colour

The first flower I would like to introduce in this series is Physalis alkekengi, a hardy perennial that adorns many summer flower borders around September. There are many forms of this stunning plant, which is from the nightshade family, but the most commonly known and romantic name for this plant is Chinese lantern. It is the beautifully formed orange pods that make this plant so popular and such a great subject for painting.

Chinese lanterns have a fascinating life cycle; the perfect pentagonalshaped white flowers first grow into green pods around August, and then gradually turn into the most vibrant orange papery pods that resemble lanterns by September, hence the name. As the orange pods dry they turn into golden skeletal pods with the orange fruit visible inside. The chaotic mass of beautifully shaped orange pods and the irregular formation of stems that grow in every direction offer the artist plenty of opportunity for interesting shapes within a composition.

Chinese lanterns can be cut and brought indoors for beautiful flower displays and, if correctly dealt with, can retain their colour for months, so they can be used effectively as part of an autumnal still life. However, this plant should be handled with care as the leaves, pods and unripe berries are poisonous.

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October 19
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