In his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden has reversed a number of policies and procedures his predecessor put in place.
He’s rejoined the Paris climate agreement, restored ties with the World Health Organization, halted funding for construction of the border wall between the U. S. and Mexico, and canceled the executive order mandating classicism the preferred architectural style for federal buildings.
Now constituents are asking First Lady Jill Biden to undo a change that her predecessor made, a change that pertains to the White House itself.
An online petition started by Tennessee resident Liz Tapanes asks that Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff restore the White House Rose Garden, created by Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s, to the condition it was in before it was redesigned under the direction of First Lady Melania Trump.
“In 2019, Melania Trump had the cherry trees, a gift from Japan, removed as well as the rest of the foliage and replaced it with a boring tribute to herself,” states the change.org petition, entitled Restore Jackie Kennedy’s Rose Garden.
“Jackie Kennedy’s legacy was ripped away from Americans who remembered all that the Kennedy’s meant to us. We want Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff to take this on and restore the Rose Garden to Jackie’s original design.”
Melania Trump unveiled the changes to the Rose Garden last summer, showing how plants and trees were removed and more grass and two limestone walkways were added. The Long Island, New York-based Perry Guillot, Inc. and Washington, D.C.-based Oehme, van Sweden & Associates | OvS handled the renovation.
Besides losing trees and plantings that had significance because of their donors and their ties to the Kennedy era, the garden is now decidedly blander and less colorful because more of the area is now simply a lawn.
Toward the end of the Trump administration, the redesigned garden was used as a setting for outdoor news conferences and ceremonies that couldn’t safely be held indoors under federal public health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elimination of trees and plants meant better sightlines for TV cameras and more attention on the speakers rather than the setting.
One gathering in the redesigned garden, on September 26, was later termed a “super-spreader event,” when President Donald Trump and many others tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after meeting there, many without wearing face masks.
Although the petition says cherry trees were removed, others have said that they were crabapple trees and were not destroyed but saved for replanting elsewhere on the White House grounds (which means they could be brought back to the garden.)
The loss of color and beauty is what has troubled many signers of the petition. “It’s a rose garden, not a grass garden,” said one signatory. “It doesn’t need to look like funeral home landscaping,” said another. “It looks so plain and sad now,” added a third.
To support the request for restoration, the petition goes into detail about why the Kennedys created the Rose Garden and how it came to be named after Jacqueline Kennedy.
“In 1961 President and Mrs. Kennedy had just returned from a state visit to France, followed by stops in England and Austria,” the petition states.
“The President had noted that the White House had no garden equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens that he had seen and in which he had been entertained in Europe. There he had recognized the importance of gardens surrounding an official residence and their appeal to the sensibilities of all people.”
Jacqueline Kennedy’s successor as First Lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, officially renamed the East Garden the “Jacqueline Kennedy Garden” during a ceremony on April 22, 1965, “to honor Jacqueline Kennedy’s contributions to the White House and its grounds,” the petition notes.
Jacqueline Kennedy worked with garden enthusiast and family friend Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon and Perry Wheeler to redesign the East Garden, which was completed in 1962.
The Bidens have made no public statements in response to the Rose Garden petition. But support for the request is growing: Since the petition was launched for weeks ago, it has been signed by more than 56,000 people.