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All the Presidents' Gardens:…

All the Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to…

by Marta McDowell

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“Inflamed plant lust” was the descriptor used for one of the head gardeners and would be applicable for many of the head gardeners at the White House. The White House gardeners laboured under Presidents who loved gardening, those who endured gardening, and those who were oblivious to its charms. Whether the President was a gardener or not, the White House grounds represented the nation, and the head gardeners laboured to present a fine show to visiting dignitaries, and the public alike. This book presents a short biography of each head gardener and his accomplishments. This is a garden lover’s book so expect plant lists with both common and botanical (Latin) names. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Sep 5, 2016 |
McDowell provides a fascinating look at White House gardens, a place that is often overlooked and taken for granted. Her well-researched investigation is illustrated with numerous photographs and maps. White House occupant’s folksy reminisces scattered throughout along their influence on garden design bring a literary prose to what could have been a very dry topic. A table listing shrubs, trees, and vines is included at the end along with recommended readings, sources and citations, and index. The one criticism is that the pictures were black and white do justice to the beauty described. ( )
  bemislibrary | May 14, 2016 |
At first, I had a hard time liking "All The Presidents' Gardens" by Marta McDowell. It seemed dry, not very exciting. Soon my feelings changed. I began to read the quotations and quickly scan the pages for details. Shortly I found myself saying, this fact is interesting, and I didn't know about this either. After all, eighteen acres of land where any part may be filled with a bush, tree, vegetable or rose must have plenty of trivia to learn and read about during the winter when you're not gardening or during the spring, summer, fall when you are gardening heavily. So, Marta McDowell's non-fiction became a pleasant experience. Not every President of the United States has written about in the book. Only the ones who garden while living at the White House are mentioned. Also in some instances, the wives of the presidents are mentioned. Oh, and gardeners are listed in the book as well. There are pictures. Sadly, they are not in color. I would have liked to see a few color plates.

It seems sad that only the presidents are listed in the title and not the wives. I was surprised to meet Dolley Madison,, Helen Taft, Abigail Adams and a few other wives. I did like the subtitle of "All The Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses." I don't know. I found myself thinking of the carrots and cabbage in Mr. McGregor's garden with a smile on my face. I felt happy to see that Marta McDowell has written a Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life. I certainly would like to see it.

Since so many presidents and wives are mentioned, I decided to focus on three of them: The Kennedys, First Lady Michelle O'Bama and the Clintons. While living in the White House Hillary Clinton spent time walking through the gardens. There, she could gather her thoughts and relax. During this time, she decided to add sculptures to the gardens. This excited me because garden sculptures are beautiful and intricate.

Of course, I was anxious to read about First Lady Michelle Obama's vegetable garden. I have heard about how much she likes to work with children in and around the tomatoes and squash. So I wasn't surprised to learn that children would become a significant part of the activity in the garden. Their little shovels planted red tomatoes and other brightly colored vegetables. Native American children and other boys and girls will come back many years later to see what they worked to grow at the White House.

I became carried away writing about the First Ladies of the White House. What will carry you away it Marta McDowell's book. Perhaps, Thomas Jefferson's favorite mockingbird or President Calvin Coolidge and the First White House tree? No matter whom you choose and what garden you choose, you will have a delightful time at the ageless gardens of the White House.
martamcdowell ( )
  Tea58 | Mar 11, 2016 |
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"In this rich and compelling narrative, garden historian Marta McDowell traces the story of how the White House grounds were conceived and how they have changed from administration to administration. From George Washington's obsession with collecting trees to Michelle Obama's kitchen garden, McDowell shows how the White House grounds are a reflection of America's enthusiasms."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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