Monday, July 28, 2014

America's Kitchen Garden

The expansive front lawn of the White House.  Not a single blade of crab grass or clover blossom in sight!
Our group  at the Northeast entrance gate.  There is a lovely pedestrian mall and park here surrounded by government buildings and offices just outside of the gate where visitors can linger. 

Every once in a while, I take off my garden gloves, step out of the greenhouse and leave the lavender plants behind, for just a little while, in order to go and visit someone else's garden.  I'll admit that I don't get that chance very often but when I do, I make sure it is a really special garden to visit!   This past Friday, Peter and I had the opportunity, along with several of our "herbster" friends and gardening colleagues, all members of the National Herb Society's Potomac Unit, to have a private tour of the White House Gardens.  And, like any garden tour worth it's salt, it included a tour of the inside of the White House as well.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.

The fountain on the White House South Lawn, sometimes described as the "back lawn" since the front of the White House faces Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side.  In this picture, the fountain appears to be an American garden version of red, white and blue.
The Jacquelyn Kennedy Garden and the White House lawn and plantings, up close and in person, are even more impressive and beautiful, especially on a clear and cool July morning--a scarce weather commodity in hot and humid Washington, D.C. during the summertime.

It was totally awesome that the Obama's, who couldn't be there to welcome us, sent Bo and Sonny to say "Hello."  Really!  All in a days work for them, you know.
Twenty-five of us represented the HSA Potomac Unit members along with White House Chief Horticulturist, Jim Adams who is also a Potomac Unit member and past president of the Unit as well.
The highlight of the tour was seeing the White House Kitchen Garden, located on the South Lawn, and implemented by Mrs. Obama in 2009, along with the White House Chefs and a local 5th grade class, in her efforts to encourage Americans to increase healthy food choices. There have been many vegetable gardens of varying degrees, sorts and locations, through the years, at the White House starting with John and Abigail Adams back in 1800, to Eleanor Roosevelt's Victory Garden and even the Clinton's rooftop garden, before this particular one was installed.

White House Chief Horticulturist, Jim Adams, talking with our group in the Kitchen Garden as we perused the beds and asked a lot of questions.
This current Administration's garden is packed with salad greens, herbs, vegetables, perennials, (including my favorite, lavender) and annuals that are not only nutritious but also designed to attract pollinators, as there is an eight-drawer beehive situated close by.  It was installed just a few years ago and is maintained by a White House carpenter who also happens to be a beekeeper in his spare time.

The White House Beehive about 50 feet away from the Kitchen Garden and nestled in a setting of trees and bushes that provide some shade for the bees, intermittently, throughout the day. 

Everything looks healthy and happy.
The Kitchen Garden itself consists of raised beds, separated by mulched pathways and is contained within 1100 square feet.  Given that this is on the lawn of America's premier home, it is not pretentious in any way and reflects the wants and needs of a busy family, focused on healthy eating habits and, who also just happen to entertain--a lot! Of course, the vast majority of us do not have National Park Service employees weeding our own gardens. Nor do we have a chief horticulturist on staff to oversee the entire operation.  Yet, this well-tended garden is designed to be useful and understandable for anyone, gardener or not, and most importantly, welcoming. Just what would be expected, for it to be an "everyman's" and "everywoman's" garden.

It was a great way to spend a morning in such a special place and I didn't have to pull one weed, transplant something or water a single plant.  I think I'll go and visit another garden soon!  Until then, see you back in the lavender field at Blooming Hill.

1 comment:

  1. How did you get to tour? I've submitted an online request for my group but haven't heard back. The tour looks awesome!