Like the rest of our country, the White House Rose Garden was left damaged by the Trump administration. In order to “fulfill the dynamic needs of the modern presidency,” according to CNN, former First Lady Melania Trump renovated the historic garden in summer 2020. As a result of those changes, which resulted in a bleak and cold space that lacked any semblance of joy, chaos ensued. (Not actually, but people tweeted a lot about how bad it looked.) Now, 42,000 people — and counting — are calling on Dr. Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff to restore the garden to its original state. Or, if you will, un-Melania the thing.
The Change.org petition was started in March, but it really gained traction last week. “In 2019, Melania Trump had the cherry trees, a gift from Japan, removed as well as the rest of the foliage and replaced with a boring tribute to herself,” wrote creator Liz Tapanes. “We want Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff to take this on and restore the Rose Garden to Jackie's original design.”
Some supporters say they view a possible restoration as an important symbolic gesture. “I’m signing to restore positive traditions and move away from all the damage caused by Trump and his sycophants,” wrote one signer. Others are just livid that the garden, once full of color and flowers, had been made dull and lifeless. “Please restore the rose garden to its former look. The Trump look is terrible. It’s not warm and beautiful. Too many straight lines,” commented another person.
Gardeners and horticulturists weighed in, too: “I am a gardener. The reasons given for Melania Trump ‘re-doing’ the garden were incorrect and bogus,” one wrote. “Please restore it.”
As the petition states, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy oversaw the last major renovation of the Rose Garden in 1962. Americans were particularly furious to learn that Trump had removed Kennedy’s colorful crabapple trees. (The trees were reportedly planted elsewhere on the White House grounds.)
But even putting aside the garden’s history, Trump’s redesign just looked, well, soulless. And many people wondered why she decided it was a priority to revamp spaces like the Rose Garden and the White House Tennis Pavilion in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis. To that, she just said, “I encourage everyone who chooses to be negative & question my work at the @WhiteHouse to take time and contribute something good & productive in their own communities. #BeBest.”
Dr. Biden hasn’t yet commented on whether she’ll be overhauling the Rose Garden herself, but it’s certainly a possibility. In February, she gave an update on former First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, which she said is still “going strong” more than 10 years after it was planted. Maybe under her leadership, the Bidens and Harris-Emhoffs can Make Gardens Beautiful Again.