Melania unveiled a newly renovated White House Rose Garden on Aug. 22, 2020, posting images to Twitter of a neatly manicured space.
The backlash online was swift and pretty merciless. The WOW Report posted a story about the renovation, but, according to the facts here, managed to stay mostly correct in the reporting.
• The garden WAS designed and planted during the Kennedy administration and contained crab apple trees.
• The trees removed in the renovation were NOT the same trees as the ones originally planted in the garden.
• The garden did NOT contain roses planted by every first lady since 1913.
Landscape historian Marta McDowell, author of All the Presidents’ Gardens, told Snopes that the crab apple trees have been replaced three times since the original planting in the 1960s, and the tree type changed from one called Katherine to another called Spring Snow.
Although the trees were pretty, McDowell said, they have always been problematic because as they grew they shaded out the roses, and
“If you want roses, you can’t grow them in the shade.”
In terms of the claim about Trump’s removing rose bushes planted by every first lady since 1913, McDowell pointed to a landscape report completed in 2020 by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, noting that flower plants in the garden have continually been removed and replaced.
“Is the garden outside your back door the same as it was 60 years ago? That’s what people are suggesting. Roses don’t live that long.”
And it was JFK who designed the Rose Garden when it was renovated in 1962, although he tapped Jackie’s close friend, horticulturalist Bunny Mellon, to accomplish the task. Mellon recounted that Kennedy approached her about the project after returning from a trip abroad:
He and Mrs. Kennedy had just returned from a state visit to France, followed by stops in England and Austria. The President had noted that the White House had no garden equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens that he had seen and in which he had been entertained in Europe. There he had recognized the importance of gardens surrounding an official residence and their appeal to the sensibilities of all people.
He wanted to start, in the greatest haste, to remake the area near his office at the west end of the White House, known as the Rose Garden, into an area both useful and attractive. Would I design it for him? It was a startling request to say the least.
The 2020 renovation improved utilities, infrastructure, and added a paved path, increasing access to the garden for people with disabilities.
The crab apple trees removed from the garden in 2020 were placed in the White House greenhouse and will be replanted elsewhere on the grounds.
Snopes asked the White House about where those trees will be replanted and asked for records showing the original 1962 design referenced in Trump’s statement, but has not received a response.
((Official White House photos, Andrea Hanks; via Snopes)