This is what happens when a person with absolutely no taste is permitted to be in charge of a national treasure!
Of the many things that upset me about the past four years under the Trump administration (and they were divers, from the 600-some infants and children torn from their mother’s arms at the border to the fascist statement that the American press is “the enemy of the people”), few had such a visceral effect upon me as The Rose Garden Massacre.
I adore roses. I’m complete crap at gardening, but for some reason, roses forgive me for my ineptitude, and grow for me. They grow despite black spot and Japanese beetle and aphids and sudden spring freezes; despite too much rain and too little. They grow despite my own incompetence at pruning and fertilizing and nurturing. Roses, it seems, love me back.
So, because of my own love of roses and success with them, I had always taken exquisite pride in the White House rose garden. Every spring I sought out photos of the flowering crab apple trees beginning to blossom. I don’t really even like tulips, which I consider to be the most boring of flowers, yet I enjoyed the spring riot of color as the tulips beneath the crab apples began to cast their slender faces upward toward the sun. It just pleased me, somehow, that what is essentially a business-place, one devoted to the running of an entire country, could possess such a garden, and such a concession to beauty; to green and growing things.
So it was with consternation and horror that I read, on August 22, 2020, of the rose garden renovations. I sat in front of my computer, scanning the news stories, and gazing in horrified disbelief at the massacre of the nation’s well-loved rose garden.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I was well aware that, to accommodate those with disabilities (and the ridiculous stilettos worn by certain idiot females), new, wide walkways were needed in the White House rose garden; and that, although not actually visible in the restorations, access to higher tech was required. These things were necessary in order to move the rose garden—site of so many gatherings and press briefings—into the 21st century.
But this—this devastation—was not.
The flowering crab apple trees, so lovingly planted by Jacqueline Kennedy, were missing, perhaps slaughtered. I read claims that these trees had been transplanted, not merely cut down, but (perhaps due to my lack of knowledge about horticulture), I dismissed the idea; how does one transplant a 60-year-old tree? Is that even possible? The renovations had been announced in August; were the tulip bulbs still gently hidden in their hibernation, waiting until spring to once more toss riotous, dancing color to the sky? Again, I doubted. And the roses themselves—the lovely, richly colored, beautiful roses, where were they? A swath of ghostly pale blossoms lined those new walkways against the clearly-revealed, garish white of the colonnade.
I could not understand any of it. The trees, I read, had been overgrown, casting too much shade, and so had to be removed. How strange! I’d always believed one pruned trees regularly, to prevent their becoming overgrown. But the missing color—the glorious, wild, rambunctious color of the rose garden—why had it been dimmed, diminished, banished?
Of course, this is what happens when one allows an individual whose prior claims to fame, before acquiring certified gold digger status for her marriage to a wealthy man, had been producing full-frontal nudity and lesbian porn photos, to be in charge of a national treasure. (No, much as I despise the woman, I will not provide a link; if you want to see those vulgar pictures, you can look them up.) Even setting aside her infamous pornographic photos, Melania Knauss Trump had already proven, numerous times, that taste was not a word in her lexicon. Consider her frightening and much-maligned White House Christmas décor, her notorious “I Don’t Care” shirt, or the mangled grammar of her anti-cyber-bullying initiative, which proved conclusively that she had no idea to whom she was married.
Hence, her transformation of the well-loved White House rose garden into an eerie diminutive of the Russian Gorky Park.
The day after the President Biden took office, I looked for and signed one of numerous petitions begging our new First Lady to take in hand the restoration of this beloved icon of America. As I remarked to several friends, beyond passing the hat at the office to purchase cards and flowers for coworkers, I have absolutely no experience whatever of fundraising, but I would gladly delve into the necessary work to assemble whatever money was needed for the project.
Erasing fascism, racism, cult-behavior, xenophobia, sedition, vicious rhetoric and name-calling from the American government will, no doubt, be an overwhelming challenge for the new administration. But planting ten crab apple trees and some tulips, along with roses bursting with color in every shade and variety, should be almost effortless by comparison. And it might just help, in one tiny way, to bind up the wounds and restore the damaged soul of our Nation.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also find you like “Cathy’s Roses”, from July 24, 2018, or “A Memory Walk”, posted September 11, 2019. Both essays can be found in the Archives.