The first lady will speak from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday during the Republican National Convention

By Sean Neumann
August 24, 2020 11:47 PM
White House Rose Garden
| Credit: Melania Trump/Twitter

First Lady Melania Trump finished a three-week renovation to the White House Rose Garden in time for her speech there on Tuesday, during the mostly remote Republican National Convention.

The White House gave a tour to reporters on Saturday, including the Associated Press, who described some of the details of the newly renovated space.

“The very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future,” Trump, 50, said in a statement when the project was announced last month. “Preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation’s commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come.”

The renovation was funded by private donors, according to the White House, though it would not tell reporters how much the project cost or the identity of those donors.

Perhaps the biggest dust-up online about the landscaping came from the decision to remove about a dozen crabapple trees planted in the garden by former First Lady Jackie Kennedy — even as the White House said the changes were to return the garden more to its original 1962 design under Kennedy.

The AP reports the crabapple trees will be planted elsewhere on the White House property, while the current first lady opted mostly for pastel flower beds that appeared much less colorful than the plants her project replaced, according to before and after pictures online — though it's not clear whether the new flowers are in bloom.

"It's just hideous," tweeted one critic. "Unless you were going for an early mausoleum esthetic."

Another wrote: "[Melania] basically turned the White House Rose Garden into the back entrance to a Sheraton conference center."

Among the additions, a new walkway as well as new landscaping and drainage improvements were put in place.

The historic Rose Garden has long used as a backdrop for important speeches and White House ceremonies. The first lady is set to speak at the RNC from the garden on Tuesday night.

President Donald Trump's campaign-like speeches from the White House — which will culminate in an RNC speech Thursday — have raised ethical concerns among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers given it blends partisanship with government business.

White House Rose Garden after First Lady Melania Trump's renovations
| Credit: Melania Trump/Twitter
White House Rose Garden after First Lady Melania Trump's renovations
| Credit: Melania Trump/Twitter
White House Rose Garden after First Lady Melania Trump's renovations
| Credit: Melania Trump/Twitter

When Mrs. Trump announced the renovations in late July, Twitter's anti-Trump corners lit up with viral jabs at the first lady for what they saw as a tone-deaf move amid the novel coronavirus pandemic — and the resulting economic damage — as well as national unrest over racial injustice.

"I wonder if Marie Antoinette redid the gardens at Versailles when the revolution was brewing," one user tweeted.

Another chimed in: "Comparing Melania to Marie Antoinette is unfair to Marie Antoinette." (Similar such posts racked up thousands of retweets and likes.)

The first lady faced previously backlash in early March when she shared photos of construction workers building a private tennis complex on the White House grounds, as the COVID-19 pandemic was first beginning to impact the U.S.