White House Garden Tour

Reading this week:

  • The Voltage Effect by John A. List (Chicago school…)

On the appropriate day my super amazing girlfriend and I got to go on the White House Garden Tour! It was interesting. We arrived in the line at the appropriate time and waited to be let in. The Secret Service had set up some metal detectors in the middle of a field and a dude in gloves carefully looked at my phone and keys to decide they posed no threat to the Rose Garden. Then we were on the tour!

Branded traffic cone. I had to take a picture. Who decided they needed branded traffic cones? Why weren’t the orange ones good enough? Who is in charge of the traffic cones? How many did they order? When do they order new ones? Who approves this?

What the tour was, specifically, was a self-guided thing where you walk along the paved ellipse (Secret Service agents were on-hand to tell anyone who strayed to get off the grass please sir) and then to the fountain they got there. I had previously gone on the interior White House tour so this was a whole exciting new perspective on the place. The outside perspective, specifically. There was also music, provided by an Air Force band on the portico. They alternated between light jazz and military marches.

Most of the highlights of the tour were various trees planted by various presidents and/or first ladies. This is a thing that you do, apparently, when you’re president, at some point you plant a tree. And then forever afterwards twice a year on the garden tour days they have a sign with a picture of you planting the tree for people to look at. I am writing this to sound very silly but I took several pictures of trees. The oldest trees they have were planted by Andrew Jackson in 1830 and are held up by wires. The other exciting part is looking at the kitchen garden that Michelle Obama planted, and the coolest part about that was the White House Beehives, in which there are Presidential bees. Besides the sign, however, they did not get special branding:

Anyways I was going to not write a whole blog post about this but then I noticed in the booklet they gave us that the south lawn is designed to create “a setting that gives the impression of a rural landscape, with winding paths and private spaces.” There are some other design features, like “a series of low hills that appear natural, but were created to provide security” and how a lot of the trees are planted in order to hide and further secure the perimeter, but I want to focus on the rural setting thing. That’s weird, isn’t it? I mean isn’t it? Here is the President in the very heart of Washington, DC, surrounded by a whole dense city full of people, and the White House is designed so the President can pretend he is in a bucolic setting somewhere? I mean the hills I get, that makes a great esplanade so you got a nice field of fire, but why are we going for rural? What I am getting at here is once I read that the view outside the White House reminded me of James Madison’s Montpelier, which was built at just about the same time and most importantly here was a plantation house. So is the White House going for a plantation vibe? Not great! Very ick. I didn’t like it.

But like I said the tour was fine. Besides the bees and the music and the trees, they also had “the Beast” out on display, which was probably the single most popular thing on the grounds judging by how it held up the crowd as people were taking pictures. It does indeed look pretty nice and I assume that no one ever minds that it is parked right across the road. After we had checked everything out we exited via the open-air gift shop, where my super amazing girlfriend got a bookmark and an exclusive Christmas ornament, and I got the exact same Christmas ornament, but for her mom. Then we hiked back around the White House to visit the White House Visitor’s Center where they had the centerpiece of my dreams.