Even in a polytunnel that is mostly used to grow food, flowers can be a useful and important addition. Flowers are essential in a food-producing polytunnel. Some flowers can themselves produce an edible yield, while others are there to help maintain fertility, or to serve as companion plants which will attract beneficial insects (including pollinators) and repel or distract pest species. Purple flowers can be particularly good at attracting insects – as well as coming in a range of beautiful hues. There are, of course, a huge range of purple flowers to grow in a polytunnel – but here is a list of ten of the most useful of these plants:
Adding some comfrey to a corner of your polytunnel, or planting it elsewhere to use in your polytunnel, can be a great idea in an organic garden.
Comfrey is a deep rooted plant that will gather nutrients from deep below the soil surface as well as from the top layers of soil. By chopping and dropping comfrey, spreading comfrey leaves as mulch, or using it to make a liquid feed, you can return those nutrients to the soil.
Comfrey’s purple flowers are also great for attracting bees and other pollinators.
Borage, with its purple or blue flowers, is another bee-friendly plant to consider adding in your polytunnel. Borage is an annual but will readily self-seed each year. Allowing a few borage plants to pop up in your polyculture vegetable beds can be a good idea.
Not only does borage attract bees and other beneficial insects, it also has edible leaves and flowers that taste a little like cucumber. The leaves and the flowers both have a range of culinary and herbal medicine uses.
One of the purple flowers that can be used for practical purpose in a polytunnel is the lupin. Blue/purple varieties on this flower can easily be found. These are often used merely as an ornamental, but actually also make an excellent green manure plant, or a companion plant for vegetables. Lupins grow tall,producing a good bulk of organic matter, and also fix atmospheric nitrogen. Lupin as a cover crop can also help make phosphorus in the soil more available to other plants.
Lavender’s charms are obvious. As one of the most delightfully fragrant purple flowers, planting lavender in your polytunnel can fill the air with a lovely scent.
More than this, however, lavender can also be extremely useful. It will attract a range of pollinators and other beneficial creatures, and what is more, it can also have culinary uses as a herb.
Of course, lavender can have a range of other uses too. For example, it can be used to make a range of DIY, home-made cleaning and beauty products for use in your home.
A number of herbs planting among your fruits and vegetables will help keep pests at bay and attract beneficial predatory insects. Purple sage not only releases its aroma in your polytunnel, but also enhances the visual appeal of the space with its attractive purple flowers.
Of course, sage has a range of culinary uses, and can also have a range of benefits to your health and well-being.
Purple thyme is another attractive herb with purple flowers that can also serve as an excellent companion plant for a range of fruits and vegetables. It is particularly good at attracting predatory insects which will help keep populations of pests like aphids down.
As a versatile pot-herb, thyme will naturally have a range of uses in your kitchen. Like other herbs,it can also play a role in natural healthcare and other eco-friendly DIY projects for your home.
Chives, a member of the onion family, can help to repel or distract a range of pest species with their strong smell. For example, when planted close to carrots, they can help to reduce the incidence of carrot fly damage.
The purple flowers not only help in pest control, they are also edible. Along with the stems they can also be used in a wide range of recipes.
Purple violets will, of course, attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. But another reason to include them in your polytunnel is that they are also edible – great candied or in a range of salads. They are one of the best known edible ornamental flowers.
Another great edible flower – the pansy – can also have purple flowers in a range of different shades. Pansies not only have a good taste, they also add colour and interest to your salads throughout the year.
Nasturtium ‘Purple Emperor’
Finally, why not consider another top edible flower – the nasturtium. Try Purple Emperor for its attractive purple flowers. Not only can you eat the flowers and the leaves of this plant, it will also distract flea beetles and other pests and can be a great companion plant for, for example, squash and pumpkins.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.