Cover Image: All the Presidents' Gardens

All the Presidents' Gardens

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Member Reviews

If wandering a garden is at the top of your list, if you spend a lot of "head" time planning your next season's garden layout, if you are given to whimsical wonders such as whether or not the seed that is springing up in front of you comes from a celebrated parent seed, filled with celebrated historicity. . . or are subject to similar other Big Botanical Thoughts. . .you will enjoy this book. PLUS if you are one who leans with interest toward historical timelines. . .well. This book is for you.

After a heartfelt prologue that lays out her intentions for the reader, Marta McDowell has gathered her topics - the gardens of the White House in Washington D.C. under the various presidencies served - arranged and vase-ed them into eight time periods. Generously interspersed with illustrations, maps, plans and photographs through each era, each section is of its time, touching on the president's milieu, from family to staff to public response to the changes each brought to our First House - all without a drop of politics. It was a joy to be able to think about our national home without the push and pull of that stormy thundercloud. This is a lovely book about gardens, our history, specifically White House history, and the many, many hands that have loved the house(s), the lands and have loyally served their country by creating a jewel in our collective crown.

A wonderful read. Truly a book as worthy of public display on a shelf or table, as it is an object of enjoyable reading.

*A sincere thank you to Marta McDowell, Timber Press, and NetGalley for a free ARC to read and voluntarily review.* #AllthePresidentsGardens #NetGalley

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It was interesting reading about how changing times and the various occupants put their own stamp on the White House Gardens. Some I was familiar with like the rose garden and Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden. But most of these were new to me. And there were plenty of illustrations.

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My thanks to Net Galley and Timber Press for an advanced copy of this e-book.

I love the White House, the gardens and the history that goes with both and this book was great for those who love the history and gardens of our beloved White House and the many people who have lovingly cared for it over the years. I especially loved the drawings, maps and photos through the years showing the many changes through time. I would recommend this one in book form to study the drawings and maps.

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Marta McDowell’s “All the Presidents’ Gardens” is an amazing historical journey of the White House grounds and how, like the ephemeral landscapes of all public buildings, the gardens have evolved and changed. Who realizes that the famous West Wing was built on the space that a large conservatory used to be? Or how the White House’s pets are accommodated along with past herds of sheep (the lawnmowers of World War I) and cows? Or the addition of an elk sculpture was a tribute to the famous “the buck stops here” phrase?

If you’re a fan of Marta McDowell (who has also chronicled the literary gardens of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,” Francis Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden,” and Beatrix Potter and Emily Dickinson) you’ll know she has an eye for horticultural detail and the gift of describing the specific plants and their meanings in famous gardens (both imagined and real). This book is actually an update of her well-researched 2016 book — the 2020 overhaul of the Rose Garden and other parts of the grounds required some additions. Every gardener knows that perennials don’t last forever and trees have long but not immortal lives. Plus, not even the White House was immune to the emerald ash borer that plagues the entire nation or the elm diseases of a generation ago. Madison may have planted cabbages, but he would have been amazed to envision modern lawn irrigation/water conservation systems. Servants with watering cans are no longer responsible for the lushness of the Obama’s edible gardens and the expansion of the Kitchen Garden.

This is a terrific book for any gardener planning a visit to Washington, DC or interested in the history of American gardening. 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to Timber Press and NetGalley for a free advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!

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This book was beautiful. If you love gardens then you definitely need to pick this book up. Living in Florida, we have very hot summers but otherwise our weather is warm all year round so it was nice to see what the presidents gardens are like.

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Synopsis (from Netgalley, the provider of the book for me to review.)
The eighteen acres that surround the White House have been an unwitting witness to history—a backdrop for soldiers, suffragettes, protestors, and activists. Kings and queens have dined there; bills and treaties have been signed; and presidents have landed and retreated. The front and back yard for the first family, it is by extension the nation’s first garden. “All the “Presidents’ Gardens,” tells the untold history of the White House Grounds.

Starting with the seed-collecting, plant-obsessed George Washington and ending with Michelle Obama’s focus on edibles, this rich and compelling narrative reveals how the story of the garden is also the story of America. Readers learn about Lincoln’s goats, Ike’s putting green, Jackie’s iconic roses, Amy Carter's tree house, and much more. They also learn about the plants whose favour has come and gone over the years and the gardeners who have been responsible for it all. Fully illustrated with new and historical photographs and art, refreshingly nonpartisan, and released just in time for an election year, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the red, white, and green.

I have only been to the White House for a very specific reason – a dear friend’s husband was one of the decorators one Christmas for President Obama and I got an invitation to go see the reception. What a night. What a lovely couple --- if only presidents could stay in office indefinitely. (Oh that might backfire if we are speaking of DJT!)

I loved Michelle Obama’s book “American Grown” as I knew very little about the gardens at the White House and I loved her view on growing your own food – this book goes even deeper than that as it shows how those gardens have evolved over the decades. It is bipartisan but I am not sure why it is so important (per the description) in an election year…I doubt that 99.9% of the USA cares about what is in there. But maybe those “few” 350,000 will inhale this book as I did and enjoy it as much as I did. More power to them. (yes, I am Canadian but our Sussex Drive home for the PM does not have any kind of garden like this, for sure!)

Highly recommended for lovers of history and gardening. #shortbutsweetreviews

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