John Packard has spent most of his life working in and enjoying the outdoors. During high school and after college he labored and lived on a 200 acre produce farm in Pennsylvania. In 1993 he moved permanently to Wisconsin, where he has gardened and landscaped ever since. As a partner in Mother Nature and Sons (1995-2002) he helped introduce natural garden design and organic maintenance to south-eastern Wisconsin. Since 2003 he has owned and operated Botanica Fine Gardens and Landscapes in Lake Geneva. Botanica emphasizes gardening in harmony with nature, land stewardship and horticultural best practice. John’s horticultural interests include: woodland and prairie restoration, vegetables, conifers, native plants, weed management, artisanal stonework, and enjoying the fruits of his labors with good friends, beer and music at the end of the day.

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Lilly’s Placenta Tree  




Lilly’s Placenta Tree
by John Packard - posted 06/02/13

Lilly's birth 13 years ago today completed our perfect family.


13 years ago our last and littlest was born.  Lilly’s birth was special in many ways. Our fourth child and second girl, she completed our perfect family.  Lilly was born at home, in the office, while a lead called and left a message requesting an estimate for lawn mowing. 

The office where Lilly was born.


Lilly was weighed in our living room with a fish scale, and her 3 siblings were gathered around her a few minutes later to “Oh !” and “Ah!”


A few minutes old, our last and littlest is weighed with a fish scale...


...and then her siblings meet her.


To all who met her, Lilly was clearly an old soul who deserved a venerable name. We took three days before choosing Lillian Catherina in honor of Grammy Packard, the kindest and gentlest of women, who raised four remarkable children, including my father, in defiance of the dire straits brought on by the Great Depression and World War II. 

Grammy Packard with 4 of her grandchildren, Lilly's father on the left.


Maybe most unique about our last and littlest’s birth 13 years ago today is Lilly’s placenta tree.  Prunus maackii,  Amur Chokecherry is a cherry tree revered for its glistening golden bark which sparkles and glows year round.  In the harsh light of Wisconsin winters, its bark is especially bright and beckoning   Between the house and the road where we, our neighbors and passersby could all enjoy it, we sited a 6’ Amur Chokecherry.  At the bottom of the hole, we placed Lilly’s placenta, bequeathing the tree a long and vigorous life.


When she was 1 day old, Lilly's placenta tree was planted.


Leaving a garden behind is painful for anyone who loves the land. So in 2005 it was with heavy hearts that we turned our back on 7 years of planning and planting, and moved across lovely Lake Como to a bigger house and larger property with more room for our thriving family and grandiose gardening ambitions.  Lilly’s tree stayed behind, where her placenta sustained it well. We returned to visit our old gardens in 2010 and found them in disrepair: weedy, overgrown, and forlorn with neglect.  Lilly was the most distraught of us all by the sorry state of what was once glorious, and sought solace beneath her tree, wishing she could take it home with her.


"It's such a sad thing to see beauty decay. It's sadder still, to feel your heart torn away."

Bob Dylan, "Cold Irons Bound"


Fortunately, in the fall of 2011 we had the opportunity to rehab our old garden, and among the many surprises lurking among the weeds, we found a few root suckers growing far from the trunk of Lilly’s placenta tree.  I carefully cut a chunk of the root that nurtured the suckers, over-wintered it in a hoop house, and then planted the chunk of root and suckers in the spring of 2012.  The summer of 2012 brought a devastating drought. With supplemental water and lots of love, the little piece of Lilly’s tree that we transplanted survived.  Today, the tree is 3’ tall, low branched, with a trained central leader ready to zoom to the sky.  Just like Lilly, we look with wonder at Lilly’s  tree and marvel at its growth, resilience and promise to bring joy and love to the world.


Happy Birthday Lilly!

It's five years later, and one thing that everyone would agree on, is that much of the world has changed. Well the more things change, the more some things stay the same. Lilly and her tree continue to grow with promise and joy, like all well-loved children and saplings.


Lilly's Placenta Tree was 15' tall on her 18th Birthday


She's off to Franklin and Marshall in the fall...


...we will miss you very much Lilly, but will admire and tend your tree

with the same great love that we have for you!



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