The last time I blogged about a visit to the White House Gardens was in 2010 ( photos here) and my last visit was in 2016, when I took the photo above. Let’s call it the pre-Melania Rose Garden.
Then during 2020 the Rose Garden was changed (pick your descriptor – “upgraded,” “ruined” or everything in between), and I covered the hew and cry about that in several posts: “Even Garden Writers who Hate Trump are Defending the Rose Garden Upgrade,” followed by “The Pointless, Inaccuracy-Laden Petition to Restore Jackie Kennedy’s Rose Garden” and “Rose Garden Meets Politics and Misinformation on Twitter.”
All of which hue, cry and misinformation continues to this day, even promulgated by such a respected source as presidential historian Michael Beschloss, via his Twitter account. From CNN: “Beschloss on August 7 tweeted his ongoing disgust at what he dubbed the ‘evisceration’ by Trump of the most iconic garden in America.”
So naturally when the White House Garden Tours made a post-covid return last weekend I was eager to see for myself. (I had responded to one angry-at-Melania commenter here that I’d go see for myself and report back. Promise kept!)
So above and below are the best shots I could get of the Rose Garden, which is never open to the public on these otherwise “open garden” days.
(Readers, I tried my best to get a press pass to go INTO the garden so I could photograph it from there. A seasoned White House Press Corps friend told me I just had to get my request forwarded to the White House from my Congressman’s office but that didn’t work – and he’s the Majority Leader!)
So what do we see here? The roses are NOT all gone; they’re here, tucked into the boxwood maze, and will bloom next month. The crabapples ARE all gone, though, and I think that’s an improvement. At least we outsiders can see into the garden better now.
I listened to a National Park Service docent in this spot and noted his characterization of the crabapples as having root rot and creating too much shade for good blooming by the roses. He also referred to the changes as on the “wish list” of the Park Service (which cares for the property) for a long time. (See, it was announced by Melania Trump, not designed by her, fer crissakes.)
Above, photos of the post-Melania Rose Garden in the tour brochure.
I love that during the spring and fall White House Garden Tours, photos and signage help tell White House stories, including this one about the Oval Office. Immediately in back of the sign you see the oval bump-out behind a conifer, demonstrating how an oval room fits into an otherwise right-angled building.
Another Melania rumor, one I”d heard from many local gardeners, is that Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden had been destroyed. But here it is in all its glory! (We saw evidence of its survival soon after the Bidens moved in when Jill Biden sent a basket of produce to Michelle Obama.)
The beehives are still there, too.
When I lasted visited, this fountain was surrounded by Knockout roses, which DO appear to be gone. They’re not historic, of course, and are SO common, I doubt they’ll be missed.
Play equipment installed by the Obamas is still standing, ready for the next presidential children or grandchildren.
One change I liked was moving the military band from a corner of the grounds to this prominent spot on the South Lawn balcony. The red uniforms look splendid against this grand backdrop.
Above, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden (formerly East Wing Garden) appears unchanged since my last visit.
Jill Biden’s Addition – a Cutting Garden
I don’t think the news of any Biden-era addition to the gardens has been reported so I was surprised to see this tidbit in the visitor’s brochure:
2021: Jill Biden adds a floral cutting garden to the South Lawn.
I saw no signs of the new garden (which could also be called the Pollinator Garden) but it wouldn’t look like much in early April, anyway. I might have to go back this fall to see it even begin to look like this full-grown cutting garden at the Hillwood Estate a couple of miles away.
Any explanation for the removal of the Knockout Roses? Concerns about possible RRD?
Terrific and thorough update. Thanks, Susan!
Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.
Design looks good to me but I miss seeing beds spilling out onto path…more naturalistic. Maybe in summer it gets fuller.
Susan it’s “hue and cry”. Still love you and all the rangers anyway
Thanks for the update. It does look much better, though I have to admit to a strong aversion to boxwoods. Yes, they fit the formal lines of these grounds, this mansion. But you can’t make me like them.
the boxwoods were not added. They were there before.
Nice update on the status of the gardens. Thanks for setting the record straight!
Thank you for your courage to write this! Enjoyed it.
Main takeaway: the poor park people will never satisfy everyone. I think it is just nice to see that the setting for the White House is very pretty and well-kept. No need to make a big fuss about changing tastes and needs.
Really, so Melania stayed to her beautiful and gracious nature and didn’t totally ruin the world? Thank you, Susan, for the truth!
Thank God for removal of the Knock Out’s, they are a blight unworthy to be called “Rose.”
Thank you Susan for the terrific descriptions and images. I finally feel like I’ve heard and seen the truth.
Thank you for your White House update.
I’m glad someone is looking out for Melania Tr*mp’s reputation. I shall remove “defiler of gardens” from her long list of accomplishments.
The Rose Garden parterres are significantly changed from Mrs Mellon’s 1962 plan, in addition to the removal of the crab trees. Her careful planning of colorful annuals has been abandoned. The complaints about the crab trees from the National Park Service are beside the point: with careful pruning these trees wouldn’t have been allowed to grow so large, obscuring light for the plants beneath as well as for beauty. Note Mrs Reagan called back Mrs Mellon in the early 1980s for just such pruning of these lovely vertical accents in the garden. The recent addition of the Noguchi sculpture renders the east patio (a lovely spot for the First Family’s use) an unusable platform. Compare photos of April, 2023 to April, 1963 for a vivid look at how a once beautiful garden is now rather drab and lifeless. We each have our own views and I was surprised at yours. Thank you.