Camp Obama

Much has been written about a “White House garden” even to the absurd extent of tearing up the front lawn and planting vegetables and herbs—a giant kitchen garden.  Ghastly.  While I sympathize with the proponents, I disagree with their tactics, as well as over zealousness.  In short, they’re not thinking like gardeners.

If they wish for a “garden agenda” to be high on President Obama’s list of priorities, they should start with an evaluation of the status quo.  The White House is, first and foremost, a fish bowl.  No one is going to roll up his sleeves and “return to the land” on that piece of real estate.  Also, First Lady Laura Bush had a rooftop vegetable garden (she’s a big gardener).  The Obamas would do well to keep it going and learn from the chef or whoever else helped Laura tend it.

The second phase of a realistic garden agenda would be to focus on Camp David.  I predict Obama will spend much time there.  It’s got several nice spots where he can be alone and work out his gardening likes, dislikes, solutions, techniques, etc., in private, as the rest of us do when we start out.

Gardens—and especially vegetable plots—are practiced in solitude and peace, as well as private.  I remember making mistakes as a kid and thanking the Lord that no one could see them.  Vegetable gardens are a bit like car garage fix-it spaces.  You work on that old baby inside until she’s ready to be seen.  Maybe.  I have friends who work on their cars out front, but they’re living in rural areas, where “front” has very little meaning.

Actually a fishing camp, Camp David probably has rocky soil, so amending it would be the first project.  Then, in a sunny spot, he and Mrs. Obama could cultivate a small patch at first, especially so the daughters may enjoy it. By 2010, a larger garden would evolve. Soon it would supplement weekend meals for not only the first family but also the entourage, visitors and staff.

The development of a Camp David garden would generate the sort of “buy in” a White House garden would never do.  Then, during 2011 or 2012 an appropriate design could be made and a family garden installed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  It would be a natural extension of what they learned at Camp David.  Not only would the photo op be more timely (he has enough to think about now) but the whole project would be more authentic. 

Having already created a garden at Camp David (“Michelle’s Garden”?), the President and his family would now, with the White House garden, be sharing their enthusiasm with the public.

I’d encourage the President to take this low-key approach.  The nation’s gardeners wish him well.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 at 7:51 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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101 Responses to “Camp Obama”

  1. Elaine said:

    I wholeheartedly agree……….let them have some privacy with their garden.

  2. George said:

    Indeed, Elaine. Camp David is perfect. Thanks.

  3. Tina Yotka said:

    I agree completely. Maybe Mrs. Obama could commision local gardeners about creating a community garden to help out those in need.

  4. George said:

    Dear Tina – Thanks. Get the community gardens into the communities. The Burpee Foundation specializes in this practice in New York, Philadelphia and San Diego.

  5. Ben said:

    A presidential garden would have neverending supply of fertilizer.

  6. leslie said:

    I love the idea of Sasha and Malia cultivating a little patch of touchable and sweet smelling plants.

  7. George said:

    Thanks, Leslie. That is the sweetest image.

  8. Brian Vaughan said:

    Vegetable gardens are usually a solo endeavor, which we all hope will pique the interest of those closest to us…spouse,children,grand children and friends.A shared interest always makes for wonderful conversation and in the case of gardening, cuts the weeding time down with a lot of extra hands.With the busy schedule Mr. Obama has I would think this would be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with his girls without the prying eyes of the press or anyone else. I believe a garden for him would be a great source of solace, I just hope someone on his staff is not trying to turn this into another photo-op by putting this garden in the front lawn

  9. George said:

    Dear Brian, Thanks for the thoughtful post. I doubt the lawns will be replaced by vegetable gardens. It would deface the beauty of the place, unless an ultra-sophisticated design is used. The folks at Villandry, in France, might consult. But that’s an awkward stretch for a “home garden” symbol. Perhaps Sarkozy could send a French garden specialist over, to keep with the overall design. But for Obama? I’ll say Camp David first. Thanks.

  10. who knew visiting a nursey on line would be not only informative, political and kinda fun…

  11. George said:

    Thanks, Patricia. As they say in Texas, “Everyone’s zoomin”!

  12. Donna said:

    When I saw the title of your article, “Camp Obama,” I thought, “Oh, no, please don’t politicize your gardening articles.”

    I was greatly relieved upon reading it that you hadn’t. It was actually quite interesting and I do agree with the approach to gardening that you mention. I had no idea that Laura Bush had a rooftop vegetable garden or that she is quite a gardener. Who knew!

  13. George said:

    Dear Donna – Indeed, she was interviewed several years ago by the garden editor NPR down in Midland where she has a large home garden. I believe she’s still a great garden enthusiast. Also, I try to avoid politics here. Fear not!

  14. Terri said:

    Great idea about camp david but it is in the woods so they are going to have to fence the entire garden in above and below. Living in a fairly rural area has been nearly impossible for me to grow anything, in fact I gave up two years ago when I saw a vole pull my tomato seedlings underground! Yikes what next.

  15. George said:

    Dear Terri, How true! The Army keeps up Camp David, I think, so maybe they can solve the critter problems. But you’re absolutely right—top fence and extensive buried horizontal fence. Thanks.

  16. Jan Stockton said:

    Oh please! A trillion dollars, at least, in “stimulus” (otherwise known as pork-barrel spending), and this is supposed to help? Give me a break. Our great-great-grandchildren will never be able to pay back this tremendous debt. My greatest fear was always that I would live through a Great Depression, and here it comes.

  17. George said:

    Dear Jan – We’re not close to a Great Depression, knock on wood. I was suggesting Camp David as an alternative to the idea of “imposing” a vegetable garden lifestyle onto folks that aren’t interested. However, a family of four can save a lot of money growing their own vegetables. As much as a couple thousand dollars, in our studies. Please see The Money Garden feature Thanks.

  18. Native American said:

    You know there seems to be a lot of let’s bash Obama again and again on the net. People just can’t seem to give the man any slack whats so ever. Who are you to be telling the President what he should or shouldn’t do. You know it’s his choice to make not yours where he wants to start a garden. Now if he was to hire you yeah you could make suggestions on how to start a veg or cut flower garden, or even an herb garden but the final decision would come from the President. Telling someone that they “should be doing” is wrong You seem to know exactly what they should be doing and where. I take deep offense to you saying how great Laura Bush was and how she did things and Michele should continue on as she did. Michele has her own mind she is quite capable of making her own decisions. And believe me since Bush left our country in such a mess I would not be surprised if they don’t redo the White House and just wipe it clean of anything that said Bush/Cheney I know I would. I understand there is all kinds of furnishings in storage. It would be like going to a garage sale White House Style.
    So unless you have something positive to say about their wants or needs I wish you would keep your opinion to yourself.
    The White House is going to be their home for the next four years. He has earned that right to put a garden anywhere he pleases.

    I don’t normally pay any attention to your blogs but you went too far this time.
    Very Angry
    Doris

  19. George said:

    Dear Doris, I’m not telling the president what to do, as you say. I’m certainly not “bashing” him, as you suggest. I would never do such a thing, or tolerate it. I was simply responding to the considerable hype in the press about the need for a “food garden” or “urban farm” at the White House. Also, I believe the blog is a forum to share opinions, yours included. It remains a free country. If you wish to unsubscribe to the blog, you certainly may do so. I hope you don’t, as I admire your grit.

  20. Penny Rembe said:

    I think it’s a lovely, less preachy, idea. Winston Churchill laid bricks for relaxation. Maybe Obama could experiment with living fencing using the old colonial techniques.
    P Rembe

  21. George said:

    Wow, laying bricks—amazing! That’s what I was getting at. Thank you very much, Penny.

  22. Lois said:

    I think you really missed the point on this one. It has nothing to do with elitism and image, but everything to do with setting an example for the world to see. It would be run by real gardeners, not dumped on the Obama’s laps. If you want to teach people the value of gardening and growing their own food, this would be a perfect platform.

  23. George said:

    Dear Lois, I agree with the “platform” part, but not the “run by real gardeners” part. I believe the First Family doing the gardening would have far greater meaning for people than just another outside-sponsored/activist garden project grafted onto the existing grounds. I simply believe in a slow build being better than a big splash. I tend to be moderate. But I certainly could be wrong. Thanks for your helpful input.

  24. Beth said:

    I think that President Obama should concentrate more on the economy and our safety rather than worry about gardening!

  25. George said:

    Dear Beth – That’s what I meant about spare time at Camp David. Gardening is peaceful and relaxing. President Obama will need “down time” from his job. An unremitting pace will be counterproductive. I believe he’s an introvert. Gardening is perfect for him. Thanks.

  26. Robert Turley said:

    George,

    Being practical and using common sense is something Washington DC threw out the window a long time ago. Every new First Family has to re-do the White House etc to put their imprint on it. Sometimes it is when they leave!!!

  27. George said:

    Dear Robert, The White House is the official residence and where he’ll have his “public face” and “working face”—in a word, official. The Navy runs it (I think), so it’s like a ship at sea. He’ll find peace at home in Chicago and at Camp David. Perhaps Hawaii. Thanks.

  28. Devah Brinker said:

    Well thought out plan for “public” gardening in the world of politics. I like the whole proposal.
    It would be real nice if the Obama family were able to read this and perhaps they would consider this really good advice.

  29. George said:

    Thank you very much for the compliment, Devah.

  30. paula flood said:

    I am all for a small garden,Maybe a raised one that the two girls could help out on. also a city wide programencouraging neighborhood plots to encourage eating more vegetables.

  31. George said:

    Dear Paula – This is also what I had in mind, though you have given it more breadth, as well as put it more eloquently. Thanks.

  32. TC said:

    Firstly, how can you know how all gardeners think? I for one wouldn’t mind seeing part of the White House front lawn turned into a vegetable/cutting garden. You make it sound as if it really would be “torn” up. Secondly, how can you be sure the Obamas don’t already know about rooftop gardening? They may be more knowledgeable about gardening than you give them credit for. Thirdly, and again I ask how can you know the mind of every gardener? I know first time gardeners who’ve started their gardens with the help of others, from the get-go. They’ve not wanted to “work out” their “gardening likes, dislikes, solutions, techniques, etc., in private.” I like your Camp David garden advice, it’s more along the lines of a personal residential space for a garden. But to say that there should not be a garden at my White House just ain’t right. We own that piece of real estate more so than the rocky ground at Camp David. I’m not sure what you mean by “buy in” either. I think it’s high time the White House put a big garden in, be it an extension of the backyard garden that’s already there, or a new plot out front. Better yet, both!

  33. George said:

    Dear TC – Thanks. First, I generalize when I consider that experienced gardeners tend to take things slow, or at a thoughtful pace, as in any active hobby. I wasn’t presuming to speak for all gardeners. Sorry I conveyed that impression. But I do know a lot about most of them. Second, the Obamas may know about rooftop gardening, and if so, fine. Third, I believe President Obama should discover his new pleasures on his own. If the White House staff can deal with a vegetable garden, terrific. But one on the roof was okay for Laura Bush. I wasn’t suggesting he has to copy the Bushes. Finally,”buy in” an expression to convey persuasion. The goal is for others to become inspired to garden, not just that there’s a veggie patch at the White House. It’s like the President’s Council on Physical Fitness—get the word out. Again, far more persuasive if he and his family do it first. Thanks again.

  34. mrsrobinbird said:

    I agree……Ghastly thought!!!!!
    I am a member of a local CSA group and the White House is not the place to promote this concept. Can you imagine the security!!!!

    I’m sure there are many other areas within the metropolitan DC area that would be better suited for this type of gardening practice. Get REAL!!

  35. George said:

    Thanks, Mrs. Robin. I agree on the security—as well as “photo ops”. They’d have little privacy in a White house vegetable garden. If they had their own family garden at Camp David, they could more easily relate to common folks’ gardens when they travel across the nation. It would be a great connection for them to have.

  36. Genevieve said:

    Camp David HAS gardens, developed by former First Lady, Barbara Bush, and Jim Tolstrup, a sustainable-practices landscape and garden designer. Jim has been developing the grounds of the Shambala Center, a Buddhist center in the mountains north of Ft. Collins, CO, since 2000 or so, after attending many retreats there himself.

  37. George said:

    Dear Genevieve – Many deep and great thanks for this precious insight. You made me feel better instantly.

  38. Marilyn said:

    I think he has more important and necessary issues at hand, but a great idea to continue the roof garden that is already in place and follow your lead… Great advice.. thank you

  39. George said:

    Thanks for your post, Marilyn

  40. marsha ross said:

    I read your article and pragmatically I agree. But I think you might consider that the front lawn garden is meant to be a “front page” message to the American people and not work as an actual garden. To me, it will be a symbol of learning how to take care of yourselves. Bring back the simple ways of life and become self-sufficient. The front lawn is in our faces and this is why hes putting it there. Good idea. Get back to reality and learn the good earth.

    By the way, my blueberries and blackberries are doing great. I will have a wonderful mature crop this year. Your blackberries were like sweet wine last fall. Just amazing. Now teach the rest of the country to do the same. In fact, why don’t you send the president some plants- better yet, why don’t you go there and show him how?
    Marsha Ross

  41. George said:

    Dear Marsha – Thank you for your very thoughtful comments. I believe you are right that one day a couple years from now a very nice European-style terrace vegetable garden could be lovely on the grounds. Also, I’m so pleased that you like our berries. Thanks so much for your business, and happy gardening!

  42. George said:

    Dear Marsha – Thank you for your very thoughtful comments. I believe you are right that one day a couple years from now a very nice European-style terrace vegetable garden could be lovely on the grounds. Also, I’m so pleased that you like our berries. Thanks so much for your business, and happy gardening!

    P.S. I’d love to teach the Obamas to garden. What an honor!

  43. helen holmes said:

    Frankly, I hope neither of the Obamas have a moment to spend gardening. They took on jobs that may have them already over their heads so to me if they have some spare time, they might take Accounting 101 and 102 so that they begin to grasp just how much damage they are snowballing from the previous administration, including the Democrat congress.

    No one but that top 2 percent will be able to even afford flowers and certainly if one’s house is foreclosed on, there isn’t a spot for any kind of joy.

    So there are gardeners and there are gardeners. To me it is work and exercise that is pleasant but I fear my “hobby” will soon be taken away from me and many others.

    When they retire, your nice words might, might I say, be more appropriate.

    Helen Holmes

  44. George said:

    Dear Helen – Thanks for your crisp and flinty views. I’m not as dry-eyed. I believe in every President we elect, without exception. I was raised that way. Flower and vegetable seeds remain the greatest bargains in the world. If you have a patch of sun, you have a garden. You seem resourceful enough to keep your sunlight and then some. Best wishes to you.

  45. Martha said:

    I couldn’t agree more. Tearing up the White House lawn would make the Obama’s look ridiculous.

    The pre-election racist jokes about them planting watermelon and greens at the White House were nasty to say the least.

    Improving the grounds of Camp David is a perfect solution, if indeed, the President of the United States is supposed to be a gardener-sensitive man in addition to running the free world.

  46. George said:

    Dear Martha – Don’t forget Congress. They could use a gardenesque perspective even more than President Obama. I’d say also some pruning is in order. Thanks.

  47. M.McGrath said:

    It seems to me that you misunderstood the whole purpose of the White House garden concept. I also am amazed at the elitist points of view being expressed here. The idea of a garden on the front lawn of the White House? Oh, no, no, no we can’t have that! It just isn’t done, my dear. Keep it in the woods where no one has to see it. Please, give me a break.

    First of all, no one said it had to be in the front yard. The graphic of the White House that is used in the promotion of the White House Garden idea is the one that is familiar to people. How many people would recognize the back of the White House? Second, all of you who think gardening is “private” must never have heard of community gardens or garden clubs. You must never have know the pleasure of growing up with a gardener or two in the family, must never have lived next door to a gardener who grew zucchini or must never have known anyone with African violets in their windows. Have any of you noticed the proliferation of garden blogs on line? How private is that?

    People are doing more gardening than ever, especially vegetable gardening. People are tired of the dysfunctional food supply system orchestrated by the federal government, and designed to promote humungous agricorporate farms at the expense of family farms. Growing your own is the best way to assure you get wholesome, safe food to eat. I have expanded my own gardening efforts and I moderate a forum for organic gardeners where many new people are joining to learn how to do the same thing.

    Climb down off your elitist pedestals and join the rest of us in the dirt. You might just enjoy it.

  48. George said:

    Dear M. McGrath, I believe the White House could be used as a showcase for an elegant vegetable garden, but not a large one and not replacing the lawn. I believe that’s all I or anyone else has really suggested. Most presidents have had moderate views about the White House: a rose garden here, a terrace garden there. I hope President Obama takes a moderate view. Also, I believe that the Presidency, including the office of Commander-In-Chief, does represent the elite in our society, as do the brave men and women who lay down their lives to defend us. Thanks.

  49. Linda said:

    I, too, almost didn’t open this email with the title Camp Obama. But then I realized this is coming from a nursery, it has to be interesting! And it was. Is this another way of showing “transparency” by the Obama camp? Where did you read about this anyway? Buried knee deep in the house or senate bill just passed. Aside from the rooftop, and Camp David, is the front lawn the only place on the White House grounds to garden? I’ve never been there.

  50. George said:

    Dear Linda, Thanks for trusting in us. There’s both a back and front lawn, so plenty of room. It’s a fabulous, neoclassical building, in fact. I visited as a child. Not so big, but deeply affecting. (I was a Lincoln-buff.)

  51. the long and low said:

    This has to be one of the most absurb ideas and the rational used is ridiculous.

    With the economy the way it is, I think that growing a kitchen garden at the White House, where the produce can be used for State and other Dinners, is a way to share the rewards of growing healthy food. People are looking for ways to make ends meet and having a productive garden is a superb idea.

    Who better to lead the way to having a healthy and organic way to feed our families? President Obama is not a morning person, and often will work in the evening when his family has settled in for the night. Growing a garden will provide, as it does for so many of us, a “sanity break.”

    Surely Heronswood has better things to come up with than this ridiculous idea.

  52. George said:

    Thanks, SG. I believe that, on some level, we actually agree. However, I’m unsure. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to start small and slow with a new vegetable garden. His “sanity breaks” can take place in the two existing gardens, plus the roof garden if, indeed, he enjoys gardening. If he doesn’t, his advocacy will seem trivial and possibly phony, in my view.

  53. Judy Drago said:

    If it works, leave it alone. The White House belongs to the people, not one man. Improvement is fine, but why destroy what the taxpapers have already paid for?

  54. George said:

    Dear Judy, Thanks. Indeed, it is public property. That’s why the staff won’t take on something half-baked like an “advocacy garden”. It’s the President’s private working and living space. Let it be.

  55. Alix Jackman said:

    I quite agree. That family has more than enough on their plate at the moment. A garden should be a place of rest and rejuvenation. Especially for the Obama’s. I hope they take your very well thought out suggestion. Not everything has to be fodder for the insatiable media machine.

  56. George said:

    Dear Alix, Perfectly stated. Thanks very much.

  57. Debra Cullen said:

    I also belive a beautiful garden at camp David would be the way to start. They could use the rooftop garden at the white house. It would be a great bit of family learning and relaxation. You can leave all stress in the garden. Its a time of peace being one with the soil Its one of my favorite times of the year. I know what ever the president and the first lady decide it will be both beautiful and tastefully done.

  58. George said:

    Dear Debra, I agree 100%. Also, the First Mother-In-Law should have a role in the garden if she wishes. I’m fairly sure she’ll get involved in the kitchen. Thank you.

  59. Jim in Monongahela said:

    The first thing the President should plant is some Money Trees (especially the billion dollar species) My father would tell me that money does not grow on trees, but the way they spend money in Washington I think the old man was wrong.

  60. George said:

    Dear Jim – Money doesn’t grow on trees—it grows on vegetable plants. Try a 1:25 ratio, seed cost to grocery costs. A family can save quite a bit of money.

  61. Wendy said:

    Possibly the White House staff meetings could be held in the garden, while pulling weeds. I find it therapeutic and the new administration might welcome the change with their refreshingly new “roll up your sleeves” policy. They have a lot of hard work in front of them and there’s nothing like the feel of warm earth in your hands to put everything in perspective.

  62. George said:

    Dear Wendy – How true! They really need to “get out” more. What’s good for the President is good for his staff. I expect they’ll be more than a couple of staff helping him out at the Camp David garden. Thanks.

  63. SB said:

    I agree, the front lawn is not the place.

  64. George said:

    Thanks, SB. Back lawn, probably okay.

  65. KarenGarner said:

    I agree. Having lived in D.C. for years and now having a son who lives there, looking at a White House vegetable garden would be horrible. Part of the appeal of the White House is it’s absolutly lovely meticulously kept grounds. Other heads of countries visiting would probably be appalledat a veggie garden fronting on Pennsylvania Ave.
    I think the rooftop vegetable garden is very admirable.

  66. George said:

    Dear Karen – Absolutely agree with you, excellent point. Other countries would be somewhat shocked if it wasn’t done perfectly. Vegetable gardens are “cropped” or literally cut when harvested, and leave an aesthetically challenging sight. Like answering the door barefoot. Not good. Thanks.

  67. Larry Schlatter said:

    I, too, wish him well. There is much hope placed upon him. My observation has been both pleased and displeased. The recent non-decision regarding Guantanamo is troubling. We are Americans, living by American ideals. Guantanamo is the place of totalitarianism. I would like it to end. However, I am glad for the change, regardless of that outcome. Larry Schlatter

  68. George said:

    Dear Larry – Thanks. Don’t forget the torture chambers called “jail” in Cuba. I’m afraid there’s too much dictatorship even amongst our “friends”. Thanks.

  69. Richard Lindsey said:

    I have been a backyard gardener for over 35 years.
    I have created the gardens myself and have had to amend the clay soil which dominates my property. I compost in order to add nutrients to the soil and utilize a drip system to be as efficient as possible. I start my vegetables from seed in my heater room. My point is that I enjoy gardening because it’s a part of me. If President and Mrs. Obama have the time and the drive to devote to such a project then I would support them wholeheartedly; but, if it will be mostly an endeavor of White House staff, then it makes absoutely no sense to me. It would be better if they found a way to feature real backyard gardeners from throughout God’s country. There are so many who depend upon their gardens to put “bread” on the table or they don’t eat. Now that is a story worth telling.

  70. George said:

    Dear Mr. Lindsey – Thanks very much for your extraordinarily eloquent post. Perhaps the White House staff will get the garden message out some time. But, much like your experience, it best be authentic in my opinion. Thank you.

  71. Maryland Digger said:

    Actually, I’d like to know more about the rooftop garden and the herbs that Pres Carter planted near the kitchen door. Adrian Higgins had a column recently that proposed a small, pretty Victorian kitchen garden that could be designed to be private with sitting areas. My kinda space…agree that the WH lawn is not the venue for community gardening. Where’s the Smithsonian and the Nat Arboretum on community gardens? That would be a great topic for them to include someplace on the Mall and I bet it would not cost so much, either.

  72. George said:

    Dear M. D. – Didn’t know about the Carter herb garden. Higgins is a superb garden writer. He’d be a great help to the White House staff, if they put in a garden.

  73. L Hunt said:

    I am so happy to see the subject has opened up eyes and got tongues wagging! Don’t you think he is trying to set an example that we can be more self sufficient and provide food for our families without having to shout into a box and pull through to the window to pick up dinner. I personally see nothing wrong with digging up all that water wasting lawn, put away the gasoline powered lawn mowers and grow something. It’s their house now,let them live in it however they want. Focus your energy on your own homes!

  74. George said:

    Dear L Hunt – Is that a yes or a no? (Just kidding.) Thanks for the spritely post. However, I adore ante-bellum houses with elegant green lawns. I’d hate to see it turned into an urban farm. Done well, perhaps. But it isn’t a typical US home, to say the least.

  75. GERALDINE NELSON said:

    CAMP “OBAMA”???? WHAT’S NEXT!!

    IS THIS A NEW CONCEPT? THE TITLE IS CURIOUS – IT’S ALREADY BEEN USED (FOR THOSE 6 “CAMPS” THE PREZ IS RUMORED TO BE INSTALLING IN MILITARY DEPOTS.)

    YOU SHOULD KEEP TO ARTICLES INVOLVING PHOTOSYNTHESIS; I NEED A SAFE EMAIL TO OPEN; FREE OF POLITICS WITH ONLY YOUR USUAL EXPERTISE.
    (BUT NOW THAT YOU HAVE BROACHED THE TOPIC, “RIGHT ON”! TO JIM, MARSHA, HELEN, BETH, JAN, DONNA, BEN, ET AL).

  76. George said:

    And right on to you. Let’s hear it for free speech. But, please note my subtitle “Silva Rerum”, which means I shall write about the world every so often, as well as the world of plants.

  77. Jean Gladstone said:

    Agree with you completely. Gardens are especially great for kids. I always loved just watching things emerge and grow, eating was a bonus. I know the kids at Sue Duncan’s (Arnie’s mom) after-school tutoring center always were excited at being able to take home seeds or cuttings we started in cups. And Tina’s idea about encouraging community gardens is right on. (I’m still hoping they get a dog from a shelter.)

  78. George said:

    Dear Jean – Yes, a mutt! If there was ever a time for a rescue dog, this is it. How about two? Now that would be as good a symbol as a vegetable garden. Are you from Chicago too? If so, you’d like “Polonia“.

  79. Jack McCarthy said:

    You’re right on.

  80. George said:

    Thanks very much, Jack.

  81. Deb Hartman said:

    This idea of tearing up the White House lawn as a “priority” seems to fall in line with various other Dem “Priorities.” It’s amazing, isn’t it? We have bridges deteriorating, old water lines in some of our older cities (Annapolis for example where I live)that need replacing, all KINDS of infrastructural challenges to face in our country and some dems have the audacity to take so much hard-earned tax dollars, in times like these, to spend on something totally unnecessary. They are clearly as out of touch with the real world as those who don’t believe the Holocaust existed, Bush planned 9/11, etc… I think they started smoking dope long ago and must still be at it. I can only think that our hard-earned dollars will go out the window, again, without all the oversight promised as before.

  82. George said:

    Dear Deb, Thanks for your thoughtful post. Annapolis is so beautiful, by the way, And one of the most attractive marinas I’ve ever seen. (Haven’t seen many, though.) Plus, Mills—the best wine shop I’ve ever visited. I bought a Tyrus Evan 2004 Claret that was unforgettable. As far as politics goes, I don’t think there’s enough difference between the two parties at the moment. In foreign policy there’s barely any at all. “Localism” should shift from food, garden plants and arts and crafts to politics. Forget “town meetings”—there should be “block meetings”. My Congressman is far more important to me really, than my Senator, for instance. I would disagree with you and say that a vegetable garden would be a good symbol; I insist that my desire is that it be authentic to the Obamas. Thanks again.

  83. Mrs. Isabelle Murphy said:

    A CAmp David garden project — what a great idea!
    And lots of fun and very educational for those
    adorable presidential daughters! Also inspirational
    for children all over the country!

  84. George said:

    Dear Isabelle, Exactly what I was trying to say. Then another can be created at the White House. But, please, not a community garden or urban farm. Put them in the communities, like PHS does here in Philly.

  85. Noah said:

    Don’t want to hear about ANYTHING Obama and will be amazed if small(er) nurseries and businesses even survive a stimulus package that has very little stimulus and enough pork to keep Chicago’s Swift and Comoany going for years and years. As to writing the White House, why bother.

  86. George said:

    Dear Noah, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You should write to President Obama at the White House with your thoughts. Also, many small nurseries do well in hard times—people want happiness in their lives. Like movies and candy. Thanks.

  87. Joyce Beebe said:

    Amen!!! Also I live in Redding, CA. I seem to be gettin catalogs for the Seattle area. Big difference in climate. Could you please send a catalog that is more appropriate for this climate. Maybe the catalog I receive is the only one you have. I love your stuff! Thanks again for the info. Did you know that in this so-called stimulus bill there is a plan for socialized medicine. Check it out. Thanks again for the info.

  88. George said:

    Dear Joyce, Our new 2009 Heronswood Nursery catalogue offers some plants for your climate. We’re trying to increase our diversity of offers. (That’s the main reason we moved.) Please check back on the blog regularly for updates. For dry climates, you want deep roots. Make that your “mantra” for a while: deep roots. Avoid all else. Thanks for your compliment.

  89. I agree that a garden for the Obama’s would be a relaxing way for the family to spend time together or Michelle to get away from everybody for awhile and enjoy watching things grow.
    Camp David sounds like the ideal place to do this. The White House garden may not be as peaceful.

  90. Toni Nelson said:

    Thank you for sharing a little sunshine & peace in my busy day.
    Toni

  91. Estelle Pettey said:

    Some of you people need to tend to your garden catalogs, if not your gardens, for a little stress-free time, and stop hating on your president. He doesn’t spend time hating you, and whether you agree with him or not, he has a monumental task thanks to what came before. Count your blessings, America. You could be some place else suffering, oh yea of little faith!

  92. Marilyn said:

    Does that mean we could cont. to plant what we like & can use for us or would we have to plant what ever the President thinks we should plant? gardener in the Whte Mts.

  93. George said:

    Marilyn – It’s ok, it’s ok! No one is ever going to tell us what we have to plant—except truly dangerous weeds. Thanks.

  94. NW Gardener said:

    George, your definition of “thinking like a gardener” differs greatly from mine. I am a gardener, and I believe replacing the White House lawn with a functional, productive vegetable garden that demonstrates the amount of healthy, safe, pesticide-free food that can be grown on an urban plot of land is thinking exactly like a gardener!
    To me the White House lawn is powerful symbol- a powerful symbol of our mis-allocated resources. Consider the following statistics:
    According to the US EPA, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day.
    The National Wildlife Federation states that each year in the US, over 70 MILLION TONS of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used on residential lawns and gardens.
    Where I live, on the Puget Sound, (not to far from Heronswood Garden), a study conducted by the USGS from 1987-1995 found “Twenty-three pesticides were detected in water from urban streams during rainstorms, and the concentrations of five of these pesticides exceeded limits set to protect aquatic life”.
    The EPA also says that 95% percent of lawn care chemicals in use today are possible or probable carcinogens.
    Now that is ghastly.
    Replacing the chemical-hungry White House lawn with a demonstration organic vegetable garden that provides fresh, local, seasonal food to the First Family and their guests will send a clear and positive message about the value our nation places on our precious resources- our soil, our water, our farmers…and our gardens.

  95. George said:

    Dear NW Gardener,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful and passionate post. You raise many excellent points and questions.

    First, I used “ghastly” to refer to the possible (and probable) visual impact of an urban farm on the Presidential residence and grounds. I repeat: “ugh”. However, if you read the entire blog, you see that I proposed that they indeed plant a vegetable garden to supplement the Obama family, since it’s their home. By “thinking like a gardener” I meant to be circumspect and careful, not impulsive and reactionary. Most gardeners I know, myself included, approach planting a garden with great care. It’s not like you can have it one day, and not the next—much like a pet. I’ve seen many a garden get neglected by first time gardeners, rather like abandoned pets. Plus, folks who don’t do it gradually, and experience failure, tend to avoid the hobby. That was the spirit and letter of “Camp Obama”. I believe the President is a bit introverted, so a garden is an ideal hobby. Turn it into an urban farm, and it’s just another photo op, of which I believe he needs, in fact, fewer. I can’t see Malia and Sasha getting involved in yet another public spectacle either. What better than to start with Camp David? Early press suggested that the Obamas enjoyed their first weekend there. Then, in a year, especially with staff and security folks’ “buy in” (via sampling in a natural context), a White House garden would occur naturally and perhaps more successfully from a public policy standpoint, which is your interest.

    As for chemicals, I use very little, but also am no expert. I am sure your stats are 100%, so I support your effort to get the word out. I happen to love green lawns, and they’re especially wonderful in the dreadfully hot and humid DC summers. Why not a “healthy lawn” initiative along with your urban organic farm garden? You think folks are going to change their taste for lawns so easily as that? There are a lot of folks for whom a patch of sun in the front yard equals lawn…period. It’s nice looking to them. Also, a vegetable front yard is a bit tough to pull off well. The Italian community here does it here and there, but it can look rough unless well done. Critter issues for some folks too. However, I maintain that if they–the Obamas–want one, great. As I tried to say, let it occur naturally. The house and grounds are some of the very few things that won’t burden him with too many issues, and shouldn’t.

    Finally, the current staff is well known to have supported the Bushes in their small rooftop garden and the chef, a native Filipina, will remind the president of the Asian roots of the food of his youth, so maybe some oriental vegetables and herbs will be on the rooftop soon, if they aren’t sown already. I simply wish him well with a garden of his own at Camp David. If you want to push hard an agenda for urban farming, why not go after Congress too? I’d be very glad to help.

    Thanks again for your response, and I hope you can make it to the Heronswood Open in Kingston, Washington in July and late August/early September. Very exciting, and we’ll have an elegant potager which could be a very good model for the Obamas.
    George

  96. Donna said:

    I think some of the people who posted need to do more gardening to relieve their stress!

    One reason I worried about things getting political is because people tend to get emotional about it and sometimes get “carried away.”

    I’ve noticed that, overall, people who post on gardening sites tend to write more intelligently and seem more courteous than other types of blogs, which is one of the things I enjoy about it.

    Obviously, we all have our own views on politics and on what a garden should be. Although George’s column was an interesting and timely vehicle for the discussion of gardening ideas (which I did enjoy)it, for some, seems to be a slippery slope leading to political bashing and “reading things in” that were not there. I don’t think George was trying to take sides politically.

  97. Marianne Jackson said:

    All fine ideas for our President’s retreat home, yet remember that book from the 50s, IF I RAN THE ZOO…?
    What would YOU actually do if you accepted the challenge to landscape, with gardens, the extensive White House acres?

    Thanks. M. Jackson

  98. JD said:

    Read this folks…
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/11/alice-waters-and-obamas-kitchen-cabinet/

  99. M. McGrath said:

    Well, it looks like the Kitchen Garden International was persuasive in spite of the distaste many of you have for the idea that the Obama’s set up a kitchen garden to grow wholesome food.

    In the NY Times it says: “On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.”

    “Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.”

    Thank goodness for the veggie gardeners of the world. What could be a better symbol of down-to-earth common sense than growing a productive vegetable garden?

    You can read the whole article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/dining/19garden-web.html?em=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1237543620-Nya0evff523hzAB+rM/Fzw

  100. Mary Rowlands said:

    Are you serious?!! You should listen to yourself. It reminds me of something I would have read in Miss Manners in 1965.

  101. Sona said:

    Yes, enjoy your gardens now! Soon you and the farmers will have to plant what the Obama administration tell us to. Our freedom is being taken from us each and every day. Thank you Heronswood for the opportunity to respond. God and Gardening are the best things in life!!! Sona

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