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.

Recent Blog Posts

Mar 01
About this “Flow Hive” thing…  

Apr 19
Testing Positive for E.A.B.   (2 comments)

Aug 11
Party star Prunus persica: Kill the Baby Peaches II  

Jul 12
Gluttonous Green Goats   (2 comments)

Jul 06
Sandaled Stone Work  

Jun 22
Screen Door on the Solstice  

Jun 12
Kill the Baby Peaches   (2 comments)

Jun 02
Lilly’s Placenta Tree  




About this “Flow Hive” thing…
by John Packard - posted 03/01/15

“I’m worried about the bees. I hear they’re in trouble.”  These days bee-keepers hear this all the time from people who don’t keep bees. We appreciate the non-beekeepers’ concern. It’s a legitimate concern which sparks conversations about our hives and bees, and how they are doing.  The general public worrying about the health of bees is a unique and rare educational moment.


The author has kept bees for 3 years


Usually the American public is at war with insects; bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitos, ants, and bedbugs, to name a few, can each be a serious nuisance. Billions of dollars are spent every year waging war against these “pests” in our homes, yards, gardens and farm fields. Even the industrious honeybee, ever hard at work making our honey and pollinating our crops, is an unwelcome guest when it moves into the walls of a home, or swarms in a nearby tree. For the moment though, the honeybee has been granted the good graces of the American public which wonders aloud, “What can we do to help the honeybees?”



Along comes the Flow-Hive, a functioning honeybee hive with a spout that pours out honey, “fresh from the hive!” and “it doesn’t disturb the bees!!”  The buzz is substantial. As of March 2015 Flow Hive had raised $3.5 MILLION + on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo!!!


Here's an example of the hype accompanying the "Flow Hive" from the website Bored Panda: "With this brilliant invention by Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father-and-son beekeeper team in Australia, honey bees around the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Their Flow Hive invention allows beekeepers to harvest honey from their hives without disturbing the bees inside. Honey bees around the world are in trouble from something called colony collapse disorder, and this is highly worrisome because of the honey they produce and the agricultural plants they pollinate. Hopefully, this hive will give weakened hives a much-needed break from intrusive visits from the bee keeper!"  This bullshit was posted a week ago and already has 333,000 views. Flow Hive Euphoria


Americans are suckers for convenience. We went all in a decade ago for SRIs like Prozac that would cure depression with a pill. It turns out the pill was no more effective than herbal remedies and exercise, but the ineffectiveness of happy pills didn’t prevent  billions of dollars in profits from pouring into the pharmaceutical industry. Millions of Americans became human guinea pigs by pouring a relatively untested pill down their throats. Years later one side-effect of SRIs turned out to be suicide in pre-adult users.


Complicated problems rarely have simple solutions. We can’t cure mass depression with a pill. We can’t solve a hostage crisis by turning a country into a parking lot. And we can’t halt the decimation of honey-bees and native pollinators with an ingenious device and good marketing. The Flow Hive solves nothing.

Among its advantages, "Supering" allows for harvest of distinct honeys.

Both jars came from the same hive, but the lighter honey had a spritely mint taste.


Honey is typically harvested from managed hives by placing “Super” units onto the 1 or 2 hive bodies where the bees live and reproduce. When the bees fill the supers with capped honey, they are removed from the hive, and the honey is harvested. Some worker bees will be found in the supers, and there are many different means to remove the bees gently, so that the honey can be harvested. THE HIVE BODIES WHERE THE BEES LIVE AND REPRODUCE ARE NOT DISTURBED DURING TRADITIONAL HONEY HARVESTING. The whole premise of the Flow Hive—that disturbing bees during honey harvest is a BIG problem—is false.

3 generations of beekeepers celebrate the harvest: the Old Master, the author & his daughter.

Freshly extracted honey flows through a sieve, and into a tapped 5 gallon bucket for storage.


Another selling point of the Flow Hive is that the honey pours fresh from the hive. Properly harvested and bottled honey will last decades. Capped honey comb was buried in Egyptian tombs and was still good when found 3000 years later.  Milk spoils. Honey, not so much.


Some other very good points about the Flow Hive can be found here "The Flow Hive: Worth the Hype?" and here "Natural Beekeeping Trust: The Flow Hive".


The inventors and developers of the Flow Hive deserve great praise for their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. Ingenuous devices and good marketing could have a great effect on the health of honeybees and native pollinators. Meanwhile, our pollinators face an immediate crisis that will require everyone to make tough choices if the foundation of our food production system is to be saved.


The author's daughter is also involved in the care of the bees.

The right side of the frame is capped honey, bees in the middle & brood at the lower left.


Good on you for wanting to help the bees. Here are some things you can do that will truly make a difference.        


1) Plant diverse species in your yard and gardens that bees love. Less turf, more flowers.

"Swamp Milkweed" growing in a bog a 6' from a front walk is both beuatiful & beneficial.


2) Buy locally grown food and plants. Factory farms and big box stores regularly use systemic insecticides that devastate both pests and desirable insects. Talk to your local farmers and nursery growers and encourage them to stop using neonicotinoid insecticides, and back your encouragement with bucks.

Home grown & scavenged wild apples. Imperfect, they made the best Applesause ever.


3) Get involved in your local, county and state government. Advocate for preservation of wild lands, and acquisition of new lands for conservation. Encourage local and county Highway Departments to stop mowing mindlessly “roadside weeds” that are often important forage sources for pollinators. Insist they stop ineffective mosquito abatement efforts.

Town of Geneva, WI. Park Commission members looking good AND making a difference.


4) Reevaluate your relationship with insects. Insects are the staff of life; without them, there’s no us. Does it really matter if your rose foliage has some Jap beetle holes, when the blooms are just as beautiful, and the plant more floriferous for the insect-induced stress?


Their numbers are battered, but there is still time for pollinator populations to recover.

Loss of habitat, mono-crop agriculture, and pesticide use are the proven causes of honeybee and native pollinator decline. We the American public can do something to reduce the impact of all three every time we vote, shop and garden.



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Testing Positive for E.A.B.
by John Packard - posted 04/19/14

The test results are positive. The Ash trees at our home place in southeastern Wisconsin have Emerald Ash Borer.



Ever since Emerald Ash Borer (E.A.B.) became national news, I have eyed our hedgerow Ash trees and wondered “When?”  The pest was first discovered in north-west Ohio and south-eastern Michigan a decade ago. Initial efforts at eradication of the pest proved futile and millions of Green, White and ‘Autumn Puple’ Ash succumbed. Urban plantings, homeowner landscapes, and native forests all suffered equally.


Quarantines failed to stop E.A.B. from slowly working its way west to Wisconsin.  In fact, it is now believed that E.A.B. was predating upon Ash trees long before the pest was discovered and identified.  Little wonder then that efforts at eradicating E.A.B. and stopping its spread have failed miserably.


Last night wielding a roofing hammer and a nail puller I began prying back the bark around a D-shaped exit hole on the trunk of a sickly White Ash.  I was searching for galleries, the tell-tale tunnels left by wood-boring insects.  Instead, after a few savage scrapes I spotted a flat white worm on the end of the nail puller.



There are many less lethal native wood-boring insects that attack Ash trees, especially trees under stress.  Emerald Ash Borer by contrast is an exotic pest with no known predators to control it in North America. E.A.B. also attacks both healthy and sickly Ash trees indiscriminately.  So even though I had found the larva of a wood-boring insect, the larva still required accurate identification to confirm it was E.A.B.


The larval stage of Emerald Ash Borer has an indistinct head, distinct prothorax, no legs or prolegs on thorax or abdomen, and urogomphi on tail. The larvae of flatheaded borers such as EAB are highly flattened and have a tapeworm-like profile. Link to EAB Look-Alikes


Under the microscope I was able to observe these characteristics, confirming that in fact the Ash trees at Applewood are infested with Emerald Ash Borer larva.



Now that I was confident the larva was E.A.B. I went savagely at the same tree with hammer and nail-puller. Wounding a stressed tree to confirm the presence of a pest should be performed only when quite certain that the pest is present and lethal. Peeling bark a section of bark, I discovered the frass-packed S-shaped galleries I was originally searching for, another tell tale sign of E.A.B. infestation.



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Party star Prunus persica: Kill the Baby Peaches II
by John Packard - posted 08/11/13

The star of the party was Prunus persica, the belle of the ball, the “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Another beautiful day for our annual party.


Sure the hens played 4 tense rounds of Bingo, then returned to the roost with a flock of kids in hot hectic pursuit. 

CSB V featured 4 tense rounds of bingo, and you best show up on time,

cause out here in the country the girls roost when the sun sets!


And the Cathouse Drifters swung the grounds like fruit heavy branches swaying in the summer breeze. 

Hank Thomas of the Cathouse Drifters


The sun goes down and the dancers come out.


But it was that ‘Reliance’ Peach tree behind the stage that stole the show.


Behind the stage a 'Reliance' Peach tree stole the show.


Friends left setting up for the party—Chicken Sh*t Bingo V— chins drizzling juice, only to return later to fill their water bottles with beer and their kit pockets with a peach for their honey, and a half dozen more for the boys.  Clients too, stuffed pockets and faces, cowboy shirts soaked with sweet syrup from a peach at its perfection, wondering when and where we could plant theirs?  And kids just take that 2nd, 3rd and 4th fresh picked peach; they don’t ask and they don’t have to cause lovely freely given is many fold returned.


Even the band got some, after every burger, cob of corn and guest was gone.


Branches so heavy with fruit even the band got some.


So if there’s room for only 1 tree in your southern Wisconsin orchard, ‘Reliance’ Peach is a fine choice... and maybe you best get over here, help me kill this keg, clean the yard, and dare to eat a fresh picked peach.



It’s your lucky day, because someone killed the baby peaches.





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