Thursday, August 6, 2015

Saying YES! A Very Capital Garden Tour

Thea here.  Early one Sunday morning this past spring, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, Xiaobing.  She wanted to know if I would like to go on a White House Garden tour that morning as her guest.  The tickets were not available to the public; she'd gotten them at work. She had one extra ticket and thought of me!  Yes! Yes! Yes!
The invite was last minute so I didn't have a moment to waste. I jumped out of bed and got dressed, plopped on my garden hat and waited by the door for a ride.  It was a glorious day for a garden tour and I didn't want to be late.

Even though I'm local, I hadn't yet had an opportunity to visit the White House or the grounds. I am like so many tourists that gaze from afar, through the fences and security gates, hoping for a glimpse of something.  We managed to get parking and walked over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and joined the long yet organized line, waving our tickets through various checkpoints.
After we cleared Security we entered the last gate and I found myself on the driveway leading up to a very lovely mansion with manicured lawns and gardens.  I have to admit, I got a bit choked up.  I couldn't believe I was really at our White House!

As we made our way up the drive, we were serenaded by a military band. There were several displays explaining all the different trees that have been planted on the lawn, many representing different presidencies.

  When we reached the base of the portico, I could only look up.
 A discreet staircase that winds up the side is draped with thick, old trunks of wisteria vine.

The mansion is connected by a long, windowed corridor to the Oval Office.  The famous Rose Garden runs along the corridor and must offer our President a wonderful view on his way to work most of the year.  Roses weren't in bloom yet, showy spring bulbs were the stars of the gardens.
 There were tables and chairs tucked within the gardens. I could picture many a meeting of the minds in such a lovely garden.

  On the steps leading to the executive offices is the podium used for those Rose Garden press conferences.  I was in awe, really, being so close to everything most of us only catch a glimpse of on television.

My perception of the Oval Office is that it appeared much smaller than I expected. I loved that the Obamas placed the children's swing set so that our President could watch his children play from his office.

As we continued down the path, you get such a different perspective of the immediate property surrounding the White House. There are many old and cherished trees.
 On the lower lawn area there is a grand, formal fountain surrounded by bright red tulips.

We continued along the path and came upon the newest White House feature - the Vegetable Garden. Tucked into a small copse of trees are bee skeps (hives). Given it was such a warm and sunny day, there was quite a  hum of activity.

 Right beyond that is the First Lady Michelle Obama inspired Vegetable and Herb garden.  It's beautifully designed and high yield. Everything produced in this lovely garden is used in the White House Kitchen, including the honey that is harvested from the bee skeps.  Frankly, this is my dream garden!

We circled back, asking the very helpful guides questions and taking more pictures.  I really didn't want to leave.  Huge kudos to the National Park Service, who maintain the property, trees and gardens, Security teams and the tour volunteers.  There's a lot of legacy and history here, with many trees planted, in honor of the first families who have cherished living in the White House.

You never know when a wonderful and rare opportunity to tour a garden will happen, but if it does, say YES!  My next dream tour is of the interior of the White House. Can't wait.

  p.s. This is the First Family's view from the portico.

all photographs by Thea McGinnis

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

This Has to STOP!

Yesterday, I was informed by some helpful person that there's only 50 more days until fall!  Stop it!  I just want to enjoy my summer, here and now!  I've barely gotten over spring.  Don't get me wrong. I love fall.  In the fall.  Until then, it's all about my summer garden, the beach, visiting friends, feeling the warmth of the day on my skin. How about you - What have you been up to? Relax, Enjoy. Breathe.  You still have 72,000 minutes of summer to enjoy.