Remembering Michael

By Teresa Woodard and Debra Knapke

Dear Gardening Friends,

It is with sad hearts that we share the news of Michael’s recent passing. He was a dear friend, talented writer, faithful Christian and consummate gardener. For 10 years, we have been writing this blog together to celebrate the Midwest’s seasons of gardening. Along the way, we shared wonderful visits, traveled to gardens and attended garden conferences together. We also saw Michael courageously fight and win his battle with cancer.

Many times, we sat on Michael’s back porch and brainstormed our next round of blog topics. He would make us tea to enjoy as we looked out into his backyard paradise. And he often sent us home with plants or cuttings from his garden. He was our editor and thoughtfully edited our pieces while keeping our voice. He only made our writing better and always encouraged us to write more descriptively.

As a tribute to Michael, we thought we might share a few gems from his inspiring blog posts and essays.

His Love of Daffodils: He wrote, “they may lack the regal elegance of lilies and voluptuousness of roses and peonies, but daffodils are the flowers that make my heart leap highest.” While in his early 40s, they came to symbolize hope for him. He shared during a dark valley time of life, a friend gave him a bag of bulbs as a birthday gift. After a tough day of work as an office temp, he came home and planted the bulbs.  He wrote, “while digging holes, I thought, ‘these symbols of spring will be blooming in a few months. When they do, my life will be as different as the pastel spring scene is from the gray, gloom of late November.’” That April, his daffodils and spirits blossomed together, and he continued planting a couple more dozen each fall.

His Vegetable Gardening Struggles: Michael planted vegetable crops each year and loved the challenge of extending the season with cold frames to jump start spring seedlings and row covers to grow kale late into the winter. One year, he even resolved to give up vegetable gardening, but friends and family who enjoyed the harvests he shared are thankful he persisted.

His Garden Wit: We appreciated Michael’s snarky take on rainy days and winter snows. In Spare Me the ‘S’ Word, he makes fun of forecasters who “can’t wait until the world becomes a floured mess.” He described Daylight Savings as “the black expanse as vast and forbidding as Siberia.” He also made fun of Groundhog Day and suggested “gardeners apparently weren’t consulted when groundhogs were chosen as prognosticators of winter’s duration,” since the creatures chew up his barn floors and wrecked havoc amongst his vegetables. He even laughed at himself in Garden Downsizing as he wondered how to bid farewell to a jealous lover, his clever metaphor for a beautiful but demanding garden.

His Favorite Tool: One season, we decided to write about our favorite gardening tools, and Michael chose the edging iron. He wrote, “edging is the landscape equivalent of tucking in a shirttail, pinning back stray hairs and putting scattered papers into a straight stack.”

His Grateful Heart: One Thanksgiving, Michael wrote about Growing Gratitude and encouraged readers to be thankful for those who introduced you to gardening and nurtured you along the way. He specifically remembered his Grandpa Leach with his “furrows straight as laser beams” and his grandmother who had “a higgledy-piggledy collection” of plants in her small backyard. He also expressed his appreciation for nature’s beauty and its Maker.

His Last Post: In late March, Michael wrote Garden Party for Native Plants and encouraged readers to add more native plants to their carts when plant shopping this spring. Michael’s own yard was filled with redbud trees, dogwoods and sugar maples. We encourage you to plant one of these trees or a handful of daffodils to remember Michael. In a Memorial Day post, he wrote “such plants make me smile. Perhaps because I remember the donors in their gardening years, active, yet at peace, working in their little Edens.”

Catch Us If You Can

Upcoming Talks and Stories for Heartland Gardening Bloggers


Heartland Gardening bloggers Deb Knapke, Teresa Woodard and Michael Leach recent met for a brainstorming session at Fox in the Snow café near downtown Columbus.

Heartland Gardening bloggers Debra Knapke, Teresa Woodard and Michael Leach recently met for a brainstorming session at Fox in the Snow café in Columbus.


The Heartland Gardening bloggers have a busy spring ahead.  Catch them at the following events and look for their stories in the following magazines:

Debra Knapke

  • Feb. 14: Debra will present two talks at the OEFFA conference in Granville — What is a Plant? and Polycultures and Garden Guilds.
  • Feb. 24: Debra will be speaking to the 2016 Delaware Master Gardener class about Annuals and Perennials.
  • March 5: Debra will be speaking on Sustainable Gardens at Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton.
  • March 17: Debra will be traveling to Connecticut to present The Garden Aesthetic in a Time of Global Climate  Change at the UConn Sustainable Landscape Conference
  • March 19: Debra will be presenting at the Oakland Nursery Spring Fling.
  • April 8: Debra and her daughter, Sarah Arevalo, will be presenting Complementary Design: Embracing Inside and Out at LABash 2016 at The Ohio State University.
  • May 9: Debra will be presenting at the Gahanna Annual Herb Day
  • May 27: Debra will give a talk at Holden Arboretum for the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. Her topic is: Books, Botany and Horticulture– a Beautiful Combination.

Michael Leach

  • Feb. 20-28:  As the garden stage manager at the Columbus Home & Garden Show at the Ohio Expo Center, Michael Leach has recruited a speaker line-up who will cover everything from backyard beekeeping to growing your own vegetables.
  • Feb. 21, 11 a.m.: Michael will present “Healing Gardens” at the Columbus Home & Garden Show.
  • Spring issue:  Michael’s garden will be featured in the spring issue of Columbus Monthly’s Home & Garden.

Teresa Woodard


Michael’s Guest Blog on Gardening Know How

gardening know howCheck out Michael’s guest blog (January 20) at Gardening Know How and learn that it’s OK to sit down in the garden and let it nurture you.

Gardening Know How helps novice and seasoned gardeners discover easy ways of cultivating the passion of growing everything from houseplants to edibles. To date, the website has answered over 45,000 direct questions about gardening, and over 60 million people come to visit the site every year.

Leach portrait 2


Snapshots: Michael’s Daffodils

Leach curbHello, Yellow!  Golden Daffodils and Trim Add Plenty of Curb Appeal

By Teresa Woodard

Our fellow blogger Michael Leach definitely has a green thumb, and his gardening efforts this month are showing some golden results! At his home southwest of Columbus, Michael planted hundreds of daffodils around the family farmhouse where he grew up as a child and returned in 1988 to make his own and transform the gardens. Check out these recent snapshots of his spring paradise.Daffodils and old maple tree

Century-old maple trees were planted by Michael’s uncles who built the home in 1890.Back edge of propertyMore daffodils frame the rear view of Michael’s property.

Mixed bulbs by back steps Michael creates many charming vignettes like this mix of bulbs at the back steps and a spring container arrangement at the yellow garage door.Yellow garage door Rear view of home Rear view of home

Original farmhouse trough An original trough from the farmhouse

Magnolia bloom Garage and back doorSide entry

Front walk with scillaSide walkway

Buck decorated seasonallyThanks for sharing your garden, Michael!


Catch Us If You Can

Bloggers Debra Knapke and Michael Leach are TV stars, this month.  On Fox 28’s Good Day Columbus, Debra Knapke highlighted edibles at the Heritage Gardens at the Ohio Governor’s Residence.  On another day, Michael appeared on the show to share tips on how to get a jump-start on spring gardening.  Check out his tips on planting spring bulbs, transplanting houseplants, and growing pansies and fall asters.

In the newly released fall issue of Edible Columbus, Debra writes about “Ohio Squash”  and shares tips for cool-season veggies in “What to Plant & Harvest”.  Teresa Woodard also contributes a feature, “Pumpkin Envy”, on Roger Kline who grows award-winning edible heirloom pumpkins.




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