Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

“I beg your pardon… I never promised you a White House Rose Garden.”

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Recently, renown Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss posted a tweet of some relatively minor historical significance, which included an image of the “new” and apparently not-so-improved White House Rose Garden, which was markedly revised during the previous administration.

Image accompanying Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss’ tweet of the White House Rose Garden after Malaria’s macabre makeover of it, August 2020.

His observation created an uproar.

It’s the same type syndrome seen in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 moralistic tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; no one says anything at the time, and then, when the king goes bonkers, everybody still oohs and aaahs about how beautiful, lovely, and perfect his new garments are… even though he’s wearing none.

But when the lone voice of a child points out the truth, suddenly, everyone loses their head.

Apparently, the last time the garden revision was “re-introduced” — shortly before the Republican National Convention — the announcement of changes made to it didn’t cause as much a stir as this reminder of last year’s event.

Malaria’s macabre “makeover” mockery couldn’t have been less well received… again.

Tens of thousands of people flew off their handles on Twitter — the Twitterverse was all a twaddle — and many, if not most, of them didn’t have nice things to say. Of course, nowadays, that is an expected par for the SoMe (Social Media) course.

And, as is similarly par for the modern course, “journalists” find themselves writing about what worthless things were posted about some inanely foolish event mentioned on Facebook, or in this case, Twitter. It’s amazing what passes for “journalism” these days.

But, the stir it created was found worthy, even, of a response by the aesthetes at Architectural Digest magazine who weighed in on the fracas, ostensibly to provide some historical perspective.

Journalists get an overhead view Saturday, August 22, 2020 of the White House Rose Garden, which underwent a three-week makeover based on its original 1962 design and will serve as a backdrop for First Lady Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech Tuesday night. More photos at ArkansasOnline.com/823rosegarden/.
 (AP/Susan Walsh)

It didn’t help much, if at all.

In response to the rapidly-escalating public-opinion hubbub, Newsweek published an abridged pictorial overview of the garden’s 60-year history. Que sera, sera.

And The Hill, journalistically challenged as they are, tried to have a heyday with it, as well, writing that, “The Trump White House revealed the newly renovated Rose Garden, which was spearheaded by the then-first lady, last August. Her office said she wanted to make the area more closely resemble the original 1962 design by Rachel Lambert Mellon during the Kennedy administration.

“The changes sparked criticism among many who attacked the historic garden’s new look.” And that’s where and how they, for their part, laid that matter to rest, apparently, having bigger fish to fry, since it ostensibly didn’t involve Congress, or public tax dollars. Malaria’s tastelessly garish White House Christmas decorations and her even worse boorish behavior got much more warranted press.

There were a few news reporting agencies — like Reuters, for example — that didn’t stoop to the “he-said-she-said” clickbait cacophony, and actually interviewed people knowledgeable about the White House Rose Garden, such as Marta McDowell, a garden historian and author of “All the President’s Gardens.” They even published a link to the 241-page “The White House Rose Garden Landscape Report” (the 2020 edition), prepared by the Committee For The Preservation Of The White House Subcomittee For Gardens And Grounds. (Download from this site: White House Rose Garden Landscape Report 2020)

White House Rose Garden 1962 following redesign by Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon. Image 171. Rose Garden; View looking NW – White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC, from Library of Congress; http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.dc0402/photos.026322p

The report states in part that the history of the garden is incomplete, but it is known that in 1913, First Lady Ellen Wilson did redesign it that year, and as the White House Landscape Report states on page 3, “This design was also the first time the garden incorporated roses as the dominant flower in the planting scheme.”

There is no definitive list of all the roses that have been planted in the Rose Garden. The White House Landscape Report states on page 80 that, “Records are scarce for plantings in the years after Bunny Mellon’s design [in 1962] (beyond commemorative tree planting), up until President Jimmy Carter’s time in residence.” But, on pages 81 — 85, there is a selected list of roses previously grown  at the White House, indicating that different roses were added during different administrations.

Garden historian and author Marta McDowell responded to questions and concerns that the 45th First Lady had removed roses placed by previous First Ladies since 1913, and responded via email to Reuters, that there was “Not a chance” of any such occurrence, and further detailed that, “In 1962, the construction of the Kennedy rose garden took the site down to the dirt.  Since then, most administrations have changed out some of the roses — hybrid tea and floribunda roses don’t always thrive, especially in D.C. humidity. So that statement is not factually correct.”

White House Rose Garden, spring 1963

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes made to the garden, was the removal of the crab trees, which was later explained, were uprooted, not cut down, and taken to a site where they could be rehabilitated, with the objective of later being replanted elsewhere on the White House grounds.

The White House Rose Garden had ten original Katherine crab apple trees (Malus ‘Katherine’), which were planted in 1962 by philanthropist and garden designer Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon (1910-2014), which was created for President John F. Kennedy that same year had every one been replaced at least two, or three, times by the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations in 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2019. The WH RG Landscape Report explains that, “This is all in keeping with the life of gardens, in which a design is retained while plant materials are renewed”.

The only change of any significance which Malaria made was the addition of limestone walkway lining the perimeter of the lawn.

Naturally, the Orifice of Malaria found it necessary to have something to say about it, and included a picture for rebuttal.

Image of White House Rose Garden which accompanied The Orifice of Malaria’s tweet in angry response to Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss’ tweet about Malaria’s macabre makeover.

But still… it doesn’t look very much like a “rose garden,” and rather, looks like a very haphazardly-arranged clump of wildflowers, aka “weeds,” lined by, and interspersed with overgrown green marshmallows as an ostensible “border treatment.”

The (not so) Great Wall of Trump looks better.

Above (2nd image in this entry) is an image of the “grand re-opening” following the “redesign” of the White House Rose Garden, on Saturday, August 22, 2020.

It looks homely.

Not “homely” as in home where one resides, but “homely” as in “ugly.”

Part of the WHRG’s problems – aside from the excruciating absence of aesthetic, previous, or current – are climate and soil… challenges familiar to every gardener, and farmer.

It’s quite humid (which can mean dehydrated soil), VERY HOT in summers, and there’s a full variation in seasons, which often includes snow in the winter months. The impracticality of roses is that they’re high maintenance (most are hybrids), and by extension, temperamental, and subject to numerous wilts, fusarium (a type of common plant mold), rust, and various damaging insect infestations.

The plants which I’ve chosen include many evergreens, which are known to thrive in poor soil conditions and weather extremes, maintain color year ’round, some bloom in winter, and include other hardy, low-maintenance perennials, such as:
• wisteria (climbing the center column to spread);
• mugo pine (ground cover);
• “Taylor” Juniperus Virginiana (slender evergreens);
• “Chief Joseph” Lodgepole Pine (yellow, dwarf-rear corner);
• “Scarlett O’Hara bougainvillea (well-tolerant of humdity & temperature);
• red spider lillies (Lycoris) low-maintenance perennials dormant in summer, bloom in autumn & winter;
• white “Angel Trumpet” Burgmansia White Cascade;
• red peonies (very hardy) – LOVE LOTS OF LIGHT, perennial, fragrant flower;
• Ceanothus “Blue Sapphire” (flowering evergreen-between junipers in midst of mugo pines);
• crepe myrtle (corner rear – they’re actually a tree… if allowed to grow – VERY hardy);
and some “assorted miscellaneous” border annuals containing zinnias, petunias, daisies, geraniums, and others.

The camellia, with its natural variations, is an evergreen that flowers in winter, and would be another good addition.

Scarlet sumac (yes… the woody weed familiar to most Southerners), would be a lovely addition for a supporting backdrop with its brilliant red leaves and berries in autumn along the opposite side. A corkscrew willow could be placed in the rear corner (opposite side of the image), as well as a few pink & white dogwoods – another hardy flowering tree well-familiar to Southerners. There are Japanese magnolias in the corner of the garden adjacent the Oval office, and are not seen in the photograph which I used as a the basis for a redesign.

As well azaleas (myriad colors, which love acidic soil, and do well under pine canopies), oak leaf hydrangea, magnolia grandiflora (flowering evergreen tree, fragrant blossoms), would also be welcomed additions to the White House American Garden.

While it’s somewhat crudely executed, THIS is what the White House Rose Garden COULD look like!

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