tv The Presidency White House Gardens CSPAN June 3, 2022 8:37pm-9:36pm EDT
hear how presidents and first ladies developed and used the white house gardens during their administrations. this program is from the white house historical society -- association. >> our final panel, the white house gardens today, features speakers with lived experiences working in and around the gardens of the white house. we will hear from dr. susan pell, deputy director of science and public programs manager for the u.s. botanical gardens. jim adams, horticulture manager from the united states botanical gardens. and jim mcdaniel, secretary for the white house historical association board of directors and a former liaison for the white house and national park service. like our previous panel, we will hear three short presentations and then our panelists will return to the
stage for a conversation moderated by dr. pell. we will leave time at the end for open questions with the audience. so please join me in welcoming our speakers. [applause] >> thanks so much. it's an honor to be here today to speak with you all about white house gardens. i won't pretend that -- both jims worked at the white house. i will open it up at the end for the are questions because i feel like it's a unique opportunity for you to ask questions of people who worked on the white house gardens and maintained them. so we are the last panel of the day. we will finish all of the discussion on white house gardens by talking about gardens that have been established but modified since the kennedy administration. so from the johnson administration on, the last 50 years. the many different ways that the white house gardens have been inspired as well as used. i will start off the panel by talking about some of the garden trends and other movements that have inspired
and influenced the development of the white house gardens and grounds. i will also talk a little more about first ladies then presidents because in the last 50 years, it has really been the first ladies that have had the biggest influence on the white house grounds. perhaps more than any other first lady, lady bird johnson was extremely plant focused. really impacted not just the white house grounds, but the nation as a whole. after she left the white house and returned to texas, mrs. johnston established the national wildflower research center, which is now known as the ladybird wildflower center. during her time at the white house, mrs. johnson was instrumental in establishing the 1965 highway beautification act, which sought to limit
roadside advertisements and clean up the road sides, the interstate highway system across america. the act also encouraged scenic enhancement by finding local efforts to clean up and landscape in the green spaces on the sides and medians of the roadways. more than 300 conservation laws were passed and 45 national parks for established under the lyndon johnson administration, having a lasting impact on the green spaces throughout america. soon after she established the ladybird johnson wildflower center -- she encouraged a texas senator to add a amendment to a 1987 transportation bill that mandated that some federally funded landscaping projects include be planting a wild flowers. this began the federal highway administration's wildflower program. ladybird johnson's beautification focused on not just the nation, but really on d. c. as well. and she worked to get more flowers planted on the u.s. capital grounds and all around the district of columbia. the first division monument in presidents park south, just west of the white house and south of the eisenhower executive office building, it
honors the u.s. army soldiers that fought in world war i. and the large flower bed there that you can see, it's a giant number one, and that is in the shape of the first division patch. that is thanks to ladybird johnson's efforts to beautify d.c. it remains in place today and is maintained by the national park service. the johnson's parting gift to future white house residents was the creation of the children's garden in 1969. one of only two white house gardens credit since the kennedy administration. the other of course the kitchen gardening critic during the obama's administration. the children garden is supposed to be a, respite for the children and grandchildren of the white house residence, it features a apple tree that is planted to
provide a snack for young garden visitors. a small fish pond that we saw in this last picture on the edge. it is right in this space here. it also has some antique child sized garden furniture. the pathways actually include the imprints of many generations over the last 50 years of white house residents, children and grandchildren. the children's garden creation came at a time when home gardening was becoming more and more popular in the united states. when some of you might remember, the first tv garden personality, -- a wonderful british woman had a great tv series in the late 1960s called making things grow. there is a burgeoning environmental movement as well, making headlines and challenging the way that america thought about gardens and green spaces across the country. here is one of those hand prints. this is jenna bush when she was a granddaughter,
before she was the daughter of a president. the 1980s and nineties brought a renewed interest and garden conservation. the new organization called the garden conservatory, was founded in 1989 with a mission to save and share our gardens across the united states for in the inspiration of the public. the occupants of the white house at the time didn't make very large changes to the grounds, but really contributed to the conservation and preservation of the existing landscapes. hillary clinton probably had her largest inspiration or influence on the white house grounds was in bringing in a series of sculpture exhibits into the jacqueline kennedy garden. and there were eight exhibits in total. one of which featured all pieces made by american indian artists. laura bush, like her mother in law, actually had a very strong interest and gardening. and her influence on the white house grounds was in restoring some
of the existing plantings, replacing the plantings in kind that were already traditionally there. the rose garden for example, the crab apples and box woods were replaced. the gardens enjoyed much used by the president. there is president george bush right there, riding his bike, across the rose garden. so moving into the late 90s and into the 2000s, multiple green movements took off across the country. the new york city green streets projects was established in 1996. it transformed city streets and to pedestrian friendly green spaces. in 2000, smart growth america and the national streets coalition were founded. this greening of american streets really
transformed what were hostile and unattractive intersections, into a really beautiful spaces in which plants were also planted. we have many examples here, from minneapolis to san francisco. this is a great example in new york city of a major transformation of otherwise a parking lot here and to a nice space with a lot of plants. and of course, during this time period attacks of september 11th also occurred, and had a lasting and long impact on the white house grounds. in response to the attacks, pennsylvania avenue north of the white house was closed to vehicle traffic. but thanks to the simultaneous sort of greening of the streets of america movement, and also the vision of well-known landscape architect, michael, although the street was closed to vehicles it was made accessible in a unprecedented way to pedestrians. so this is immediately what happened after 9/11. they put up a lot of impromptu barricades. and this is the result after the redesign efforts. that project was in 2004. here it is. the redesign included planting of disease resistant american elm trees, all along the street. in
the mid 2000s, america had a renewed interest in local food. of course, food comes from plants, so these are just a few of the books that were published during that time period, encouraging people to grow their own food in cities, to locally source food, to go to farmers markets. in fact from the mid 1990s until 2010, the number of farmers markets across the country increased twofold. so basically the double the number of farmers markets were in the united states in 2010 compared to 15 years earlier. and that of course was part of the inspiration for the other new garden within the white house grounds since the kennedy administration. that of course is the kitchen garden. that will be the focus of the next talk. jim adams is going to give you the whole story of the kitchen garden which he hopes to maintain for many years. the white house grounds have long been a place of both reflection, and also, the people who live in the white house, and certainly of the american
people and their creativity. the landscape used by the first family and enjoyed by the public, although i will say maybe not quite today to the extent that it was is in this picture here in 1927. you can see people are running amok you could say on the grounds there. still today, of course the grounds host many public events including the tours. the easter egg roll that we heard about earlier today. without further ado, i will introduce jim adams to talk to you about the white house kitchen garden. [applause] >> thank you very much susan. that is not my slide. it's got to load. while we are waiting. as i was introduced, i current
work at the united states botanic garden, i have the honor of serving as the director of horticulture on the white house grounds for eight years. so i started just after the obama administration started, so i was honored to serve, them and the beginning of the trump administration. so it is without that i can speak a little bit about this. and the white house grounds as has been mentioned today is a historical cultural landscape and is maintained by the national park service. but it is very different than most historical landscapes. most of those, they're at a certain time. it is always maintained to look like that time. the national parks service does do that until they are told otherwise. it is still the backyard of the president and his family. and as susan said,
the last major time this happened was a 1969, with introduction of the children's garden by the johnson administration. but the national parks service works very closely with the ushers office in the first family to give them what they need. whether it be long term projects or short term events or projects. the park service works with them to make sure that all those needs are met. in 2009, after the obama administration started, mrs. obama had come to the national park service and said i would really like to put in a kitchen garden. can i do this? she was told. yes she can do this. this is her garden. her grounds. so in 2009, mrs. obama started the white house kitchen garden. she really wanted to start a conversation. a national conversation on nutrition, and children's health. so this garden was started a year before. it was the basis of her signature let's move program. so i am going to tell you a little bit about my experience in the garden, and how the previous first lady would work,
and have events in the garden. the gardening year started every year in the spring, where she would come out and with school kids and they would plant the spring vegetables. so here is a school group that came out, she really wanted the kids to do the work. park service staff. first lady's office staff would set everything up. the kids would did the work. as you can see, it wasn't perfect. there is some mismatches there. but she didn't care. these are the kids. this is what the kids are going to do and it's not going to be perfect. although, you would think that the garden for the president on the white house grounds would have to be perfect. no, it was all about the kids. she had a great time with the kids when they came. actually, this was one spring
planting, an entrepreneurial studentt stuck a sharpie in his pocket, at the end, ask the first lady to sign her t-shirts. she obliged and signed all of their t-shirts. so that was pretty clever. and sometimes she would invite celebrity chefs, and other people to come help with this, there's rachel ray, in one of the spring garden planting's. but the garden grew throughout the year. still grows throughout the year. spring planting's. always the first planting was in late april, late march, early april, lots of spring vegetables. spinach, lettuce, broccoli. and i would just growing the spring and look nice throughout the year. and at the end of the spring term, when we were about to have the biggest harvest come about -- here school kids would come in, they would harvest the spring vegetables, they would take out the root vegetables and have a cooking event. they would also learn what to
do with the produce. the summer garden was not quite so formal in its planting. it was actually because, spraying not everything runs at the same time, so as it right and, we plant the summer garden. the first lady did one planting one time wits and native american tribes and did a three sisters gardens here, with corn, beans, and squash. the court actually was the polls for the beads to grow up, the beans would get nitrogen to help the corn grow, and then the squash would grow at its base to shade out and kill any we'd. the garden thrived all summer long. it grew nice and lush. when people ask me about my tenure at the white house, and they say what was alike? it's the highest pressure guarding job you can imagine. you are always on. you have a vegetable garden like this, it was really a
program of the first lady's office, and we assisted with this, but it always had to look good. you didn't know when the president was gonna walk down with the guests. or after you left that night, with the first family was gonna do down there. it grew through the summer with all the good summer vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, all those nice things. lots of greens. but we also try to make it a little bit fun. the first lady's office did not, the first lady really wanted it to be a site accessible to people. she didn't want to make it not to white house, not like something that anybody couldn't do at home. so we had, as you saw on some of the pictures, wooden edges, simple mulch paths, but some of the first ladies employees wanted to make it fun, not just boring. so what can we do to keep things interested, especially
for kids? so we tried to go fun things like peanuts, for several years. noodle beans, an asian being that gets to be about several yards law. for several years, we grew papayas. just just some things to get the kids attention. there were a few permanent plantings. they still are, i talk in the past, because of my time working there. there are a few permanent plantings. -- this was used by the white house chefs. there was a perennial -- all which was always there for use all year round. -- oregano, bay, rosemary. then it started off as one, but then ended up us to. from 1100 feet to grew to 1700 feet by the time the administration left. it was very important for mrs. obama to honor thomas jefferson
and his cultural legacy. -- plants that were grown at monticello during thomas jefferson's time, and this is one of her favorite quotes from thomas jefferson that i was grace the garden. the failure of one thing replaced repaired by the success of, another and instead -- this was assigned we kept in the jefferson beds the whole time. how did we decide what to grow? it was easy. with the first family eight. the national park service staff worked with the white house chefs with what they would use in the kitchen, what they would use in state events whether first family would eat. -- the chefs would come down and harvest throughout the year. -- they use some fruit for the first family's private meals,
but these are tomatoes and radishes that were also a vegetable kebab that was that one of the state, congressional picnics. i think this was 2015. also the thing that they couldn't use. white house chefs process them for later use. and everything else they could not use was given away to a local soup kitchen. at the end of the summer, the first lady would have another gathering with school kids. they would come out, and the white house chefs would come out as well, and they would help prepare the vegetables that the kids harvested. they would make a lunch and everyone would enjoy it. the garden was also, you never knew who was coming down, there were several times where the president would be in the oval office in a meeting, and walk down with someone, and show off the kitchen garden. you don't know who the guests who are at night that they were bringing down. this was the last state arrival of the obama administration.
this was the state arrival for italy. this was the first lady of italy, who mrs. obama gave a tour of the kitchen garden. i was lucky enough to be able to join this tour. here they are pointing out some of the new additions to the garden. actually, as we were walking through, the first lady of italy had never seen a yellow tomato before. which is one of the white house favorites. some gold tomatoes. they are delicious, yellow bundles of sweetness. she had never seen one. so we picked a handful and we all shared a handful of some gold tomatoes. maybe they can put that on my tombstone. anyway, so, who takes care of? this this is taken care of by the national park service, but no one does this alone. this was a project driven by the first lady, and her office and her staff and the director
of let's move in the white house chefs. so national park service stuff, because they take care of the horticultural aspects of the white house, assets, they're the caretaker of the garden. but there are also volunteers. this is obama wanted this to be a group effort. volunteers came in at least once a week, big group. sometimes there were smaller groups and single people that came in. they would do the things like weed and cultivate and prune and then harvest. this was actually an amazing tomato harvest, 74 pounds of tomatoes one summer day. so they would come in and do a lot of harvesting, helped take it up to the kitchen and prepare it. the garden did not end in the summer. the garden has been continual operation since april of 2009. it grows through the winter. in the, winter we put, there is rope covers put on, and tunnels
put on, and delicious coal season vegetables grown in their. -- it grows through all the storms, all the winter storms that snowstorms and we get 22 inches of snow, people are out there digging these out so they don't collapse. so this continued operation ever since. -- this is the first beehive. for 2014, after an executive order on pollinator's, the national park service was asked to put in a pollinator garden. we worked with the first lady's office and with some of the policy makers and the west wing of what they wanted that to be. the national park service put in this pollinator garden.
the focus of it is mid atlantic natives to support our native pollinator's as well as honey base. that was planted in spring planting in 2014. there is boat to give us a hat. the first lady planted this would school children as well. it has turned out to be a beautiful garden ever since. it is a nice showcase on the north side of the kitchen garden. the garden grew over the years. in 2016, when mrs. obama realized she was leaving, she really wanted to make the garden a more permanent. it was always meant to be something the american public could relate to, but now she was thinking this garden could be here for a long time. we didn't know who the next administration was. dignitaries. out they could keep. but she wanted to make sure it had an importance, and being at the right house. some of the more simple
elements that were there, like a small picnic table, and the past, were then taken and. but it was actually designed by the landscape architecture students of the university of virginia. a large patio was put, hints the garden can become a, could be enjoyed, some permanent paths, a beautiful -- dedication stone, and this furniture. this hand designed furniture revive university of virginia students. so people could actually come and it could have the presence of being at the white house. and a real beauty to it. it was dedicated by the first lady in october 2016. with every good white house dedication, there was a nice party with it. and the last harvest i think is bittersweet for everybody. not knowing where it was going, it was quite a fun time.
several celebrities came, like here's al rocker picking beans with some of the school kids. and president obama came out. this was the first time he came out to a garden event. he always said the first lady really drove the. he was never out to a planting or a harvest before. he came out to see what was all about. she was able to show wealthy improvements to the guard into the president. the last photo of the last four harvest of that administration. then, just like the other gardens around the white house, it was picked up by the next administration. mrs. trump, in september of 2016, continued the tradition with a large harvest and a planting for the fall and winter garden. it was picked up for the next administration and the next folks to take it over. thank you.
>> it is such a pleasure to join you today to explore the rich history and variety of the white house gardens and grounds. as all of you have heard during the day today, the white house serves as a home, office, museum, and world stage. it's gardens and grounds echo all of those roles. they've provided over 200 years of refuge for presidents and their families. a formal, dignified setting for the business of the executive branch, a special venue where the public can connect with the white house and its history, and a stage for world events. the 18 acres within the white house fence contain more than 500 trees, some of which were planted by and commemorated by
former presidents. there are also formal gardens, like the rose garden, and the jacqueline kennedy garden, informal spaces, like the children's garden in the kitchen garden, and recreational spaces, like the tennis court, swimming pool, horseshoe pitch and putting agree. and play spaces like amy carter's greenhouse. as we've learned in today's presentation, presidential involvement in the design planting of the white house gardens goes back to george washington selection of the site of the president's house in 1790. this original plot was larger than most american farms that the time. it included what is today's lafayette park, white house grounds, and the -- visitors to the north and south were ground then and remain ground today. with monuments, parks, and the potomac river in the distance. presidents have to continue to make their mark on the
landscape throughout the history of the white house. many presidents have taken a personal interest in the landscape, as if it was their own backyard. some presidents approach the gardens and grounds with unique perspective and skill. jimmy carter, for example, had an engineering background, which we used to design a tree house for ten year old amy in 1977. the national park service built the structure to president carter specifications, and installed it in a large cedar on the southwest lawn. it was freestanding so there was no impact on the cedar. still later in the carter administration, the national park service had determined that a maintenance structure near the tennis court had to beat the smallest. it are really served as a tony shed for the kennedy children's pony macaroni. -- but it was no longer usable. the replacement building would require the removal of a tree
that was not historically significant. president carter asked of the new building could be re-oriented to save the tree. we took a second look at the design, and decided it was more efficient to remove the tree because the foundation would impact the trees root system, even if we had a shift of the building a little. so the surveyors layer out, excavation was set to begin. the morning the construction crew arrived, they founded the stakes have been moved during the night. when i questioned the chief usher about, this he did some checking. he told me that president carter had gone out the evening before with blueprints and had and had moved the foundation outlined to avoid the tree. obviously, we built the building according to the presidents layout, and the tree survived. on may 24th, 1973, president richard nixon welcomed 591 prisoners of war, recently
released by north vietnam, at a gala dinner under a tent on the south lawn. with 1300 guests, it was the largest sit-down dinner ever held at the white house. unfortunately, -- d.c. was dell used by three days of steady rain just before the oven and. the south lawn was a sponge of turf. we tried every measure possible to dry out the ground and cover the area of the tens. we brought in powerful blowers, thousands of yards of burlap, and even dug a two foot deep trends around the perimeter of the tenth, to try to drain the area. i remember feeling so bad for the women whose high heel sank into the mud as they walked from the south portico to the tenth. but i also felt worse for the grounds crew, who after working long hours to try to dry out the area, had to commit come in the next morning and ripped out acres of water logged turf, and
completely re-so the south lawn for it would be ready for the next event. the south lawn always takes a beating. considered 30,000 pairs of feet scrambling all over the long on the monday after easter each year. in the 18 seven -- low feet -- invited local children to come to the white house to roll their easter eggs. this annual event was like a small country fair, attended mostly by local youngsters. during the reagan administration, the white house the white house's easter egg roll was expanded to include celebrities, stage performers, and a ticket system to handle the crowds. it grew to more than 35,000 attendees. it takes a major effort immediately afterwards to repair and refresh the grounds. so the landscape looks good for official events and for the spring garden tour, usually held a week or two later.
sometimes access to the grounds is not plant. on september the 13th, 1994, at 2 am, a small single engine plane, attempted to surprise landing on the south lawn. but the pilot had not done his homework. the day before, grounds crew had installed bleachers on the south lawn in preparation for an event. leaving no landing space for the plane. because he had cut his engine while gliding from the washington monument to the white house, he could not pull up at the last minute. so the plane crashed into the jackson magnolia and came to rents against the south wall of the residents. the pilot was killed. fortunately, the strong walls of the building withstood the impact. -- 13 days of intense private negotiations between the
egyptian president and we are sadat and the israeli prime minister monacan vacant. -- the actual peace treaty was signed the following year on the north lawn of the white house. weather is always a factor at outdoor's events, as many of you who have planter attended outdoor weddings can attest to. in 1976 it was a steamy hot washington summer day. attentive been erected in the rose garden for a state dinner with queen elizabeth the second. the queen has accepted president ford's invitation to celebrate our nations bicentennial at the white house. anticipating the need for air conditioning in the tenth, the chief usher had asked the military to bring in field ac units. as they were cranked up for testing that morning, all the military personnel don these heavy duty ear -- like you would see once the
generator came up to full power it was like a generator taking off a couple of enterprising park service engineers ran waterline through the west wing offices injury rigged an air cooling system. after an afternoon rainstorm knocked out four of the nine television cameras, so the live coverage was not the greatest. but they did broadcast the queen dancing with the president to the tune of the lady's a tramp. [laughs] certainly an unfortunate choice but something we can laugh about today. for two centuries, the white house gardens and grounds, as
you've learned from all the speakers today, have served as family space, hosted official in public ceremonies, and world events. and they still serve in those roles, over the last 30 plus years however a new dimension has emerged, that of a high security compound. after the bombing of the marine barracks and lebanon in 1983, a series of jersey barrier walls were constructed as temporary measures to -- despite sometime when despondent time landscape architecture and security specialist could design a more permanent solution that fit in with the historic landscape design. the goal was always to achieve a balance between physical security measures, respect for the historic landscape, and public access. with subsequent terrorist acts and threats, however, more physical and operational security measures were overlaid
onto the site. the next iteration of physical security will be raising the height of the fence around the 18 acres off grounds. the current design calls for a fence that is more than twice the height of the existing seven foot 1937 steel fence. construction is set to begin this summer. reasonable preventive measures are necessary. balance between physical security, respect for the historical landscape, and public access can be achieved. in 2000, 12 agencies, led by the national park service, produced and approved a comprehensive design plan for the white house and president spark. this was the first comprehensive design plan for the entire presidents park since its initial planning in 1791. it includes guidelines for the management and development of the white house grounds and president spark into the future, allowing this plan to influence today's decisions on security,
and guide decisions on development well will ensure the integrity of this special place for generations to come. thank you again for the opportunity to share a few of the many stories from the white house grounds. this special place is a mirror of the american experience. may it always be that way. [applause] >> sorry, sorry about that. bright lights. >> all right, so we are going to do at this point, look at it differently as i said earlier, and i'm going to open it up for q&a. so i feel like you have an opportunity to [inaudible] ask questions, there were so many of the questions, that's give another opportunity to do that. so we have any questions?
yes. there's a mic coming your way. there you go. >> thank you. i was unclear about where the vegetable garden, the kitchen garden -- >> the kitchen gardens on the south grounds and it's on the southwest corner of the grounds. so it's, well, you can't go along easy street anymore, but if you are the south fans lionel canyon, it would be to your left. so you can see, so yes, it was important to the first lady to make sure that the garden was seen from, for public access but now you have to be actually on the ellipses, the ellipse side of e three throws a little far but you can see it from a distance. yeah? >> they are going to bring you a mike. one second there, it's right there. >> is there, or has there ever been a cutting garden for all those fabulous floral arrangements that are done in the white house? >> there has been a greenhouse
up on the roof level, and in that greenhouse, there have been different types of plants and sometimes there have been roses and other plans that we'll use for cuttings. there also was some bonsai up there for a while, and so, i'm not sure it's still there, but for many years there was just a small greenhouse up there for family use. >> firstly, i just want to say going back to the, if you take the tour in october, on the tour, you do lineup to see the obama garden [inaudible] a wonderful time. but i wanted to ask you, back to the students at the university of virginia, is there a solid record of the design drawings, or is there something that are carefully available that we can see? >> yeah, at the national parks foundation. >> so you can apply to get a
copy of that? >> yeah. >> thank you. >> it's a question, just over there. can you tell us about some of the older trees of note on the grounds, beside the jackson magnolia? >> sure! well, as jonathan talked about earlier, i think the most special one is the one planted by mrs. cleveland. it goes back to the 18 70s, that relieved japanese maple. it's often looked overlooked and overshadowed by the jackson magnolia. yet it's the oldest known one on the grounds, and it's a beautiful, beautiful plant. there's also -- there's actually others that are not presidential. there's a blue atlas cedar where emmy curtis treehouse was on the south grounds. we don't know how old it is. it predates any records. that's a beautiful old tree. and there's also, one of my
favorites was a protea persica -- coma name protea, do you know? protea, it's on the west side of the edge of the grounds, predates records. it's a plant native to the caucuses, it's in the same family as which a source, and it blooms in the middle of the winter. it has these dark, velvety bloods that open up into kind of a maroon flower. they are small but they're beautiful. and you know, in january, february, you'll take anything you can get. and it's a huge tree and it's it's a beautiful tree but that's not a presidential that we know. but there is some on the wall north grounds to. there's a white [inaudible] on the north transplanted by president roosevelt, franklin d. roosevelt. so it goes back to the 30s. and that one, it doesn't have
the size you would expect. it's a very slow going tree. but it's very healthy and i cannot see any reason why it wouldn't going to be a beautiful tree. but those on the north grounds don't get as much attention as the south grounds as we heard earlier, that you can see on the garden tours. >> thank you. >> there are two -- one is not really a tree, it's the truman box but i'm thinking off on the north portico. and i remember every four years we would have a fight with the press covering the inauguration, who wanted to trim back the box for to get better views of the north front of the house. and i'm also old enough to remember the end himself. i missed that tree. i felt like it was different because although it was a dying front, i kind of watched it over the years slowly lose them after them until finally there
wasn't enough left to keep it going. but i miss that old tree. >> you have a question's we -- have another -- looking good. >> as a gardener, i've always wondered, how do you keep the rabbits, squirrels and other critters out of the vegetable garden and flowers? >> at the white house, we didn't have to. the biggest problem we had was squirrels. there were rabbits, there were none. nor do you. as jim talked, there's a fence around their, so there's no deer. so, squirrels were our biggest, our biggest problem. so we were very lucky, very lucky in that respect. and i garden in the city, so i don't have rabbits, i'm sorry! >> i remember president reagan was our worst enemy with squirrels, because when he would go to camp david, he would load up his pockets with acorns and bring them back and scatter them out on the portico
just southside of the oval office. and we were, we were at one point transplanting squirrels [laughter] -- into the park and he was encouraged them to move back in. [laughter] it >> is like everything at the white house is a big deal. and the squirrels, at one time, there was a tree that had come down, and we were, half of it had come down, so we had to remove the rest of the tree and we cut it out and came across a squirrel nest. and i asked one of the employees to discreetly take it to city wildlife so that they could be cared for, and they found out where they were from, and the next day i read about it in the paper and -- [laughter] -- i got a call from my boss asking me what it happened, and [inaudible] a different kind of gardening. >> there's a question right here, yeah you. got a bike, go ahead. you're next. >> if a resident of 1600 pennsylvania avenue said, what should we do next? what we would you advise them?
>> i -- when you work there, you -- it's their agenda. so i ask, you know, is have a lot of questions to find out what are, much important to them. you know, what do they want to make an impact. as we learned today, people are going to be hashing this over for hundreds of years. so what's important to you and what do you, where do you want to make an impact? and we can help you do that. >> and i think documentation is important too. i think each administration has a responsibility to carefully document changes in the landscape for the future. obviously, there has to be balance. the building itself and the grounds have to function as a home, and office, a museum, and
a stage. and the best way to achieve that balance is through the relationships of all of the entities there. the family, the staff, the outside agencies. and when those relationships are intact and when there's respect between those relationships, then you have the place of working the way it should. but documentation is important. i think, you know, generations to come, people need to have the ability to look back and see where the captured garden was what was growing there, where trees were removed, where trees were replaced, and see how the design evolved over the years and keep a good record of that. >> i've had the honor of actually doing the chores, volunteering for the sprinters, and the people come through, and they are so amazed at the flowers. but are those tools -- i mean, some people, where they read last year? and they were yellow this year. and so does that, do the
flowers rotate out, and then who decides on what colors and -- to do? >> like, the rose garden, the animals that are planted in the rose garden, [inaudible] around the fountain are decided by the national park service. some administrations have much more weight in that than others. there's been some traditional things. red and yellow have been the traditional colors in the phone. along with the superintendent grounds, who mr. williams was the first or the last one, and delhi me the current one. so it's a national park service along with them, along with the ashes offices, as jim says, the decisions are made between lots of cooperators on the grounds. but in the end, unlike the vegetables in the kitchen garden, well, it's what the white house chefs you, know, they would say, cucumbers. but it was up for us to find the right cultivars that we're
going to work for the garden. so is a collaboration, yeah. >> history has a lot to say about colors and types of plants and where they are and how many. the white house has the -- as an institution it has an almost human ability to influence the people who live there and work there. and you tend to want to do what's being done in the past, what works in the past. funny story about tulips. one spring garden tour during the nixon administration the guardians and grounds were open, people were coming through, just starting, and going for maybe half an hour. and at the president was called back, some urgency. and for whatever reason, the decision was made to a landing helicopter back on the south lawn rather than on the ellipse. so we had to assure all of the people off the grounds. the helicopter came in and little to no, do every single
petal of every to a lid on the grounds -- [laughter] -- so when the people came back in, for no flowers to look at, just stabs! [laughter] >> thank you. >> there's a question right in the middle here. and one over on the side there. right in the middle and then one just over there. you can raise your hand over there again so they can bring you the mic for the next question, yeah. >> oh, thank you. has the grounds of the white house gun mostly organic in its maintenance? >> now, they are maintained -- i mean, there isn't ipm program -- integrated pest management -- where things are like that in evaluated. the white house [inaudible] garden, when i worked there for mrs. obama, not to call it an organic garden. because there's a lot of baggage without. and also to be so divide organic by usda is a big deal.
and so, but we did, we did garden the kitchen garden organically. and we are, you know, we didn't use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. but the white house grounds has, as jim alluded to, after you had 35,000 people working on your turf, and two weeks later, you know, you could have a state arrival or you could have garden tours or, you know, you are going to have to fertilize. and so, you would use, you know, there are, cynthia synthetic fertilizers that are used. and like any landscape president to seize problems come up, and if they are monitored to, properly, you make the right decision of what to use and how. >> and again it comes back to ballots. you know, it's not a pure environment. it's an environment that has to serve a lot of different purposes. it has to look good for you vents when it's used as a backdrop and even to the extent of i remember state dinner one
time when there was the prime minister of japan and it was the dead of winter but they wanted to have cherry trees in gloom so fortunately we knew fair all was in advance, so we got a couple of dozen cherry trees out of the greenhouse in kennel with, and we forced them. and they were in full bloom in the full bloom for the states throw for the japanese prime minister. so it's a garden, it's elastic, landscape, it's a whole philosophy of balance. >> approximately where are the two garden tours during the year? >> what was the question? >> approximately when are the two garden tours during the year? >> there is usually a garden tour -- it does vary from administration to administration, but typically they are able and october. one weekend in april and won in
october and those are announced by the white house several weeks in advance but i know in bush 43's administration, there were monthly garden tours. so throughout the summer there was one week at one day, during the month, where they were open but yes they do very occasionally but typically right now they have been april and october. >> do we have any other questions? they're all great questions. i actually have one final question. i think it's such a unique landscape, and such an in men's responsibility and as jim said, such a few huge, sort of, high pressure job. i'm wondering how you manage the balance between maintaining a historical landscape that is important to, you know, many, many americans and really an important landscape globally, with the sort of, i don't want to say the words off, but the interests of the first family and how they are going to use that space.
>> you never lose sight of the design. you have the record of the landscape design, the product of the, you know, best designers over history, whether it's the olmsteds or misses mellon and you always have these to go back to when the changes made. and that was sort of our philosophy when i was there. but always maintain a baseline of professional landscape architecture and history. never lose sight of that, so that when changes are made, depending on particular administrations or events, you can always go back to that and reset. >> that's a good answer, yeah. yeah. and go back to [inaudible] go to what worked, and you make it look good for the folks that are there and for that state and for that balance. you just do what it takes to make the balance.
that's what we did. that's what they still do. >> and good people. always have good people in the picture. people like jim. who [laughter] [applause] -- and never be afraid to go out to the best expertise that you can find. talk to susan [inaudible] . >> thanks. [applause] >> and always remember the people who are doing the day in and day at work, the gardeners, the neighbors. there's a very special people. they have high standards to maintain, they have a lot of pressure because of what they are doing, whether it's dead heading roses or cutting grass. so many people looking at what they're doing and they constantly are in the background of tv cameras and so forth. those folks deserve a lot of credit for their just day-to-day, mundane work. >> absolutely.
[applause] thank you also much. >> thank you. >> thank you, susan, jim, and jim. [applause] and that brings our wonderful day to a close. i'd like to thank all of our presenters and those, our friends from oak spring garden foundation who were with us today, and we look forward to having you all involved with and attending anything that we do here at the white house historical association. we really appreciate your support and participation in our events. now it's my privilege to invite
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