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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Sara Armstrong
Director of the White House Visitors Office

Dale Haney
White House Horticulturist

Fall Garden Tours
October 19, 2004

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney

Hi everyone!
Thanks for joining us today and for all of your great questions. Dale is finishing up some gardening and will join us in a moment. So, let's get started.

Carla, from Florida writes:
how much does it cost to get in or is it free?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Hi Carla. The tours are free. Click here for more information on tickets.

Chuck, from Seattle, WA writes:
Are there also Spring and Summer Garden tours at the White House?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Chuck, We also have the Spring Garden tours, which are typically held in April. Check the White House web site in the spring for more details.

Bill, from Traverse City, Michigan writes:
Good morning. I am obviously too far to visit the White House this weekend but would really like to see what the Fall Gardens have to offer.

Will there be photos of the gardens on the White House web site so I can see them regardless?

I sure hope so.

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Absolutely! We'll have several photos on the web site so that you can enjoy the fall gardens from your home in Michigan.

Bob, from Kirkwood, Missouri writes:
Dale,We are in our late eighties and still live in our home. We have always enjoyed gardening, but our old bones don't make it as easy as it used to be.

What are some really easy flowers we could take care of either inside or outside? That way we have something pretty and nice to look at.

Thank you very much for your help.

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Hi Bob and Conni! Thanks for your question. Some good shady area flowers that are easy to care for are impatiens, caladiums, and begonias. For indoor gardening and a sunny east window, I would recommend African violets, a cactus, or bromeliads.

Cristy, from Nevada writes:
The picture on the front page with the yellow flowers is very pretty. What is the photo of and what kind of flowers are they?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Cristy, Thanks for your interest in the photo. In the fall we plant chrysanthemums around the fountain on the North Lawn, and this year's variety is "Denise" in a bronze color.

Erin, from Bethesda, MD writes:
I'm not too far from the White House. How can I get tickets to come to the White House this weekend? Also, if the weather is bad, will the tours be cancelled?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Erin, We appreciate your interest. Free, timed tickets will be distributed at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion on both tour days beginning at 7:30 a.m. Click here for details. Should we have inclement weather, the tours will be cancelled. You can call our 24-hour line at 202-456-7041 for event status.

Peggy, from San Bernadino writes:
Dale,What is a fall flower you recommend that can grow just about anywhere in the country?

I have a sister in Maine and a mother in Texas, and we like to share gardening tips and hints with each other.

We also like to make gardening as easy as possible, so any ideas would be great

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Peggy, Thanks for your question. It's great to hear your entire family likes to garden. While it is difficult to find a flower that will withstand the three different climates you mentioned, I would recommend the fall Aster. This flower is a perennial, and once planted, it should be around for many years.

Maggi, from Michigan writes:
Dale,I have both many flower gardens and a big vegetable garden. Frost often comes early in Michigan, and I have found that covering my plants with a big sheet helps protect them against the frost.

Do you have any other tips or hints that you have found helpful?

Thank you from one gardener to another.

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Maggi, I do have an answer to your question. I would recommend Remay Roll Cover that is a material made out of plastic. It comes in all sizes and shapes and can be purchased at any good garden center.

Matt, from Arkansas writes:
Sara and Dale,Do the two of you work together regularily on projects around the White House?

Also, how does the White House make sure everyone is safe to enter if there are so many people there this weekend?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Hi Matt! Yes, Dale and I work closely together on events such as the Easter Egg Roll, garden tours, and State Arrival ceremonies. Before entering the grounds, each person will go through a metal detector to make sure that everyone can safely enjoy the garden tours this weekend.

Keri, from Indianapolis writes:
Does Barney get to play in the Fall Gardens? Is he leading the tour? I think he should

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Hi Keri. Barney loves to play in the gardens, especially in the fall when the temperature is cooler for his black coat. If he's in town, you might find him playing in the Rose Garden with his favorite friends, the horseshoe or the volleyball.

Darrin, from Kansas writes:
I consider myself an average "green thumb" and I like to begin gardening in the Spring throughout the Fall. Are there any flowers you recommend that can last the entire duration of three seasons?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Darrin, While I might not have a colorful flower to recommend that would last all three seasons, I suggest considering adding herbs to your garden. They often bloom in the spring and summer and in addition, they are great for cooking and making homemade teas such as mint flavored.

Eloise, from Kansas City writes:
What is the history of the Fall Gardens? Did Mrs. Kennedy start them when she encouraged opening up the White House to all American people?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
The tours have been an annual tradition since 1972 when Pat Nixon first opened the gardens to the public. While Mrs. Kennedy did not start the garden tours, the two main gardens -- the Rose Garden and East Garden -- were extensively renovated during the Kennedy Administration.

Terri, from New York writes:
Who decides on what flowers are planted at the White House during the fall garden tour?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Terri, The National Park Service maintains the White House grounds and gardens. Mrs. Bush and I along with the Park Service, work together to decide on the color schemes for each season. Mrs. Bush especially likes the bronze colors for the fall.

Rory, from Fort Hood writes:
What can you see on the Fall Garden tour?

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Rory, On the Fall Garden tour, visitors will view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden and the South Lawn of the White House. Within the gardens, a wide variety of fall chrysanthemums, asters, salvia, Dusty Miller, santolinia and herbs will be present.

Kelly, from Texas writes:
Sara and Dale,Thanks for being on Ask the White House today. In your opinion, what is each of your favorite flowersparts of the White House Fall Gardens?

Thank you.

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Both of us agree that our favorite part of the Fall Garden tours is sharing both the rich history and beautiful fall colors of the White House grounds. During the tours, military bands will perform, which often makes one reflect on the history of the grounds as well as the past presidents and their families who have enjoyed the grounds as well.

Each guest receives a garden brochure to guide them on their tour. Both Dale and I agree that this brochure is informative and a wonderful keepsake.

Sara Armstrong and Dale Haney
Thanks again for all of your great questions. We'll be looking forward to seeing you this weekend. Barney hopes you can come!

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