Flowers for your polytunnel for October

When we started our Advanced flower grower workshops, one of the things that Carol Siddorn, Paula Baxter and I (Claire Brown) liked the most, was peering into each other’s growing spaces….. What have you got compared to me? How do you get things to flower longer? later? better? We’ve all made each other better growers over the last 3 years by sharing information, encouraging, and maybe even pushing each other. So here’s the start of a blog series to give you some insights into some of the topics we’ve shared. Last Autumn we were in Cheshire in Carol’s Garden, and there was still a huge amount flowering, so here’s Carol’s thoughts on what to put in your polytunnel for October.

 One of Carol’s poly tunnels with Chrysanthemums waiting to be cut

One of Carol’s poly tunnels with Chrysanthemums waiting to be cut


October may be my favourite month. It has rained, the end of the flower season is in sight, and I can happily ignore weeds and dead heads for a while longer. The risk of early frosts and stormy weather means that the polytunnels come into their own now, so I can take bookings til at least mid Oct without too much stress. We officially close sales at the end of Oct, even if we still have flowers, because we need to get tunnels cleared and replanted for spring during November. The quality and productivity has usually declined by then, and tunnel space is valuable. 
So, what’s in the tunnels now? Here’s a little walk-through of ours:
1. Permanent perennial plantings eg foliage from scented geranium, senecio, Passion flower, Jasmine. Pinks & marjoram having a second flush. 
2. Hardy annuals which have been there since last autumn, flowered all summer and still flowering! Scabious, calendula, phlox, Daucus (though this last is small now!)
3. Half hardy perennials which will be lifted once the hard frosts hit, or mid-end Nov - Dahlias (I’m trying the dinner plate dahlias in the tunnel for the first time, but think I won’t do this again, they were hit by spider mite early on and not been as productive as outdoor ones), chrysanths, tweedia, chocolate cosmos. 
4. Spring sown half hardy annuals that just do better in the tunnel, most have been flowering for ages and still doing ok: lisianthus, celosia, antirrhinums, didiscus, basils, carnations, cobea, cardiospermum, - and of course lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines. 
5. Late sown annuals which have replaced the summer crops, sown June, planted July/aug (bit later this year because it was so hot) and flowering strongly now - Amaranthus, zinnia, nasturtium, gomphrena, asters, phlox. 
So, what’s coming next for spring?....a few biennials already in (wallflowers, sweet Williams and trying some foxgloves inside this year too), hardy annuals mainly sown and growing ready to be planted from end Oct, Ranunculus and anemones started, tulips ready and waiting for the last crop to be cleared end Nov-Dec (which will be the chrysanths). And then there’s all the obliging self sown things... I do love spring in the polytunnel....