Tuesday, 8 April 2008
"The checkered Daffodill or Ginny hen flower . . . checkered most strangely : wherein nature or rather the Creator of all things hath kept a very woonderfull order, surpassing (as in all other things) the curiest painting that Art can set down . . . in so much that euery leafe seemeth to be the feather of a Ginnie hen.
. . . Of the faculties of these pleasant flowers there is nothing set downe in ancient or later writers, but are greatly esteemed for the beautifieng of our gardens, and the bosomes of the beautifull."
John Gerard, gardener and surgeon
in his Generall Historie of Plantes (1597)
A few years ago we made a shallow gravel-lined extension to our garden pond and surrounded it with a bog garden border where we could grow plants that like damp conditions. This is a wildlife pond and is a haven for newts, toads, frogs and dragonflies. We decided to introduce Snake's Head Fritillaries (fritillaria meleagris) to the grass around the pond and encourage them to seed and spread. All was going to plan until the under-gardeners decided that their 'project' was to redevelop the shallow gravel pond. I wasn't consulted and I wasn't impressed by the result!!!!! After I cleared up the mess I constructed a fence around the wildlife pond and garden, just high enough to discourage the under-gardeners from further un-authorised gardening projects. Needless to say they have worked out how to sneak into the forbidden zone to sip water from the pond, and I have found one or two fritillary stems snapped off and raked into the gravel! It's a compromise – but the fritillaries with their guinea-hen-feather petals are flourishing.
As we have learnt, a hen's foot can be a destructive tool, but unfortunately sometimes hens are so enthusiastic about digging in stony ground that they fail to notice their feet are getting sore! We noticed Phoebe was not herself, then we noticed she was limping. A quick check revealed a suspicious dark spot on the underside of each foot-pad – Bumblefoot! No, not a character from Harry Potter, but a nasty ulcer caused by bruising of the foot pad which then gets infected – ow! Luckily Phoebe is a very docile hen and model patient, she lay very still as we cleaned and distinfected her feet, removed the dark scabs, washed out the wounds and applied micro-pore bandages. She then spent four days in 'hospital' (a rabbit hutch with deep wood shavings on the floor).
Happily, Phoebe is now back with her fellow under-gardeners and doing what hens do . . . including scratching in the garden! Please, look after your feet!!!