White House to Host Spring Garden Tours This Weekend
WASHINGTON — The White House will continue the annual tradition of opening its gardens and South Grounds to the general public on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2.
The National Park Service expects about 40,000 people to take advantage of the tours, which are free and open to the public, though a daily timed ticket is required for all attendees, including small children.
The Park Service will distribute the timed tickets from a tent stationed outside the White House Visitor Center, located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW beginning at 8:30 a.m. each day, while supplies last.
The entrance for ticket holders will be located on 15th Street NW between E Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW.
The ADA entrance will be located at 15th Street NW and Alexander Hamilton Place NW.
Most Americans know the White House as the home and workplace of the president of the United States; fewer realize that its grounds are the nation’s oldest publicly maintained landscape.
Though George Washington never lived in the White House, he purchased what is now the South lawn of the executive mansion from a local tobacco farmer named Davy Burns in the hope that the property would be converted into a botanical garden.
While that plan never came to pass, John Adams, the first president to actually live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, did request that a portion of the land be plowed and fertilized in anticipation of a large vegetable garden.
However, Thomas Jefferson’s victory in the 1800 presidential election prevented Adams from ever seeing the ground planted, and the nation’s third president had his own ideas about how the land should be used.
Jefferson wanted to see the White House surrounded by a grove of trees, and he is said to have planted hundreds of seedlings around the property, though not one is believed to have survived to today.
Jefferson also chose the location of a planned flower garden and was in office long enough to see walls and fences installed around the area.
President James Monroe not only increased the tree planting on the White House grounds, he is also reputed to have hired the first White House gardener, Charles Bizet.
But it was John Quincy Adams, an avid gardener, who took the White House grounds to a new level. He replaced Bizet with John Ousley, who remained the White House gardener for the next 30 years.
It was Adams, with Ousley’s help, who finally developed the flower gardens Jefferson had envisioned. The second President Adams was also the first chief executive to plant ornamental trees on the property, and he is said to have personally enjoyed planting seedlings for fruit trees, vegetables and assorted herbs himself.
In 1876, President Rutherford B. Hayes began the tradition of planting commemorative trees on the White House grounds. His was intended to commemorate the nation’s centennial. Today, there are more than three dozen commemorative trees spread throughout the property.
The rose garden came into being in 1913, when Ellen Wilson, first wife of Woodrow Wilson, had Jefferson’s colonial garden replaced. The so-called “West Garden,” which is located just outside the Oval Office, has been known as the Rose Garden ever since.
The first Mrs. Wilson also brought in the landscape designer Beatrix Farrand to the White House to landscape the East Side of the garden, the overall design of which remains almost exactly as she envisioned it.
However, both gardens got a makeover during the Kennedy administration.
In the case of the Rose Garden, President Kennedy had it redesigned to accommodate outdoor ceremonies.
The East Garden was also redesigned during this period, though work on it wasn’t completed until the Johnson administration.When it was done, Lady Bird Johnson then dedicated the East Garden to Jacqueline Kennedy. Since then, the East Garden has been known variously as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the First Ladies’ Garden and the East Garden.
The other major piece of the property, the South Lawn, regularly serves as a “landing pad” for Marine One, the helicopter that ferries the president to Andrews Air Force Base, and as the site of any number of large events, ranging from significant bill signings, the welcoming of various sports champions and the annual Easter egg hunt.
In the most recent addition, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden added a floral cutting garden to the South Lawn.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year marks only the second time the Biden administration has hosted the Spring Garden event.
If you miss out on tickets this time around, take heart, the White House grounds are open to the public twice a year: for the spring garden tour and again for the fall garden tour, typically in October.
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