These Are All of the Presidents Who Loved Gardening (and Whether Donald Trump Is 1 of Them)
If you enjoy spending time in your garden, you’re in good company. Many American presidents have had a deep love for gardening. From the Founding Fathers to more recent commanders in chief, many presidents have made unique contributions to the White House grounds and gardens.
Below, discover the presidents who displayed a love (or at least a tolerance) for gardening. And on page 19, get the details on a garden you didn’t know Donald Trump owns.
1. George Washington
- 1st president of the United States
Our first four presidents were passionate botanists, The New York Times reports. According to Garden Collage, George Washington was a bit “plant-crazy, like most serious gardeners.” Washington cultivated beautiful gardens at Mount Vernon and bought the land for the South Lawn. But Washington never saw his vision for the White House gardens realized.
In his own gardens at Mount Vernon, Washington planted specimens of trees native to each region of the newly formed United States to create “an image of the new nation in microcosm.” Yet it’s worth noting that Washington relied on the labor of slaves in the garden. As the Times notes, he once had his slaves transplant an arboretum from the surrounding woodland in the middle of a freezing winter.
Next: This president wanted a vegetable garden.
2. John Adams
- 2nd president of the United States
John Adams became the first president to live in the White House. And the White House Historical Association reports that one of the first additions he requested was a vegetable garden. But like Washington, he never actually got to see his gardening vision realized, as he had already returned to private life by the time the garden was plowed and fertilized.
Another contribution Adams made came when he and Thomas Jefferson undertook a tour of the northern states. They documented botanical species unknown or rare in Virginia. And they gathered information about the sugar maple, which Jefferson hoped could free Americans from their dependence on sugar cane grown in the British West Indies.
Next: This president cultivated numerous plants at his own home.
3. Thomas Jefferson
- 3rd president of the United States
Garden Collage reports that Thomas Jefferson goes down in history as “America’s patron saint of gardening” because of his famous gardens at Monticello. But at the White House, Jefferson minimized spending on the grounds and reduced the gardens’ footprint by 70 acres from the original “palace-like plans,” drawing up more modest plans instead.
As Garden Collage notes, Jefferson also filled the White House window sills with flowering plants, such as geraniums, which were new to American horticulture. And in his retirement, Jefferson considered himself “an old man” but “a young gardener.” He undertook many gardening projects and documented the planting of 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruit.
Next: This president purchased many seeds for the White House gardens.
4. James Madison
- 4th president of the United States
James Madison grew many plants in the White House gardens. Architectural Digest reports that Madison purchased seeds for cabbages, radishes, carrots, beets, parsnips, broccoli, and other vegetables. Garden Collage notes that Madison also planted Savoy cabbages — but not just any Savoy cabbages. They came from “special” seeds provided by the Shaker community near Albany.
At the time, Shakers had already invented the standard paper seed packet that gardeners still use today. And they created what Garden Collage characterizes as an “innovative seed distribution system” in the early 1800s — quite a departure from the “seed boxes” that the founding fathers used to ship live plants and seeds packed in sand or moss.
Next: This president had to rebuild after the British destroyed the White House gardens.
5. James Monroe
- 5th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that James Monroe faced the daunting task of redeveloping the White House gardens after an 1814 fire set by the British destroyed the White House and ruined the grounds.
Monroe hired Charles Bizet, a gardener who fled France during the Revolution. Bizet is widely considered the first official White House gardener. Under Monroe’s direction, Bizet accelerated efforts to plant more trees. From 1817 to 1825, Bizet worked on the gardens at the White House and likely directed a workforce of slaves.
Next: This president planted the White House’s first flower garden.
6. John Quincy Adams
- 6th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association characterizes John Quincy Adams as “an enthusiastic gardener.”. In fact, the association credits Adams with developing the first flower garden on the White House grounds. Adams also “had a thing for trees,” according to Architectural Digest. He collected acorns, chestnuts, and elm samaras to plant and monitor their growth.
Plus, Adams demonstrated that presidents — even those who loved gardening — didn’t need to go it alone in the White House gardens. Adams called on gardener John Foy to advise him on the fruit and forest trees. And he had gardener John Ousley occupy a cottage on the grounds.
Next: This president built a specialized greenhouse.
7. Andrew Jackson
- 7th president of the United States
Andrew Jackson created the White House orangery, according to the historical association. This early type of greenhouse was built for growing tropical fruit trees and flowers year-round.
But the orangery wasn’t Jackson’s only contribution to the White House gardens. He also added more trees to the White House grounds, including the famous Jackson magnolia. (That’s the same tree Melania Trump recently allowed gardeners to cut back to address problems, such as root rot.) Jackson also hired several laborers to assist White House gardener John Ousley, even though he owned numerous slaves at the White House.
Next: This president had a lush vegetable garden.
8. Martin Van Buren
- 8th president of the United States
Not every president’s gardening efforts have won favor with the American people. One easy example? Martin Van Buren and his abundant vegetable garden, which brimmed with produce at a time of economic hardship in the young United States.
The White House Historical Association reports that Van Buren attracted a lot of criticism for his enthusiastic spending on improvements to the White House, including the gardens. He had workers plant strawberries, dewberries, raspberries, Neshanock potatoes, drumhead and early York cabbages, white and red sugar and pickle beets, marrowfat peas, carrots, and parsnips.
Next: This president had a practical view of gardening.
9. Abraham Lincoln
- 16th president of the United States
Abraham Lincoln seems to have taken a very practical view of the gardens. Garden Collage reports that during the Civil War, the two youngest Lincoln boys, Willie and Tad, had free run of the country-style gardens. So did their pet goats, who destroyed many flowers on the White House grounds.
The White House Historical Association reports that Lincoln also grew many fruits and vegetables in the White House gardens. The Lincolns had so much surplus produce that the first lady would take it in baskets to wounded and dying Union soldiers on her near-daily trips to military hospitals in Washington.
Next: This president wanted beautiful landscaping.
10. Ulysses S. Grant
- 18th president of the United States
Ulysses S. Grant may not have been a botanist like some previous presidents. But he did seem to appreciate the beauty of landscaping. The White House Historical Association reports that Grant appointed his friend Orville Babcock to turn the White House grounds into beautiful gardens, planting trees and building round pools with fountains.
Grant also ordered the expansion of the White House grounds to the south. And his efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The historical association reports that Julia Grant, the president’s wife, began hosting garden parties at the White House in the 1870s.
Next: This president started a long tradition.
11. Rutherford B. Hayes
- 19th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that Rutherford B. Hayes established the tradition of planting commemorative trees representing each president and state. The association reports that “more than three dozen special commemorative trees, in addition to a great variety of other trees, cover the grounds surrounding President’s Park.”
Among the commemorative trees now number white oaks planted during Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover’s administrations, a sugar maple planted by Ronald Reagan, and a scarlet oak planted by Benjamin Harrison.
Next: This president loved flowers.
12. Grover Cleveland
- 22nd president of the United States
A few presidents who appreciated gardening also loved having flowers as decorations at special occasions. One such president, Grover Cleveland, had one of the most memorable White House weddings. Because Cleveland loved the White House conservatories, he wanted extensive floral decorations for his wedding.
For the ceremony, the East Room featured banks of palms and hearths full of flowers. In the Cross Hall, columns were draped with garlands of greenery and decorated with Union shields of red, white, and blue roses, carnations, and immortelles. In the Blue Room, the hearth featured red begonias and a border of centaureas. The mantel was decorated with pansies and the chandelier with roses and smilax.
Next: This president planted a victory garden.
13. Woodrow Wilson
- 28th president of the United States
The White House Historical Association reports that during World Wars I and II, victory gardens made a brief appearance at the White House. To encourage Americans to participate in food production, Woodrow Wilson installed a demonstration vegetable garden directly across from the White House.
He likely chose a location off the White House grounds because he had sheep who ate grass, flowers, shrubs, and everything else they could access. And Wilson didn’t have just one or two sheep. Architectural Digest reports that he actually kept a herd of 20.
Next: This president hired a landscape architect.
14. Franklin D. Roosevelt
- 32nd president of the United States
Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., a notable American landscape architect, to redesign the White House gardens. The changes Olmsted and Roosevelt made have lasted decades. In fact,Olmsted’s plan still serves as the basis for the gardens’ layout.
According to the White House Historical Association, Roosevelt also had a victory garden at the White House during World War II. A young girl named Diana Hopkins lived at the White House with her father, Harry Hopkins. Harry was a friend and close adviser to Roosevelt, and Diana tended to the White House’s victory garden.
Next: This president redesigned the Rose Garden.
15. John F. Kennedy
- 35th president of the United States
John F. Kennedy may not have been a gardener himself, but he expressed some strong opinions about the White House grounds early in his presidency. As Garden Collage explains, Jacqueline Kennedy noted that the White House lawn was “driving the president crazy.” National Park Service gardeners tried everything to improve it, even spray-painting the lawn’s brown patches green.
JFK also hired Rachel Lambert Mellon, a family friend, as his horticulturist and garden designer. Kennedy specifically requested that Mellon redesign the Rose Garden to include other plants, such as tulips and crabapples. Kennedy even read Thomas Jefferson’s garden notes and wanted the garden to reflect the former president’s vision.
Next: This president’s wife loved the White House gardens.
16. Lyndon B. Johnson
- 36th president of the United States
Lyndon B. Johnson doesn’t seem to have enjoyed gardening himself. But his wife reportedly loved it. (And we can only hope she imparted some of her appreciation for gardens to her husband!)
According to Garden Collage, Lady Bird Johnson undertook many beautification projects on the White House grounds. She added a Children’s Garden, which included a goldfish pond and a Winesap apple tree for climbing. She once wrote, “I think of the spot as the sort of place a First Lady who is a grandmother might wheel a baby carriage and sit in the shade and enjoy her backyard, in a quite secluded spot.”
Next: This president fed the squirrels in the gardens.
17. Ronald Reagan
- 40th president of the United States
Garden Collage reports that Ronald Reagan proclaimed the rose the official national flower of the United States. The rose is a symbolic choice when you consider the history of the gardens at the White House. According to Rachel Lambert Mellon, who redesigned the Rose Garden during Kennedy’s time in office, roses are “the one flower that unites all the occupants through the history of the White House.”
Reagan also seems to have enjoyed spending time in the White House gardens. Architectural Digest notes he regularly collected acorns at Camp David to feed to the squirrels who frequented the Rose Garden.
Next: This is what Barack Obama thought about gardening.
18. Barack Obama
- 44th president of the United States
Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have a passion for gardening himself. But during his time as president, he supported efforts, such as the creation of a vegetable garden and the installation of a honeybee colony on the White House grounds. The White House Historical Association notes that Michelle Obama “rekindled memories of White House vegetable gardens of the past” when she added a kitchen garden to the South Lawn.
The garden expanded over the years, and the first lady used it as a tool to teach kids about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The garden also provided produce not only for the president’s table and state dinners, but also for the homeless in Washington.
Next: Donald Trump actually owns a garden you probably don’t know about.
19. Donald Trump
- 45th president of the United States
Donald Trump certainly doesn’t have a reputation for a passion or even appreciation for gardening. But as Crain’s New York Business reported, Trump Tower actually has public gardens — gardens Trump installed in exchange for permission to add 20 stories to the building in 1979. Some tourists have complained that the gardens seem public only in name. They also characterize the plantings, trees, benches, and fountains as poorly maintained.
Even though the president doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time in the White House gardens, Melania Trump made headlines by carrying on Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden on the South Lawn. She even invited schoolchildren to help her harvest and replant the garden.
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