First lady to restore White House Rose Garden

Tulips blooming in front of building with columns (White House/Andrea Hanks)
Tulips bloom in the White House Rose Garden. (White House/Andrea Hanks)

Melania Trump has announced plans to restore and enhance the White House Rose Garden this summer.

The garden will be returned to its original footprint, as designed in 1962 by horticulturist and philanthropist Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon at the request of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. “Decades of use and necessary changes made to support the modern presidency have taken a toll on the garden and have made it more difficult to appreciate the elegant symmetry of the Mellon plan,” the White House said in a statement.

Woman holding potted plant (© Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast/Getty Images)
“Bunny” Mellon in her greenhouse in 1988. (© Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast/Getty Images)
White rose blossom (White House/Tia Dufour)
A rose blooms in the White House Rose Garden. (White House/Tia Dufour)

A landscaping report issued by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House revealed that the project will add drainage systems and two limestone walkways. It will upgrade electrical features and improve access for people with disabilities. Crab apple trees will be replaced by white rosebushes, and additional white and pink roses will be planted.

“The very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future,” the first lady said. “Preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation’s commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come.”

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s press secretary, said in a statement that “scholarly and historic preservation went into every detail of the renovation.”

Well known as a backdrop for presidential speeches, press briefings and White House ceremonies, the garden was started by President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Wilson, in 1913. It wasn’t used as a staging ground for major events until it was reconfigured by Mellon.

Mellon wrote an essay, featured on the White House Historical Association website, about her concept for the garden. Inspired by the formal gardens of Europe and 18th-century gardens of her native Virginia, Mellon designed a space filled with roses, blossoming trees and multiple species of seasonal florals. The trees and flowers frame a wide lawn, large enough to accommodate hundreds of guests for official functions.

Two photos: People seated at long dinner table (White House/Andrea Hanks) and wedded couple walking down aisle (© Bettmann/Getty Images)
Left: First lady Melania Trump (center) entertains at the state dinner held in the Rose Garden for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife in 2019. (White House/Andrea Hanks) Right: Edward Finch Cox escorts his bride, Tricia Nixon, daughter of President Richard Nixon, down the aisle following their 1971 wedding. (© Bettmann/Getty Images)

Presidents have hosted state dinners in the Rose Garden, and President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia was married there.

The renovation is funded by private donations and expected to take a few weeks. It’s supported by the National Park Service, which has cared for the White House and its grounds since 1933. Two landscape architecture firms — Perry Guillot Inc., and Oehme, van Sweden & Associates Landscape Architects — collaborated on the design.

Person on podium in lawn in front of small crowd, surrounded by plants and trees (White House/Joyce N. Boghosian)
President Trump speaks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in the Rose Garden in March. (White House/Joyce N. Boghosian)