he first White House garden was planned for John Adams. In a diary entry of March 20,1800, a Washingtonian wrote: "After breakfast we walked to the ground behind the President's House, which will be enclosed and laid out for a garden. It is at present in great confusion, having on it old brick kilns and pits to contain water used by the brick makers.”
The personal touch of later Presidents became evident on the grounds. Landscaping began in earnest during Jefferson's administration. John Quincy Adams was a gardening enthusiast whose interests ranged from trees and shrubs to roses, tulips, York cabbages, and peas. Andrew Jackson introduced the famous magnolias that still thrive.
The garden is a rectangle 125 by 90 feet. Each corner is planted with a pink-blooming magnolia Alexandrina. Planting beds form the long lines of the rectangle framed by holly osmanthus and boxwood hedges. Five flowering crab apples are placed at intervals in each bed, their bases bordered by diamond patterns of dusty miller foliage. In the spring, the garden comes alive with tulip, crocus, narcissus, and other bulb plants. Before these fade, roses, pansies, Shasta daisies, geraniums, columbines, and other favorites supplant them to form bright masses of color. In the fall, chrysanthemums, salvia, and heliotrope bloom in profusion. When frost ends the chrysanthemums, foliage replaces the bright plantings.
The Rose Garden was first planted with roses in 1913 by the first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. Except for rearrangements resulting from the enlargement of the Executive Office in 1936 and from the renovation of the mansion in 1952, no significant changes were made in the Rose Garden until 1962.
To redesign it, and to provide space to receive public groups in an area formerly narrowed by hedges, President Kennedy called upon Mrs. Paul Mellon, an experienced horticulturist. Mrs. Mellon developed a plan based on a traditional 18th-century American garden. Jacqueline Kennedy took great personal interest in the rehabilitation of the garden. She reviewed and approved the design made by Mrs. Mellon.
The south lawn between the planting beds is now 55 by 100 feet. The east portion of the garden ends in a terrace of Pennsylvania bluestone, the west end at the steps to the President's Oval Office. Although the Rose Garden is used frequently to greet distinguished visitors and for special ceremonies and public statements, the contemplative setting is often a very personal and private place for the President.
The elegant Baronet Grouping, originally patented in 1846, is created from the same master patterns as the benches in the White House Rose Garden. Faithfully reproduced by the Moultrie Manufacturing Company in Moultrie, Georgia, the classic pieces are cast in aluminum, identical in appearance and authentic in detail and finish, but weigh two thirds less than heavy cast iron. And they endure the bumps and dings of life better, too, for aluminum is less brittle than iron. Even the finishes are more durable, although the patina still glows with old elegance.