PRESIDENTS IN THE GARDEN

WOODROW WILSON

#28 (1913-1921)


Beginning with Ellen Wilson, many of the first ladies were involved in landscape design and garden design.

The first Rose Garden.  photo: Library of Congress

The first Rose Garden.  photo: Library of Congress

Perhaps her most enduring contribution to the presidential mansion itself, though ephemeral, was the creation of the White House Rose Garden. It was established in 1913, replacing the site of a previous colonial garden established by Edith Roosevelt (wife of Teddy Roosevelt) in 1902.  She travelled back to Princeton, New Jersey with her landscaper to show him some of the work she had done there and intended to copy elements of at the White House. It included a fountain and marble statue of mythic Pan, one source claiming that Ellen Wilson chose the figurine of the boy to represent the son that she had always wished for. Although Ellen Wilson’s Rose Garden landscape design did not endure through the generations to the present-day landscape design, it was placed in the same spot, outside the West Wing and thus established the tradition. She also created a garden design for the area flanking the east colonnade, at the site of the present-day Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, installing a lily pond stocked with goldfish.

Woodrow Wilson and Ellen Wilson in the garden of the Princeton University president's home, for which she did her own landscaping design.  This was before Beatrix Ferrand was hired to redesign the Princeton campus. photo: Library of Congress

Woodrow Wilson and Ellen Wilson in the garden of the Princeton University president's home, for which she did her own landscaping design.  This was before Beatrix Ferrand was hired to redesign the Princeton campus. photo: Library of Congress

Woodrow and daughter Edith Wilson in a rare color photo of the White House East Garden which daughter Margaret helped facilitate after her Mother's death. photo: Library of Congress

Woodrow and daughter Edith Wilson in a rare color photo of the White House East Garden which daughter Margaret helped facilitate after her Mother's death. photo: Library of Congress