Michael Beschloss, a "historian who specializes in the US presidency" and an NBC commentator had his day over the weekend when he reheated the dead-cold issue of Melania Trump's 2020 redesign of the Rose Garden. This is the mark she left, at the last minute (good instincts on her part), on a very visible corner of American history.
The last major redesign of the garden happened back in 1961 and was directed by a complete amateur, Rachel Lambert Mellon, whose only qualification appears to be her close friendship with Jacqueline Kennedy. NBC's go-to historian should know that the history of this garden is filled with phonies.
Sending a garden full of flowers (and days without snow in our #MuseumLoveLetter to @mfaboston, @peabodyessex, @theDavisMuseum, and @icainboston 🌹 🌷
📷: Flowers in the Rose Garden, April 1963 pic.twitter.com/ErZLtSRUK4
— JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) February 10, 2021
Melania Trump, however, actually hired professionals for the 2020 redesign—landscape architects Perry Guillot and Oehme, van Sweden & Associates. OvS is noted for its noble commitment to "inherent ecological, sustainable, aesthetic, and ornamental values." The firm also landscaped the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. There was in the Rose Garden's 21st century renewal none of this barbaric business of a wealthy family friend with a fondness for roses and French gardens. And what a difference this made. Melania Trump's garden, which is framed by wheelchair-friendly limestone paths, is just, to the use the words of a Trump supporter who evidently doesn't count prolixity as one of their shortcomings, "clean and classy."
Evisceration of White House Rose Garden was completed a year ago this month, and here was the grim result—decades of American history made to disappear: @dougmillsnyt pic.twitter.com/78OqjkoOPt
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) August 7, 2021
Melania Trump did not make the Rose Garden amazing, but it's certainly better than it was before. Also, we must direct nothing but contempt at this much-tweeted longing for Rachel Lambert Mellon's mess of roses and the trees she used to hide the colonnade that Thomas Jefferson added in 1801 to hide—by way of a fantasy of Roman pillars—horses, their stables, and their shitting. Why?
Mitchell Owens of Architectural Digest wrote a year ago:
Rose Garden inhabitants have come and gone over the years too, including the boxwood hedges, which have been replaced as many as four times, most recently a few weeks ago. Ironically, “roses have a tough time surviving in that garden,” Linda Jane Holden explains, citing the heat and humidity of Washington, D.C., as well as the site’s lack of air circulation, thanks to the West Wing’s embrace. Irvin M. Williams, who worked as the White House head gardener from 1962 until his retirement in 2008, once told Holden that such challenges had turned the site into a show garden by the 1980s. Some roses were planted in the ground, while others were set on the ground in pots that were concealed beneath surrounding foliage and then transported to a greenhouse at the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park & Aquarium after the flowering was finished. “Plants were constantly being shipped back and forth,” Holden says.
The flowers are fake, the landscaping is fake French, and the pillars are fake Tuscan, and so on and so on. This is your Pennsylvania Avenue 1600. Little is real and much is made up here.
In general, history should not be kind to Melania Trump, who is now living the simple life ("...She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again) and has dinner with Donald on the patio"). But we should let go of this Rose Garden rock because there are few things less sorry than a dog biting a rock.
Note: I took the dog/rock image from Friedrich Nietzsche (“The bite of conscience, like the bite of a dog into a stone, is a stupidity.”)