Don’t forget to vote—and even if your candidate doesn’t win, you can win this book!




We have a winner! Congrats: Linda Gribko!presidentsgardens

We posted about All the Presidents’ Gardens when Timber ran a contest to win a trip to DC, but didn’t get into too much detail. It’s a really fun book; it’s also very well-researched by author Marta McDowell and exhaustively covers every administration from George Washington to Barack Obama, complete with lists of head gardeners and plants.

Readers will find that Frances Cleveland (1885–1889, 1893–1897) was the first to plant Japanese maples at the White House and that Henry Pfister, my favorite of the WH head gardeners, had almost a dozen forcing houses, including two for roses, one for grapes, one for violets, and two for orchids. Those were the days. Bulb forcing was common and Ffister grew over 300 pots of fuchsias. He also seemed to have been obsessed with a plant I’ve never heard of, cineraria, sort of a bushy combination of daisy and dianthus. It’s a long way from the prosaic bedding schemes of many public institutions today.

The Kennedys created a new Rose Garden.

The Kennedys created a new Rose Garden.

This history of how the White House grounds have changed over time is filled with fascinating anecdotes, archival documents, and beautiful photography. It’s also the easiest way to get a sense of the presidential gardens, which are only open to the public on two weekends a year.

During WWI, sheep grazed on the WH lawn and everyone was encouraged to plant food.

During WWI, sheep grazed on the WH lawn and everyone was encouraged to plant food.

Pfister’s greenhouses disappeared under the Theodore Roosevelts; their space was needed for a White House expansion, and he became redundant. But there were always new schemes under each administration, new ways to bring the gardens up to date with whatever landscaping fashion was taking hold at the time. As we all agree, food growing is the thing now, and the Obamas have a productive vegetable garden. What will become of it? We’ll see. Hillary Clinton has said she’ll keep it up; no word on it from the other candidate.

Drop a comment (try to actually say something, if you can) and I’ll send a randomly drawn winner a copy of this book. I can assure you that reading it will be a lot more fun than this election has been! My polls close at 9 p.m. EST; that’s when this contest will end.

Posted by on November 8, 2016 at 9:04 am, in the category Books.
Comments are off for this post

30 responses to “Don’t forget to vote—and even if your candidate doesn’t win, you can win this book!”

  1. Alice Sassone says:

    I enjoyed this book in the Public Library. I would love to have it in my library.

  2. Anita Taylor says:

    A timely read for this election year. Will Mrs. Obama’s garden remain?

  3. Claudia says:

    I voted. Then remembered we have a three branch system of checks and balances….bless the Founders. I have lived thru 12 Presidents, and I realize that America continues…..sometimes despite the occupant of the White House.
    And I have some transplanted White House Tulips. My dear friend moved into a house whose previous owner’s son worked the First Gardens. When the gardener’s brother was killed in the First Gulf War, tulips were sent home in sympathy, by first President Bush. Years later, division was needed, I was a lucky recipient of that bounty.

  4. Lynn says:

    I would love to learn more about these historic gardens.

  5. Julie says:

    Sorry I didn’t see this before the deadline, but my luck is poor with contests anyway.
    I’ll put this book on my Christmas list. I think that the history of White House gardens probably reflects broader societal views of gardening and landscaping over time…should be an interesting read.
    Thanks for reminding us about the book!

  6. Sheila says:

    This would be a great companion to another book on my shelves: “Capital Splendor: Parks & Gardens of Washington DC,” by Valerie Brown and Barbara Glickman.

  7. Paula Leier-Engelhardt says:

    History and gardening all rolled into one book – can it get any better?

  8. Deirdre Barnett says:

    I have (and love!) Marta McDowell’s other book, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” and was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Philadelphia Flower Show. This book looks very interesting also!

  9. Rebecca Johnson says:

    I love history, and this is a subject I know little about, unless I hear about a First Lady who is actively involved with the gardens. Especially looking forward to the photographs.

  10. Moria says:

    This sounds so interesting! I would love to read and then share!

  11. Sandy Zimmer says:

    The gardens must have changed quite a bit with each President and will be interesting what importance each one put on it. I’m glad this has been documented.

  12. Linda Gribko says:

    Looks like a great book! I just watched a short piece on Michelle Obama’s garden, which started out as a “family garden” and became so much more in terms of launching her campaign for healthy eating. I’d love to win a copy.

  13. Betty Truax says:

    Presidential Gardens! Does it get any better than that?

  14. Jeanne Traeger says:

    As an avid gardener, I would find this book to be a total joy!

  15. Bob Jobin says:

    Here’s hoping that the next family to enter the White House will be a garden friendly as the Obama Family!

  16. Susan says:

    I voted two weeks ago and am more than ready for the election to be over. I’m sure this book is much more pleasant in tone than much of the advertising

  17. Bob Jobin says:

    Here’s to hoping the next family to occupy the White House will be as garden friendly as the Obama Family has been!

  18. Justine Murdy says:

    I’m hoping the next president will strengthen the protection of the environment. Good luck America!

  19. I would love this book and I voted when the polls opened at 6 this morning here in KY.

  20. bess simons says:

    A few years ago, we were lucky enough to get tickets for the annual garden tour at the White House. It was interesting, but I was disappointed at how limited the tour actually was. I guess I had thought we would see much much more

  21. Laura B says:

    My comment does not seem to want to post — Yes, please! I’d love to win this book.

  22. Laura B says:

    Yes, please!

  23. Laura B says:

    Yes, please! I’d love this book!

  24. Gladys says:

    It was so telling when they broke ground for the White House vegetable garden and it was so hard. I’m grateful for the positive PR for vegetable gardening and hope it continues for at least 8 more years. This looks like an interesting read.

  25. Susan says:

    Sounds like a winner!

  26. Deborah Banks says:

    I’d love to read about the history of the White House gardens.

  27. Sarah Smith says:

    This looks like the perfect book for reading on a gloomy winters day.

  28. anne says:

    How wonderful! It seems like the presidential gardens have evolved and changed quite a bit over the years, which is fascinating. I wonder how that kind of change compares to gardens at capitols in other countries over the years.

    We have vote by mail here in Oregon, so I voted a couple of weeks ago–it felt great! But the wait has been frustrating :)

  29. Looks like a great read.

  30. cristina says:

    Sounds like an interesting read!