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

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About this “Flow Hive” thing…  

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Motherwort, What a Weed!
by John Packard - posted 06/10/12

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca, is a Eurasian herbaceous perennial rapidly spreading in southern Wisconsin.  If you are restoring woodlands or gardening near waste places and disturbed ground, you need to know this weed, and terminate it with extreme prejudice.

Motherwort has the 4-sided stems characteristic of members of the Mint family, Lamiaceae. Its leaves are opposite each other along the stem.  Lower leaves have 3 or 5 lobes and slight serration along the leave blade.  Upper leaves have 3 sharp points instead of lobes.  The flowers are carried in clustered spikes 3”-6” long, located in the leaf axils, colored white to pink to lilac, and are spine tipped.  Flowering extends from May to September. 


Motherwort is extremely adaptable.  It is found in dry to wet soils, sun or shade, and is common in fields, hedgerow, and waste places.  Motherwort is becoming increasingly common in woodlands, cohabitating with Garlic Mustard, Buckthorn, Asian Honeysuckle and other scourges of native woodland wildflowers.  Perhaps its association with these aggressive and well-known thugs accounts for Motherwort’s relative obscurity.


European settlers introduced Motherwort to North America for its medicinal properties, including the treatment of heart ailments and menstrual disorders.  It has been used as a stimulant and tonic, and to aid childbirth.  Earlier generations of the Japanese are reputed to have drunk a beverage made from the flowers of Motherwort to prolong life.


We endorse none of Motherwort’s purported medical properties and recommend instead that Motherwort be removed completely from your property.  Motherwort has a dense fibrous root system, but even large plants can be hand-pulled. Weeded Motherwort should be composted in a hot well-managed compost pile, much like its partner in crime Garlic Mustard.  Weed-whipping has little effect on established plants, which regrow vigorously.  Herbicide applications will smoke seedlings, but larger plants experience only burn-down and eventually recover.




Please familiarize yourself with Motherwort, and help rid our cultivated and natural areas of this pest, before it becomes Wisconsin’s Next Top Invasive Species.

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Pray for Rain
by John Packard - posted 05/13/12



“Pray for rain, John. Pray for rain.”

Last night I woke to the sound of heavy showers and knew that I had tomorrow “off”.  Not that a landscaper has any day off in the spring. There’s always a long list of rain day tasks that beg for attention: bids to generate, decrepit wheelbarrows to revive, blog entries to write.  But at least today there are no crews to run and jobs to orchestrate.  The ground is soaked, the sky is grey, and life is good.

Most people don’t pray for rain, because most people don’t directly depend on the bounty of the earth for their living.  If you aren’t a farmer or a gardener, rain is a nuisance.  Rain makes for an ugly morning commute and weekend plans migrate indoors. Who wants it to rain? 

I learned to pray for rain early in life.  At age 13 I spent my first summer on a produce farm, cutting cabbage, boxing beans, and picking one tomato for every two I threw.  Pennsylvania summers are usually sultry, the 90+ degree days and mid 70 degree dew points sparking off many a thunderstorm.  Not the summer of ’81. A dry June preceded a drier July, and between my tomato throwing and the crops withering in the fields, my boss and brother in law Tim’s mood was as black as the sky was blue. At the end of every 10 hour day, Tim’s mom Shirl would drop me off at home and intone, “Pray for rain, John. Pray for rain.”

The rain finally came in early August.  We were “first-picking” tomatoes, which meant I was standing up and looking around until my back throbbed, and trying not to scratch my arms from contact with the lush green leaves that hid the ‘maters in their crowns. Somehow the sky grew dark and the air cold.  Shirl pronounced that she could, “Smell the rain coming.”  Finally even Buck, Tim’s father and partner, acknowledged those first big sparse drops were in fact rain, and we all scrambled to load into the step van a couple score of full cardboard boxes that an afternoon of “first picking” had yielded.  As the clouds burst, I clambered into body of the van with a couple other teenaged laborers, pulled the door down and almost shut, claimed my share of empty burlap bean bags, and took the sweetest nap of my life.

The winter and spring of 2012 has been unique in Wisconsin.  After scant snowfall and the warmest March on record, our gardens are as disoriented as we are.  Apple trees and Garlic Mustard have bloomed a month early, and each night as the temperature dip into the low 30’s, we fear for our orchards and Asian Maples.  Who knows what the rest of the growing season will hold.  Will it be 120 degrees in July?  Will the trees lose their leaves in September?  Will 2013’s spring bulbs bloom by Christmas 2012?

Whatever the upcoming growing season yields, lack of snow and early heat means that every drop of rain is good thing.  So before you hit the hay tonight, “Pray for rain.” I will.

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