Melania Trump sure cares a lot about her rose garden. The former first lady took some time away from her busy post-FLOTUS schedule of going to the spa and eating lunch at Mar-a-Lago to “fire back” at NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who dared to criticize her (hired hands’) decorating skills.
A quick recap: a little over a year ago, as the second wave of the pandemic ravaged the United States and protests against systemic racism and police brutality hit the streets globally, Melania Trump decided that what the world really needed was an updated rose garden. Specifically, she added white and pastel roses and a limestone walkway.
Her announcement was met with predictable criticism from anyone who knew there were more important matters at hand, though plenty of White House experts agreed the Rose Garden was in sore need of a renovation.
Melania, who idolized Jackie Kennedy, was quickly dubbed the killer of her favorite’s famous roses, which were designed by the late (and wonderfully named) Bunny Mellon. Her plans to remove Kennedy’s crab apple trees—not the crab apple trees!—were met with equal Twitter scorn.
But, as Reuters noted, this was not true: Kennedy’s roses were removed back in 1962, and other First Ladies have worked with different varieties of the flower. Ditto with the crab apple trees. Those had been removed over the years, and Mellon herself reportedly suggested that Nancy Reagan take out the plants as well.
Melania’s new landscape, which debuted during the RNC last summer, definitely lacks some of its predecessor’s oomph. The roses are not as bright, and the overall aesthetic matches Melania’s preferred minimalism. The crab apples trees have indeed been removed, though CNN’s Kate Bennett reported last year that they would be replaced elsewhere on White House grounds after some rehab.
So far Jill Biden has kept out of the gardening drama, though a petition signed by 50,000 people circulated online in April urging the current FLOTUS to restore the flowers to their “former glory.”
Beschloss revived complaints this weekend when he tweeted a photo of the garden, taken from a rather dull angle, and wrote, “Evisceration of White House Rose Garden was completed a year ago this month, and here was the grim result—decades of American history made to disappear.”
The message was retweeted over 7,000 times, and somehow caught Melania’s attention. The former FLOTUS, who has tried to keep a low profile since leaving D.C. in January, emerged from her (relative) social media silence to respond.
“.@BeschlossDC has proven his ignorance by showing a picture of the Rose Garden in its infancy. The Rose Garden is graced with a healthy & colorful blossoming of roses. His misleading information is dishonorable & he should never be trusted as a professional historian,” the “Office of Melania Trump” tweeted.
The photo Melania shared does look a little more lively than the one Beschloss tweeted, though it’s impossible to directly compare both pictures. Melania opted to promote a close-up of flowers, while Beschloss showed a landscape of the entire garden.
Why did Melania respond to this particular mean tweet? She’s been selective when it comes to her screen time, mostly retweeting praise for her #BeBest initiative, thanking “everyone” for the “wonderful birthday wishes” and celebrating Trump’s favorite holiday, July 4th. She also extended sympathies to Queen Elizabeth after the death of Prince Philip.
She speaks in the frothy language of influencers and press releases, rarely hitting back on anything. And why should she? According to a CNN report, Melania spends most of her days “happy and relaxed.” Which is pretty impressive, considering, well, everything else that’s going on in the world.
But the Rose Garden fiasco was never really about flowers—it was always an easy projection of feelings onto Melania. While the world crumbled, she potted plants (or more accurately, made other people do it). Her insistence on doing it her own way hinted at her perceived indifference to history and decorum, detractors said. No no, fans insisted, it spoke to her elegant, pared-down taste.
Like her clothing, which was parodied by the left and ignored by Anna Wintour, but celebrated by Breitbart and other right-wing style commentators, Melania Trump’s redesigned rose garden says whatever one wants it to about her.
The reality of the garden seems to fit in somewhere in the middle. It’s different. It’s a little lifeless. There are fewer tulips, which Twitter seems to hate. But it’s mostly fine—and not all that serious when you think of all the other ways Trump left his mark on the office.
Even Jill Biden performed some (unintended) PR for Melania’s work in May. “Spring is here at the White House,” she tweeted, showing a lineup of flowers shimmering brightly in the sun.