The Philosophy of Hens and Chicks

by Patrick Muir on July 13, 2011

Tonight I was doing some late night blogging and was commenting on a hen and chick flower display from a  PNW blogger, Hens and chicks are a succulent plant where there is one large rosette of leaves (the hen) surrounded by several small rosette  plants (the chicks). After the mother hen is done with its glorious flowering, she withers and dies. The chicks continue to grow into the void left my the hen and the process begins again.

While commentating, I reread my comment and thought to myself, Patrick, that’s pretty profound for you. So I hope it looks profound in the morning. Here goes:

“I like to think that hens and chicks remind us of how we should live our lives. Be a loving parent and show our children how to get the most out of life. And when it is our time to go, we may rest well in knowing they are prepared to do the same.”

What do you think?


Patrick's Garden

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Jayne July 14, 2011 at 4:31 am

I agree, it is a universal and profound message! Well said!!! Now if my children would just get married and stay married and have some children, I will get to see if I have done my job! I think how we handle adversity and in so doing model for our children, is one huge challenge we have as parents, and I will now look at my little troughs filled with succulents in a new way! Yes, the beautiful big middles are beginning to fade, but their former glory was a sight to behold – now it is the children who must grow and show their genes!


Patrick July 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

I reread it this morning and I’m so glad I copied it last night. It is something I hope I live up to myself.


Jennifer@threedogsinagarden July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Hi Patrick,
How I wish my parents had said to me, ” Jennifer, you can do anything you want put your mind to…Climb a mountain, travel the world, write a book, paint a masterpiece…anything!” I think it would have made me more fearless. So, when my own son was growing up, I said just that to him. Ironically, that’s not what he wanted to hear. He is less driven and happy to lead a small life. Still, I hope that some part of my message to grab hold of life and live life to the fullest has managed to sink through.


Patrick July 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm


All you can do is sow the seeds and hope someday they will bloom for him. I don’t know his age, but don’t give up hope even if the circumstances may be against him right now.


bakingbarb July 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm

I love their flowers as you know and what an ideal message.
Thank you for the mention.


Patrick July 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

It was only after I wrote this and added the images, did I realize I need more as well.


Joan Muir July 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Oh my goodness!!!


Patrick July 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Thanks very much for you kind comment.


Fran Sorin July 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm

What a beautiful metaphor using hens and chicks about letting go…in living and death….and hoping that our children can accept it when we die.
Your thoughts remind me of ‘wabi sabi’. Fran


Patrick July 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Fran -
I had to google “wabi sabi’ and after I did, all i can say is thank you very much.for such a beautiful comparison\.


Rosie@mygardenhaven July 19, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Yes, a profound philosophy. I’m going to quote you, and send the message to my children, saying that I hope I had been a good example to them. Thank you Patrick.


Patrick July 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

Rosie -
I hope your kids enjoy the message as much as you did.
Thanks for stopping by.


Smedette July 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Lovely analogy!

There is so much more I want to do with different parts of my yard…Hens and Chicks are definitely on the list.


Patrick July 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Smedette.

Only after writing this posting and researching a bit, I had no idea how many different sempervivum are out there. Naive?


Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker July 25, 2011 at 3:13 am

Nature is the perfect reminder of the circle of life Patrick and our role in it.

Keep blogging – you are making a difference!



Patrick July 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm

You’re absolutely right. Hens and Chicks are just one more show in the dramatic circle of life


Gaia Gardener September 4, 2011 at 8:10 am

What an absolutely beautiful thought! Thank you so much for sharing it. As I raised my two children (now 30 and 32), I had 2 general guidelines: “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” (Hodding Carter) and “A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” (Dorothy Canfield Fisher). As my children are now wonderful (IMHO) adults, I will be adding your philosophy to my short-list! (And I will never look at hen and chicks in quite the same way again.)


Patrick September 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

I’m humbled by your words and the addition to your short list. Those are some beautiful quotes. Thanks for sharing. I think this posting has touched a nerve for the better and will improve Hen and Chick sales, just kidding.


Kimberley September 6, 2011 at 7:40 am

I think it’s a great philosophy. I also subscribe to the “roots and wings” school. My job as a mother is to make myself increasingly unnecessary to my children, much as it pains me. (Today is the first day of middle school for my youngest, as well as her birthday, so your thoughts are colored a bit more poignant for me today!)

I love my hens and chicks, but I made the mistake of planting lamb’s ears among them, and now I can’t see them anymore!
I am trying to decide now whether to transplant those lamb’s ears this fall or wait until next spring.

I am really enjoying your site!


Patrick September 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my site and hope you’ll come back soon. Middle school can be very challenging so good luck with that.
I’m a big proponent of dividing in the fall because plants will hit the ground running come spring and the root development if the fall helps improve their overrall performance.


Kimberley September 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Actually started pulling out, splitting, and transplanting the lamb’s ear yesterday evening. Those plants are monsters! Wait until you see the pictures once I finish the project and write about it!


Patrick September 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

Saw your pictures. Very intensive job. Great work I must say. Not sure about performance in the shade but we’ll wait and see.


Layanee September 20, 2011 at 4:34 am

Love these.


Patrick September 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Couldn’t have said it better. Thanks for stopping by.


Bren September 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Hens and chicks…my mind was on the farm visit, when I saw your favourite on the sidebar ))))… The words were beautiful, sensitive and touching. Thank you for sharing. I will look at hens and chicks growing in my garden in a different light now.


Patrick September 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

On a farm visit, cute. I’m so fulfilled with the compliments that people will look at hens and chicks differently because of my words. Thank you.


Cathy and Steve September 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Patrick, Simple words are often the most profound. Yours, simply stated, top profound. And I wholeheartedly agree!


Patrick September 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Thanks so much for another beautiful comment.


Tricia October 4, 2011 at 7:02 am

Patrick! I thought you had stopped blogging! So glad to have found your new site! Great design, and your writing is wonderful as always. Our gardening, and writing about it, has brought us out of a very trying time in our lives, and over the winter, I’m hoping to bring the two processes together in my blog. I’ll be visiting regularly for inspiration now that I know where you are!

We had hens & chicks at our previous house — my husband just loves them. We grew them under a small maple tree with some Russian sage and all three seemed happy with the arrangement. Alas, we haven’t put any in yet at our new garden — next year.


Patrick October 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Hey Tricia,

Thank you for your comments about the design of my blog. It’s a custom job fro an art director. Regarding my writing, before I was paralyzed I spent 13 years in advertising agency account management where part of my job responsibilities was to edit the work of copywriters before it was sent to clients. So after working with many writers, I’m sure I gleamed a lot from their writing style..

I’m glad you like hens and chicks. There are so many types, they re so versatile and oh so hardy.


Grannie M October 19, 2011 at 5:09 am

I just found your blog this morning. It has kept me busy reading and I have a list made to google later. This story just fits with my description of what my parents have taught me about life. My Mother passed away almost 9 years ago about 6 years after she had meningitis. I’ve always felt God gave us those six years as a family to learn to let go and my Mother taught me during that time that it was ok to die. My Father at 88 is still going strong and has taught me to love living. He is still busy chopping corn and taking care of his cattle. He accepts life as it is today and doesn’t judge others for the ways they choose to live. I continue to learn from him as do his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Just the picture of hen and chicks I’d say.
The story of the Hen and Chicks may just keep me from ripping mine out some day!


Patrick October 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

I enjoyed learning about your family. Its great you father is so inspiring.


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