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Melania Trump’s newly-renovated Rose Garden is repaired

Melania Trump’s newly-renovated White House Rose Garden is undergoing repair just three weeks after the new changes were revealed and the first lady gave her speech to the Republican National Convention, making her case for President Donald Trump’s second term.

The garden is experiencing ‘issues with water drainage’ and ‘some minor complications with updated construction,’ a source told CNN.

President Trump has been taking a motorcade to Joint Base Andrews for his trips the past two weeks – an unusual move given he usually flies in Marine One to the base to catch his flight on Air Force One. 

The White House press office on Tuesday said he’s been driving instead because of construction on the South Lawn, which is where Marine One takes off and lands.

And, on Monday, the president held a news conference on the North Portico, an unusual outdoor location for him to take questions from the press.

‘We have a lot to be thankful for, including this really beautiful day. It’s why I thought we’d do this outside as opposed to in your more normal place,’ President Trump told reporters at the start of his Labor Day press conference.

But the usual location for the president’s outdoor news conferences is the Rose Garden.

The first lady gave her convention speech from the area on August 25 but there was a turf put down for the event.

Washington DC had an abnormally wet summer, with a steady stream of rain in July and August. The 18.75 inches of rain was more than eight inches above average – the downpours the side effect of Tropical Storm Isaias and Hurricane Laura.

Melania Trump unveiled her renovations to the White House Rose Garden on August 22, a project she had been working on for months. 

Paid for by private donations, the first lady returned the garden to its roots, honouring the original design by Bunny Mellon, made at the request of President John F. Kennedy in 1962. 

Melania Trump and President Donald Trump hosted a private reception for the donors, whose names are not being publicly released, in the new Rose Garden that night. Members of the media were given a preview of the garden that morning. 

‘Gardens are symbols of growth and hope. We celebrate this garden in the hope that future generations will not only enjoy – but also draw inspiration and strength – from this space where so much of our history has been shared,’ the first lady said at the reception, according to her remarks released by the East Wing. 

The newly-renovated garden conforms with the first lady’s personal aesthetic: clean lines, well structured, and soft, neutral colors.

But Melania Trump also came under criticism for removing crab apple trees originally put there during Kennedy’s time, which officials said was done as they were making too much shade for other plants to grow well in the garden.  

The East Wing declined to provide the cost of the redesign, which also included much needed updates, such as electrical upgrades for TV appearances, new walkways that are ADA accessible, and general repair work on the area.

The garden was closed for about five weeks during the renovations. It is one of the president’s favorite places to hold press conferences. The garden is also used for the annual turkey pardoning, state dinners and other official events.

White is the dominate theme of the new space, including the addition of white JFK roses in honor of President Kennedy, whose envisioned a large garden outside the Oval Office. 

Smatterings of pink roses and lavender flowers add a pop of color to the diamond-shaped flower beds.

The garden was designed with the presidency in mind, according to the first lady’s office. The removal of a holly ledge allows a better view of the garden on the president’s walk along the colonnade from the residence to the Oval Office on his daily commute.

One notable change is Melania Trump remodeled the section of the garden nicknamed the ‘Obama beer summit.’ On July 16, 2009, then President Barack Obama invited Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, who had been arrested in an event that sparked accusations of racial profiling, and Sgt. James Crowley, the officer who arrested him, to the White House to talk about the situation over a few beers. Obama, then Vice President Joe Biden, Gates and Crowley sat at a table in the Rose Garden for the conversation.

The table has been removed and that area has been replaced with new limestone pavers and steps. The first lady’s office said it will be ‘the new site for an unannounced art installation.’

Also removed were ten crabapple trees that were part of the original design were removed as the shade they cast over the garden was compromising the health of the plants. The trees were moved to a greenhouse and will, at a future date, be replanted in other areas of the White House lawn, according to a White House official. 

Several bushes were also removed, making the space more open and giving it a larger appearance. The removal of the bushes opened up the colonnade area and allowed a better view from the White House down onto the South Lawn. 

The predominant rose veritable used in the new design is the ‘JFK Rose,’ a white flower. They fill the length of the garden with large white rose plants know as the ‘Pope John Paul II Rose’ towering over them. These roses were included in honor of his 1979 visit, the first visit of a Pope to the White House. There is also a selection of ‘peace roses,’ named in commemoration of the end of World War II.

The rose plants are small now but will grow over the years.

Additionally the garden is seasonal – meaning the flowers will change with the seasons. Tulips were predominate in the spring, with the roses in the summer and mums in the fall. 

‘Our country has seen difficult times before, but the White House and the Rose Garden have always stood as a symbol of our strength, resilience and continuity,’ Melania Trump said when she announced the redesign earlier this summer.

 Melania Trump has undertaken many a renovation project during her tenure in the East Wing. She’s overseen the redesign of the White House bowling alley, freshened up decorations in the public rooms on the State floor – the Green Room, the Blue Room and the Red Room – and is installing a tennis pavilion on the White House grounds. 

The White House Rose Garden – an area that is 125-foot long, 60-foot wide – sits outside the Oval Office on the West Wing of the executive mansion. It is maintained by the National Park Service. 

Presidents have used the garden for a variety of events, including the announcement of Supreme Court justices, press conferences, state dinners and the annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey. Tricia Nixon was married in the Rose Garden on June 12, 1971.

It was first established by Edith Wilson in 1913 on top of a previous garden established by Edith Roosevelt in 1902. Prior to that, the area contained the White House stables and later was a garden area to grow food for the first family.

In 1961, Mellon redesigned the garden area at the request of President Kennedy.  Known for her personal gardens at her Virginia estate, Mellon put in a more defined central lawn, bordered by flower beds that were planted in a French style but used American plants. Roses make up the majority of the blooming flowers but the garden also contains jonquil, daffodil, fritillaria, grape hyacinth, tulips, chionodoxa and squil. 

 Mellon died in the 2014 but she told the White House Historical Association in 1983 that, after his state visit to France, President Kennedy asked her to redo the area outside of the Oval Office to make the equivalent to gardens he had seen in Europe.

‘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,’ she noted. 

She cited magnolia trees as her original inspiration, planting one in each of the four corners of the garden. She left the lawn area in the middle open for events but installed a 12-foot border for smaller trees, roses, and other flowers, noting President Kennedy loved flowers and requested species used in Thomas Jefferson’s time. 

Using a diamond shape, she boxed in flowering plants among hedges setting the garden up to have a rotation of plants blooming throughout spring, summer and fall.  

Mellon, a noted philanthropist, designed the steps coming from the Oval Office to the garden to be used as either steps or a stage. At the east end of the garden is a flagstone terrace for the president to use for private outdoor lunches or meetings.

She recalled the ups and downs of the project, including how ‘one day while were removing the old soil and replacing it with new, we cut into a mysterious cable buried in a corner of the garden. It turned out to be the hot line that set off the nation’s military alert.’ The line had been hastily installed during World War II for President Franklin Roosevelt’s use. 

Since the Rose Garden was unveiled in 1962, changes in the planting have taken place but Mellon’s original design remains largely intact.

Various administrations have made their contributions, such as stone walk ways, new trees, and added flowering plants. 

Mellon was also brought in during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency to work on a garden outside the East Wing, which was eventually named the Jacqueline Kennedy Rose Garden.  

In 1981, Nancy Reagan asked Mellon to return to the garden to help update the plants and design. 

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