A photo of the project reveals the new limestone border. Photo: Michael Prokopchak
An Oehme, van Sweden watercolor depicts the master plan for the Rose Garden overhaul.
An Oehme, van Sweden watercolor depicts the master plan for the Rose Garden overhaul.

Historic Makeover

A 2020 renovation revives the White House Rose Garden

More than 10 years ago, a writer asked landscape architect Eric Groft, FASLA, of Oehme, van Sweden to name his ultimate dream project. On a whim, he replied, “the White House Rose Garden.”

As fate would have it, in 2019 the DC-based firm actually landed a commission to revive the storied garden designed by Bunny Mellon during the Kennedy administration. “The garden had not been touched since it was put in,” says Groft. “It had no bones, and paths were going this way and that.”

The design phase launched in-depth historical research and extensive dialog among multiple stakeholders. The final plan created structure with a new limestone border and also improved the garden’s accessibility, drainage and audiovisual infrastructure.

New York-based Perry Guillot, Inc., collaborated on the design while Walnut Hill Landscape Company of Annapolis completed the installation of the garden, formally unveiled in August. “The renovation restored many aspects of Bunny Mellon’s plan for JFK that had been lost over the years,” says Walnut Hill’s Michael Prokopchak.

“We’re very proud of the end result,” Groft reflects. “We maintained historical integrity and produced a garden for the 21st century.”