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Apr 30, 2019 Washington, D.C.

The latest episode of The 1600 Sessions podcast, "The White House Gardens” was released today by The White House Historical Association. President Stewart McLaurin speaks with authors and noted garden historians Jonathan Pliska and Linda Jane Holden.

Eighteen acres of beautifully curated grounds frame the White House. These grounds include private gardens for Presidents and their families, as well as public parks for visitors to enjoy. While greenery comes and goes with the changing seasons and administrations, some Presidents have left a lasting mark. For example, Rachel Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon, also known as “Bunny,” was a self-taught horticulturalist who designed the garden for President Kennedy and offered gardening help to President Reagan, as well.

“We see all these exuberant bold and vivid colors in the Rose Garden, because that's what President Kennedy liked and what he wanted. That Rose Garden for him was an extension of his office,” explained Linda Jane Holden. “Mrs. Reagan reached out to [Bunny] on several occasions, and as different considerations arose for the gardens, they consulted her. Her style is still in place today, and I think that speaks for her design and how it has held to the test of time. And we are still enjoying it today,”

White House inhabitants using plants, trees and flowers to leave their mark near the Executive Mansion is not a new tradition, but rather dates back to our nation’s early years.

“[President John Quincy] Adams grew more than 700 saplings, and this comprised at least 25 different types of trees, one of which became known throughout history as the John Quincy Adams Elm. It survived on the South Lawn of the White House up until 1991. Among other trees that he planted, he was really one of the first people I'm aware of in the United States to plant commemorative trees,” explained Jonathan Pliska, author of A Garden for the President: A History of the White House Grounds. “And for a historian it's particularly wonderful because as long as you can count all the rings, you know exactly when it was planted. So there's no doubt whatsoever.”

The 1600 Sessions

In this podcast series, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews luminaries, historians, and eyewitnesses to history about America’s most famous residence and office—the White House. Each episode includes a prominent guest or guests to discuss varying facets of White House history, including insights from former staff and many other topical issues.

The 1600 Sessions is available on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. To hear the full episode, visit

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About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit

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