Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Guinea-hen flower

"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!!!


  1. I love love love fritillaries. I've also thought about putting in a wildlife pond, but haven't been sure about it given that a couple of my hens are obsessed with water in any shape or form. I think they'd end up paddling in it most days. But I suppose if I could erect a nice little fence it might be ok? Glad Phoebe is back to normal, she is a beauty x

  2. I had to come over and look at your fritillaries too. I can't get enough of them! I do hope you manage to get over to Fox Meadow and post some pictures from there too.

  3. I love your water garden saga, but I love even more the story of Phoebe and your marvelous care of her in her time of need (and pain)and her patience with it all. All under-gardeners should be so fortunate to have an over-gardener such as yourself. How dear.

  4. Thank goodness Phoebe (great photos of her and her foot) is now back comfortably on her feet, and back in the world of scratching over your borders! I am pleased some of your fritillaria have survived. I haven't ever seen one of these in real life, only in photos, I do like them. x

  5. aha! Not just me having bother with the hen/fritillary interface then. A few brave souls have struggled up in my orchard but I don't fancy their chances.
    Hope Phoebe is rallying - mine haven't had bumblefoot yet but I'm sure they will soon add it to their burgeoning 'Things Hens Can Get' portfolio.

  6. best wishes to Phoebe! Good advice to look after your feet. Glad she's better.

  7. Oh poor Phoebe but lucky to have such a dilligent Mistress. Glad to hear that she's in the mend.

    Love the fritillaries!

  8. Love the fritillaries!
    Take care,

  9. Just found your Etsy store, hope you have lots of fun with it. Joy

  10. Poor Phoebe...I am so glad you found out her foot was infected and took care of it...I am glad to know she is back to 100%!

  11. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes to Phoebe – she's feeling much better. She's bottom of the pecking order and has really appreciated all the TLC!

    Lucy - even a small pond is worthwhile, and easily fenced off.

    Threadspider - this is becoming an inter-blog fritillary appreciation event!

    Louise - Snake's Head Fritillaries are exquisite in every way!

    Wenda - great phrase: 'hen/fritillary interface' :)

    Hi Joy - Yes! My etsy shop is open for business! I was challenged by Gina of Fan My Flame to stop the procrastination!


  12. Thankyou for the fritillaries! Of course, they are definitely a dream in my present life!

    And, should any bird keepers be reading: all birds can succomb to "bumblefoot." In Phoebe's cse, it was probably over-vigourous scratching! But incorrect perches will do it, too. Doesn't matter whether it's a budgerigar or a falcon, if the perching bar is too smooth, the birds develop ulcerations. The remedy? Regularly replace the perches with rough branches.
    And if a bird does sustain an injury, ring Dr. P.P.Peas for further advice!


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