The White House Rose Garden has been spruced up in time for its moment in the campaign spotlight. First lady Melania Trump will deliver her Republican National Convention speech Tuesday night from the garden. (Aug. 22)
First Lady Melania Trump’s renovation of the White House’s famous Rose Garden stripped it of historic colorful, bold and diverse appearance.
On Tuesday, First Lady Melania Trump will address the Republican National Convention from the newly renovated Rose Garden at the White House, a personal project of hers. The Twitter world went wild over the weekend as tweeters provided quips asserting that the new Rose Garden, seemingly without the roses and other flowers, was a metaphor for the Trump administration — no diversity, no color, a parade ground framed by white columns only.
The Rose Garden was created by First Lady Ellen Wilson, the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, replacing the colonial garden created by President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife, First Lady Edith Roosevelt. Famously, First Lady Jackie Kennedy brought in landscape designer Rachel Lambert Mellon in 1962 to create what most of us have known as the White House Rose Garden, a lush garden with flower beds filled with color and roses. Presidents have used the space for press conferences, weddings, and special occasions, as well as a contemplative spot during difficult times.
Melania Trump’s renovations ignore the importance of the rose
First Lady Melania Trump wanted to upgrade the infrastructure of the garden including audio visual equipment, cameras, paving, drainage and lighting, all likely in need of improvement. But she removed ten crab apple trees that lined the colonnade and swapped out the vibrant roses and flowers for roses of white, cream, pale yellow and pale pink. The result, although meant to return to Mellon’s design, is a pale reflection of history. It now appears to be largely a television stage or parade ground, devoid of texture, color or interest. We can easily imagine chairs filled on Tuesday night adorned by followers without masks, sitting too close; partisans in a home garden that belongs to the American people, not any one party. Indeed, although the Hatch Act may allow the president and first lady to use the White House for political events, all of the staff who might help out cannot do so under that law, making the use of the grounds more than problematic.
The White House welcomes visitors back in September. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)
Roses, and the Rose Garden have special meaning in the lore of literature and of Washington. In literature, we all remember the famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Many scholars believe this is Juliet telling Romeo that even if he had another name, he would still be handsome or that even though he is of the opposing House of