Mrs Trump recently made a rare statement to rebut historian Michael Bescholss’s claims she’d ‘eviscerated’ the green spot after repeated attacks by a White House historian – and insiders say the former garden was only superficially beautiful, but in poor shape underneath.
Years of wear and tear and constant replacement of trees, bushes and plantings to maintain a bountiful exterior had done irreparable damage, according to a 200-plus page report commissioned by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
Two of the people involved in the redesign said when the Rose Garden renovation began, there were just 11 actual rose bushes — now there are more than 200.
‘There was so much blight and disease and turnover of plantings that what Beschloss and everyone else thinks was the original garden that was ‘destroyed’ by Melania [Trump], hadn’t been the original garden in literally decades,’ according to a person, who worked closely with the National Park Service on the Rose Garden project.
Melania oversaw the 2020 renovations to the garden – the results of which were unveiled in August of last year and have split opinions ever since.
Problems, such as irrigation issues, shade and root growth tangled and killed many of the plants. The National Park Service — whose workers nurtured the White House grounds — would often dig up the dead stuff and in its place plant vibrant, colorful, seasonal flowers and bushes and, occasionally, trees.
‘It was a constant bait and switch,’ said the source. And while that extensive replanting meant the garden always looked great, its soils and foundations had been irreparably damaged by the constant work.
The ten Bunny Mellon-era crabapple trees — that Beschloss and others have angrily called out its removal in the 2020 renovation — had actually been replaced multiple times since 1962 — there was nothing original about them.
‘By the early 2000s, they were just huge. Too big for the space,’ said a White House senior staffer who is familiar with the removal of the trees. They were replaced with smaller ones, at least twice before last year.
In 2019, for the Australia State Dinner that was held outside in the Rose Garden, new crabapple trees were planted, according to the anonymous source, adding, ‘No one was the wiser.’
However, the crabapples that have over the years disappeared weren’t destined for the woodchipper, although ‘about three’ have died, says the White House staff member, who also confirmed the trees’ location — though only on deep background.
A ‘couple’ others are being restored and regrown in the White House greenhouse, and ‘some’ have been replanted on the South Lawn grounds, said this person.
However, some will say that Beschloss had a point in his critique.
Like many who enjoy the sighting of an abundance of tulips or seasonal perennials to showcase America’s most historically fabled garden, the historian appears to miss the immediate gratification of a garden that always looked pleasant to the eye, and the Rose Garden did look like a shell of what it was in its original — or even the most recent — form.
That may have something to do with the fact that there was a deadline to hit, one of the people involved with renovation acknowledges.
‘[Melania Trump] was giving her speech for the [Republican National] convention from the Rose Garden right after the unveiling,’ this person said.
That being mentioned, even the roses that were planted for the garden’s unveiling and the former first-lady’s speech aren’t among the tall bushes flowering several feet high now, one year later.
A view of the restored Rose Garden is seen at the White House in August 2020. First Lady Melania Trump oversaw the project.
‘It’s basically impossible for roses like that to survive the heat and humidity of a Washington, DC., August,’ says the source, who notes that as temperatures dropped, appropriate rose varietals were added — and a large portion of those plants are now thriving.
Speaking to CNN after historian Beschloss leveled his latest attack on Mrs Trump’s garden makeover, her spokesman said: ‘The American people deserve honesty.
The former FLOTUS’s spokesman also told the network that the makeover, unveiled in August 2020, ‘combined with the needs for the present.. Her statement added: ‘Politicizing this renovation further illustrates the media’s bias against Mrs. Trump.’
Beschloss, a White House historian, fired his latest salvo on on August 7 when tweeted his ongoing disapproval at Trump’s alterations to the most iconic garden in America, calling it an ‘evisceration’ after having previously tweeted a number of images of the garden in better condition.
But insiders explained that the garden was only superficially beautiful when Mrs Trump began her work, and that the ‘original’ trees and plants whose destruction Beschloss and others mourned had actually been replaced multiple times over previous decades.
The Rose Garden became a political lightning rod after the former first-lady decided to renovate it in 2020, dividing opinions on whether to break the garden’s traditional outlay and use.
The reconstruction meant removing almost all of the garden’s plants and trees and flowers, digging up an antiquated irrigation system and installing a new one, creating a more cohesive audio/visual apparatus, laying pavers for walkways and replanting just about every shrub and seedling from scratch.
At the unveiling, one year ago this month, reviews split mostly down party lines, between those who felt the update was a tribute to Trump’s glamorous aesthetic, and those who were certain the first lady had taken shears to the garden’s bounty to make woodchips for potpourri.
Beschloss would fall under the latter category.
For the last year, the historian has tweeted with consistency his deep distaste for the Rose Garden renovation, gaining popularity each time he posts his takes, which are often accompanied by photographs documenting the garden in past glory.
Last Saturday, Beschloss tweeted a photo of the historic, yet barren, patch of land just outside the doors of the Oval Office with the caption: ‘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.’
Famous historian and author Michael Beschloss is not the biggest fan of the Rose Garden’s modern-day layout, calling it an ‘evisceration’ and ‘decades of American history made to disappear’
It didn’t take long for Melania to hit back, as the next day, she posted on her Twitter account belonging to the Office of Melania Trump — a more recent, florally vibrant Rose Garden, and a caption firing back at Beschloss.
‘@BeschlossDC has proven his ignorance by showing a picture of the Rose Garden in its infancy. The Rose Garden is graced with a healthy & colorful blossoming of roses. His misleading information is dishonorable & he should never be trusted as a professional historian,’ the tweet stated.
Melania Trump responded to Beschloss’ tweet, saying the historian shouldn’t be ‘trusted’ as she shares a picture of a blooming and colorful Rose Garden in its infancy
A spokesperson for Trump backed the former first-lady’s tweet, telling CNN, ‘The American people deserve honesty.’
The spokesperson added that Trump’s approach to the garden redesign was done after much research on its history, ‘combined with the needs for the present. Politicizing this renovation further illustrates the media’s bias against Mrs. Trump.’
Trump was justified in pointing out that the photo Beschloss tweeted isn’t exactly accurate of how the garden’s looks now, nor the garden’s role, according to a person familiar with the Rose Garden’s renovation.
Michael Richard Beschloss is an American historian specializing in the United States presidency. He is the author of nine books on the presidency
‘The first year it’s sleeping, the second year it’s creeping, and the third year it’s leaping. Everyone knows that adage,’ the person told CNN of the tempered expectation process, which ardent gardeners know to be true.
This person, who like three other people interviewed for this story, requested anonymity in order to discuss Washington’s most controversial plot of greenspace.
‘There is no way with the work that was done it could be — ‘ta-da! Here you go!’,’ said this person. ‘The entire garden had to be ripped out to be rebuilt.’
A member involved in the Trumps’ planning of the renovation acknowledged the ‘after’ was ‘shocking’ and that the garden looked ‘neutered.’
However, the White House groundskeepers and former White House Chief usher Timothy Harleth, who was installed by the Trumps, agreed that it was necessary for the Rose Garden to get a makeover.
Numerous staff members at the White House said that the Rose Garden need to be redone, regardless of what it looks like today
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have used the Rose Garden as an area for press conferences
President Joe Biden taking a stroll next to the blossomed Rose Garden in July 2021
The President’s dogs, Major and Champ, lay their paws on the Rose Garden shortly after Biden’s in January 2021