Melania Trump may no longer reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that hasn’t stopped the former first lady from defending her controversial renovation of the White House Rose Garden one year after its unveiling.
The provocation stemmed from continued criticism shared by NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss on Twitter. The historian has made no secret of his opposition to Melania’s “evisceration” of the Rose Garden, which was first designed in 1962 by Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon. To mark the anniversary of the the former FLOTUS’s work, Beschloss tweeted a photo of the then freshly renovated Rose Garden, describing Melania’s changes as a “grim result” that had caused “decades of American history. . . to disappear.”
The Office of Melania Trump refused to suffer the insult in silence, striking back with a tweet at Beschloss that attempts to place his criticism in context. “@BeschlossDC has proven his ignorance by showing a picture of the Rose Garden in its infancy,” the account tweeted. “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.”
To be fair to the former first lady, experts agreed that the White House Rose Garden was in need of some work prior to her involvement. The Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House Grounds were among those who signed off on the project, with CNN noting that the former had commissioned a 200-plus page report cataloguing the Rose Garden’s wear and tear over the years.
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In addition to the fact that no garden will suddenly materialize fully formed the moment it’s planted, the redesign, undertaken by Oehme, van Sweden and Associates alongside Perry Guillot Inc., seems at least more faithful to the space’s name. While much has been made of the missing crabapples that once helped define the space, there are, in fact, more roses in the Rose Garden today than before Melania’s renovations: Two hundred rose bushes now adorn this green space just outside the West Wing, although varieties resistant to D.C.’s humid weather were not on-site at the moment of the garden’s unveiling.
In a sense, the Rose Garden is a living document. Plants come and go from the space over time, with a source close to the National Park Service telling CNN that the space “hadn’t been the original garden in literally decades.” Even those famous Bunny Mellon crabapple trees—now gone and lamented—had been replaced multiple times over the years.