All the Presidents’ Gardens, and a Free Trip to DC by Susan Harris


The Contest

Timber Press, publisher of All the Presidents’ Gardens by Marta McDowell, is launching the book by sending a lucky winner to DC – enter to win before April 15.

The winner (and guest) can use the prize any time, and assuming they enjoy visiting gardens, I suggest checking the DC Gardens website to see what the city’s public gardens look like throughout the season, March through November. (Yes, that’s my website.)


Now if the winner wants to see the White House gardens, that’s a little trickier because they’re only open to the public two weekends each year, once in spring and once in the fall, and the dates are usually announced with just 8-10 days notice. This year, the Spring Open Garden Days will be next weekend, April 16-17, something that was announced just two days ago.  In the fall, the date is usually mid-October. (Sign up for the e-news at DC Gardens to get the announcement within 24 hours.)

The Bookpresident's garden

I’m eager to read All the President’s Gardens because it tells the story of how the White House grounds have changed over time, including interesting details from presidential history –  George Washington’s obsession with collecting trees, Lincoln’s goats, Ike’s putting green, Kennedy’s roses, and of course the Obama kitchen garden. Sounds like a high-profile microcosm of the history of American gardening and gardens.

Having seen the book, I can attest that it’s beautifully illustrated with gems from the archives, many of which I’ve never seen before.

Kudos to the author for her thorough research that unearthed plenty of little-known stories, which I’ve been assured are told with no hint of partisanship (a nice respite in this election year). Rather, the book seems to be told from the perspective of an avid gardener – who can appreciate the challenges of helicopter winds and 1,000-person events in the garden.  It even includes plant lists and short bios of key White House gardeners.

Long Live the Kitchen Garden!

Today, the editorial board of the Washington Post declared that “The next administration should continue this delightful tradition of Ms. Obama’s.”  They say her kitchen garden isn’t just delightful, though; it has “more than lived up to its mission of encouraging a national conversation about healthy eating.”

Loved the part about the nay-saying.

There was speculation about hidden agendas (advancing leftist causes), criticism about gardening (too trivial to be a priority for the first lady), self-interested lobbying (from promoters of pesticides aghast at plans to go organic) and dire predictions (the garden would be short-lived once the first family found out weeding is a chore). There were even conspiracy theories after the first harvest proved so bountiful that skeptics were sure it had been trucked in.

Too trivial? GardenRant’s Manifesto begins with “We are convinced that gardening MATTERS,” and over our 10 years that’s only become more evident, and to more people.

All the Presidents’ Gardens, and a Free Trip to DC originally appeared on Garden Rant on April 7, 2016.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s