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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 16, 2004
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Press Preview of White House Spring Garden Tour
Jacqueline Kennedy Garden
10:40 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Hello, everybody. I wanted to say good morning to everyone and welcome you here to the beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy Garden to tell about the garden tours of the White House, which are tomorrow and Sunday. You can get your tickets, they'll give free tickets at the Ellipse pavilion starting early in the morning for the tours which start at 10:00 a.m. and go to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and then from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
The gardens of the White House are open a couple of times a year for free tours and, of course, we open at the peak time. And so as you look around here, you can see the tulips and the hyacinths are all in bloom. And in the Rose Garden, which is set up right now for the President's press conference with Prime Minister Blair, there also the tulips are quite magnificent.
So Barney won't be here tomorrow. He won't be here guiding the tours. I think people would really love to come and see the White House gardens.
The White House gardens are the oldest continually landscaped properties in the United States. And they are so magnificent. Presidents and their families have enjoyed these gardens as well as continued to build these gardens in all the 200 years of the White House.
The magnificent magnolias that are over on the south portico right here were planted by Andrew Jackson. It's amazing to have these very old trees to remind us of a President who lived here a long time ago.
President Franklin Roosevelt is the one who opened up the view to the -- onto the Ellipse in 1935, because of the Jefferson Memorial being built at that point. So he wanted the President and his family to be able to see all the way -- the Washington and then the Jefferson, all the way to the Potomac, which you can see just a little line of from the Truman balcony.
This garden, as many of you know, was done by Jacqueline Kennedy. The plants that she did with the national parks, with Mrs. Mellon are the ones that then Lady Bird Johnson finished for her after she moved, and then dedicated this garden to Jacqueline Kennedy and it's named for her.
This year, we replaced the linden trees, which you can see over here against the colonnade and we replaced the crabapples that are in the Rose Garden. Both of these trees are not really long lived and they had been here for over 40 years and so it was time to replace them; they had started to die. And so these are new and we're -- I can see they're about to bud out and the crabapples are blooming in the Rose Garden.
So I want to encourage people to come this weekend and tour these beautiful gardens.
Besides this garden, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and the Rose Garden, also the children's garden is open. It's way on the south side of the lawn. Lady Bird Johnson established the children's garden. It has a little pond and it has an apple tree for children to climb in. And then it has in the steps that you walk around the pond the footprints or the handprints of grandchildren or children of presidents. And, in fact, Barbara and Jenna's little handprints are there that were put in that garden when their grandfather was President.
So welcome to everyone. I want to welcome people, Washingtonians and visitors alike, who are visitors to Washington this weekend, to the White House tours. And once again they are open free to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Do you all have any other questions? Great. (Laughter.)
Q On NPR yesterday, they called you a closet preservationist.
MRS. BUSH: Well, not a closet preservationist. I'm a very active preservationist.
Q How important is it to you?
MRS. BUSH: It's very, very important. Gardening and the restoration of the natural landscape has been my passion really my whole life. I come from a long line of gardeners. My mother and my grandmother and my great-grandmother, and certainly George's mother also loves gardening.
But on our ranch, we're right now cultivating 50 acres of little blue stem which was the original prairie grass that would have been there. The rancher that we bought the property from had sewn other grasses that are invasive, not native. So it will take a couple of years of plowing up those grasses before we can seed with a seed from an intact prairie.
Q Switch grass, right?
MRS. BUSH: It will be about 75 percent little blue stem, which was the central Texas native grass, and 25 percent wildflowers.
Q Will you be adding your own personal touch to these?
MRS. BUSH: We've actually already planted some trees, we planted several trees here since we've been here. Nearly all of the trees are marked with their -- what kind of tree they are and during which administration they were planted. So, yes, I pay really close attention to the gardens, because I'm really interested in them. And the new linden trees and the new crabapple trees were added during President Bush's term as well as several trees that we planted down on the lawn.
Q Mrs. Bush, do you have a favorite part of this garden?
MRS. BUSH: I love this garden. I think the First Lady's Garden, Jacqueline Kennedy's Garden is so lovely. I particularly love the pavilion. And when the vines on top are thick, it's a shady spot to sit.
I have a garden club, a group of garden club friends who came to stay with me from Austin and we had cocktails one evening right here under this beautiful pavilion. It's a beautiful place to entertain.
And then, of course, I love the Rose Garden. Many of you will be over there in a few minutes when there's a press conference. But it's a beautiful place where so many White House ceremonies have taken place, from signings of treaties to press conferences like today's press conference. So both of these gardens would be my favorite.
Q -- live in Washington in kind of a closed environment. Just give me some sense of what it means to you personally and the President?
MRS. BUSH: To be able to walk outside is very, very important to me. I love to be outside. I love to be in the landscape and to pay attention to it. And these grounds have given solace to me and I know to President Bush, and I'm sure to many other Presidents and their families to be able to walk outside here at all seasons.
Certainly spring in Washington is so magnificent. But the fall is also beautiful. And the heat of the summer, the Washington summer is something very familiar to both of us that we really like. And then, of course, we have a lot of videos of Barney running in the snow. And I have memories of my girls when their grandfather was President sliding down that big hill on the South Lawn in the winter when they were here and there was snow on the ground. So there's a great sense of solace in these gardens.
Q Do you find that sense of solace particularly relevant at this time?
MRS. BUSH: Yes, I do. And it -- really the whole time, even that day on September 11th when I came back to the White House and it was that magnificent, beautiful day. The contrast between what had happened and the beautiful day was especially heartbreaking, I think. But I remember what it was like that evening when I drove back. I remember what it was like that morning as I left, and what a beautiful day it was. And then to come back late that evening to the White House after that day was especially heartbreaking.
Q These have been difficult times in Iraq in recent weeks as well.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, they have been. And every difficult decision my husband has had to make since that fateful September 11th, I know he has walked on these lawns during those times and thought about what the consequences of his decisions mean for our country and for individual families and for our military men and women.
All right. Thank you all so much. I want to welcome everyone to the gardens and hope a lot of people will show up tomorrow. You can get your tickets, once again, at the pavilion on the Elipse.
Q Do you have a favorite flower?
MRS. BUSH: You know, I have so many favorite flowers. I mean, when I look now, I have to say tulips. But I guess my favorites are those wildflowers that we grow on the ranch, the Texas bluebonnets. And we have had -- I'm not sure that they're there now, but we have had buckets of the bluebonnets over on the Rose Garden side. I'll look and see if they're there
Thanks a lot, you all. Bye-bye. Thank you.