tv The Presidency Betty Ford White House Gardens CSPAN August 15, 2021 2:58pm-4:05pm EDT
day, but back with when the ground breaking began in 1790 and the white house itself is situated on top of the hill, and just like capitol hill, there's literally a physical hill underneath the white house. the white house looks down in historical time on swampy land historical time on swampy land i like to call it the three bs, bare, bleak and brown. when john adams moved in in 1800. and the period accounts go on to state visitors from that time described as, i believe the it was a barren, stony, unfenced
waste. it was not a great looking place simply because it was a construction site for so many years -- >> well, but the world was used to the european standard of fabulous palaces and manicured gardens. and europe, which had been around for centuries building up its public places, it sounds to me like the early white house is what george washington would have wanted, something simple. an executive mansion, not a palace. >> that's absolutely correct. and the -- that's a good point, especially because george washington situated the front door of the white house exactly where it stands today. he was the only president not to have lived in the white house, but every president -- including george washington -- has walked upon the white house grounds. >> tell me a little bit about what you know, because you are an historian. you're not here as a gardener,
you're here to tell us the life story of the area. was there a real commitment early on, or did it take decades before the grounds and the setting of the white house really took on importance and got money to do something about it? >> so abigail adams, the first first lady to live in the white house, and we should be talking about the first ladies especially today, she described the scene to her daughter in the year 1800 in a letter to her daughter, and she described the scene as a place without the least fancy yard or other veeps, but she opt -- convenience, but she optimistically noted it's a beautiful spot, capable of improvement. and then the successor, thomas jefferson, moved in in 1800 as well, and -- i'm sorry, in 1801. and he immediately really got to work improving the grounds. so he actually, in part, developed the first landscape plan for the white house and spent the next eight years of his presidency developing the
grounds. >> and, of course, he had monticello that he was also developing. so it was something -- he was somebody with kind of european training in terms of the art and the architecture x those physical settings were very, very important to him. throughout the rest of the 1800s leading up to the civil war, because at that point downtown washington was still, you know, a work in progress. the washington monument was only half built, expect capitol dome wasn't finished as i recall. were there other first ladies who notably made an effort to bring the white house and its physical surroundings up to date? >> sure. perhaps the best example is mary todd lincoln from that time period. at that point in time, the white housed had a vegetable garden, a kitchen garden. it was approximately one acre in
size, it was located on the south grounds, and the lincolns grew -- well, not -- the gardeners at the white house grew most of the produce that was consumed by the lincolns. and mary todd lincoln had a special interest in the flowers but also the kitchen garden. period accounts state that she delivered strawberries directly from the white house kitchen garden to convalescing union soldiers in washington, d.c. hospitals. >> really? really. and, of course, the kitchen garden is something that was kind of brought back in the 2010s. but were there other times -- i mean, i assume they had a garden to help feed the family, if not convalesce sents, through most of the 1800s and 1900. >> yes. so the first fruits and vegetables were probably planted
on the white house grounds during james madison's tenure, so 1809 maybe until about just prior to burning of the white house during the war of 1812. but really this took off under the tenure of john quincy add also and also andrew jackson. that's when the kitchen garden i was describing really got going. and what i find very interesting, hopefully other people will as well, i was able to track down the receipts for fruit and vegetable seeds is purchased during the lincoln administration. >> and can people eat today what american presidents and first ladies ate? >> yeah, absolutely. so it's good to have a list like that from any american president. it's great if you can have it from abraham lincoln. and you can today still purchase all manner of fruits and vegetables; cucumbers, wall streets, turn ups, lettuce --
turn nips, lettuce, cabbage, the like. and you can purchase those online through specialized seed growers. and i believe as a treat, so those attending the event in person and picking up their boxed lunches, there's going to be a seed packet of the type of seeds that would have been grown at the white house during the is 19th century. >> that's a wonderful legacy, it really is, in our backyard. i live in washington, d.c., same house for 40 years. and my husband's always had a big vegetable garden. it was only during the pandemic that i started an actual flower gardennen. [laughter] maybe i should see whether the, you know, past presidents grew iris and peonies as i'm hoping this year mine will come up for the first time. >> well, i can tell you for a fact that first lady edith roosevelt, the wife of theodore roosevelt, had -- you said irises and peonies?
yeah, she definitely had those growing in what was the progenitor of the rose garden. it was a colonial style garden during her time period in the white house. >> i want to get to the rose garden, but first -- well, i'll start with this. the rose garden i have been in and out of a thousand times. >> lucky you. [laughter] >> lucky me. over the course of 40 years and seven presidents beginning with president gerald ford. and the rose garden was always a formal office space. it was an official event space. it wasn't just for the dogs. every once many a while you could tell the presidents' dogs had been there. but it was a beautiful setting, outdoor setting that was used con instantly even -- constantly, even in somewhat cold, somewhat rainy weather. jacqueline kennedy redid the rose garden. was that a dramatic departure point from generations before,
or was it a process of evolution? >> definitely a process of evolution and if kind of a dramatic -- and kind of a dramatic point of departure. so i guess the answer to your question is both. the, so. really the history of that site as a garden space begins in 1903 with first lady roosevelt. she developed a garden there and also on the east side where the current jacqueline kennedy garden is located. known then and now as colonial-style gardens. boxwood hedges, gravel walks, garden flowers, old-fashioned favorites in addition to peonies, there was phlox and astors and roses too, but it was sort of typical of the kind of thing you'd see at maybe mount vernon. and that lasted for about a decade until her successor, ellen wilson, completely redid her spaces in a more modern
taste. ellen wilson was also a painter, and she had what i would call a more modern aesthetic. so the modern rose garden first started to take shape, the rectangular shape with the open, central lawn dates back to that time period. then, fast forward a little bit more, by the 1930 the basic plan was still in place, but i hate to say it, but the garden was a little overgrown and not particularly well kept. i think any gardener can commiserate with that. and then in the truman white house between 1948-1952 the -- and pretty much the entirety of the grounds was enveloped as one big construction site when the white house itself was torn down to the bare walls and the studs. you see the famous photos of a bulldozer inside the white house, all the staging for that pretty well obliterated the
previous iterations of the garden and then bring in jackie kennedy and jfk in 1962 with the modern rose garden. >> yeah. and that's where mrs. kennedy called in bunny mellon, and they did very extensive, lovely recreation. you know, the white house grounds and the rose garden are really kind of formal places. i think very few people in the public get to visit it personally. it is not a suburban backyard. but you described in your book and in your -- that more relaxed functions. it is a private place for families, but it's almost kind of i think you call it supernatural. >> yeah. and i think most people in the united states or anywhere around the world sort of view the white house as the sort of
supernatural place. and, to be fair, it kind of is. but it's also at its core a home and a home office. and for those of us still going through the pandemic, that probably sounds pretty familiar. but the -- so instead of just being my home office or your home a office, it's the home office of the president of the united states. the white house, though, is also known as the people's house, and so that really means the white house grounds are the people's grounds. and if you start to think about it that way, it isn't so far removed from a typical suburban home. typically, suburban homes, mine included, have a more formal or dressy front lawn. that would be the north grounds of the white house with the north portico facing pennsylvania avenue, and a more private, hess formal backyard -- less formal backyard.
that's the larger south grounds looking down toward the washington monument. and that's pretty much what happens at the white house today. >> let's get to the issue of just how sacrosanct are the white house grounds. are they untouchable? and i don't -- you're an historian, i'm a journalist. neither one of us is a politician. but first ladies, especially in the modern era, they want to go around changing things, there's resistance to that. >> there is. i think it's fair to say that people have an opinion about melania trump's recent rose garden renovation. but hopefully as the history of that site, which i just briefly numerated, described the rose garden itself as a fairly, in the grand history of the white house grounds which go on for more than two centuries, 1962 is not that long ago really. and previous to that time there
were a lot of different iterations of that garden. so the idea that anything that's on the ground is sacrosanct isn't really true. the president and the first lady, they're temporary residents. but when they're there, they're in charge. but the good news is that every president and every first lady has had the good sense to tread lightly -- no pun intended -- on the grounds and respect to the history and add to it rather than subtract from it. and this definitely includes first lady trump's recent renovation. rachel lambert mellon, bunny mellon, specifically even in 1989 she returned to the white house to spruce up the rose garden under the reagan administration. and at that time, even mrs. mellon, the original creator of the rose garden, was actually advocating for the removal of all or some of those
crab apple trees which was sort of the crux of the criticism that mrs. trump received. and this was because, well, the roses and the other plants underneath it needed more light. it's kind of, you know, the bigger a e tree gets as it grows, the more it's going to shade things out. so she, mrs. mellon was even in favorover removing some of -- favor of removing some of those x. those trees were the second or third iterations of the crab apples. they were not the first trees. >> i must confess, i miss the trees especially when i was doing a news stand-up in the rose garden, and and you had the beautiful blossoms behind you. but the trees all around, it also gave the rose garden a bit of seclusion. it gave it a definition. so you as an historian have a phrase that i don't really know
how to translate into -- what does the phrase to professional historians mean, a period of significance? isn't the last 230 years a period of significance for the white house? >> well, you took the words right out of my mouth. in, at the risk of maybe summarizing this a little bit too much for some of my fellow historians, a period of significance is basically a fancy way of saying when the historic thing happened. for a lot of historic places in the united states, think gettysburg national battlefield park, well, the place there is more or less significant because of the two-day battle i fought in 1863 during the american civil war. is so it's pretty easy to wrap your head around a period of significance in a place like that. but with the white house, it's different. with the white house grounds, it's different. the entire 200-plus-odd years of
the white house grounds is a period of significance, and there's very few places in the nation that you can say that about. even more significant, to me, is that the period of significance is open-ended. simply because it is the white house, whatever happens tomorrow or next week or next month or next year is going to be historically significant. >> can i tell you one little story -- >> please. >> -- that's affected me? this has to do with the beautiful jackson magnolias which are how old now? the -- >> well, if you believe the story associated with them, they were planted by andrew jackson sometime around 1828. >> so they are gigantic, and what we see close up is that there are huge met call -- metal poles, and they are wired together because the president's marine one helicopter comes out of, the downdraft beats against
them. but one morning i got a call from the abc news desk at about 1:10 in the morning x they said a plane has crashed into the white house. get there quick. well, i got there, turned out it was a little, tiny ultra light plane, and it had -- a kook had tried to land at 1:00 in the morning on the south lawn of the white house. but there were bleachers set up for a police vent the next day. is so he pulled up, hit the ground, gouged up and went straight up through the jackson -- and smashed in both the windows in the white house medical office right underneath the president's bedroom. that kind of moment, it damaged the tree a little bit, it damaged the window. but, my goodness, it scared all of us. >> absolutely. and i -- my hat's off to you because i write about things after they happened. you're there covering it live, and i can only imagine what that
was like. it was during the clinton administration, correct? i believe, thankfully, the president and first lady weren't home at the time -- >> which is why i wasn't at the white house at 1:00 in the morning. >> right. [laughter] >> real quickly, the jackson magnolias, there are lots of trees on the white house grounds that presidents have planted for very significant, historic reasons. do you have any favorites? >> yeah. i wish -- the gerald, gerald, president gerald ford and first lady betty ford planted a american elm to mark the bicentennial of the united states. unfortunately, that tree no longer survives. but it was a very important moment and a great way to celebrate the 200 anniversary of the nation. >> was it dutch. elm disease? was this era where we were losing so many elms? >> i believe so, unfortunately. and the good news is there are
some genetically-resistant hybrids available now, one of which was originally discovered literally on the national mall. so those are beginning to be planted at the white house now -- >> and laura bush, when they redesigned pennsylvania avenue, asked that there be american elms, perhaps these hybrids, planted all up and down literally at the address of 1600 pennsylvania avenue. some people said that was bringing about kind of the restoration of elms which had died off, and oaks had become, had become so predominant. but the historic nature or the historic importance of presidents planting trees, it -- that's a real legacy for the white house. >> absolutely. for many years the oldest tree with a known presidential association was an american elm planted by john quincy adams in about 1826 -- >> front or back lawn? >> south lawn. it was actually on one of large
mounds on the south lawn. you probably remember it. the -- it's an enormous tree, and a section of it is actually on display at the white house visitors' center. so that was the oldest tree with a presidential association, and you can see how far back that goes. but currently, there are 33 plantings that were either planted by a president or a first lady. the jackson magnolias are the oldest, but some of their history is a little bit in doubt because they, in fact, don't show up in early photographs of the white house. so it's a beautiful story that they're associated with jackson, but it might not be entirely historically accurate. the oldest tree with a known association with a presidential administration is actually a beautiful japanese maple on the south grounds, near the south found -- fountain. it's one of the smaller trees on ground, but for my money, it punches above its weight class.
it's beautiful particularly because, you know, it's red in the fall, and it really stands out. and that was planted in 1893 by first lady francis cleveland. >> so many of the plantings around the white house are there for security. when a hotel just a block from the white house reopened after years of being closed, the secret service actually went up to the rooftop restaurant checking on the sight line so that the president wouldn't be exposed in public. i guess that's the kind of thing we have to worry about at least in the 20th and 21st century. >> it is the, and sort of touching upon the role of security and the need in the modern world we live in, one of the more recent plantings was a flowering dogwood planted by president bill and first lady hillary clinton in honor and in remembrance of the victims of the oklahoma city federal bombing. >> gerald and betty ford put in
the swimming pool. you can't see it from the street. i can't see it from west executive avenue which is a street that's now just a parking lot. but they did that because he had been vice president for about a nanosecond, and his friends had raised money for a pool at the vice president's residence. he became president. is that, do some people consider that an eyesore, or is that kind of a charming addition and certainly something that american first families have enjoyed since the ford era? >> well, i don't think i know anybody that considers it an eyesore, and that's a really because of what you just said. nobody can really see it until you're right up on it. and for that matter, the same goes for the white house tennis court and a number of other spots on the white house grounds. they've been very carefully installed over the years so as to not impinge upon historic
character of the grounds, damage any of the significant tree plantings and really to not interfere with views to and from the white house. sort of the iconic shots to of the exterior of the building. so i don't think anybody would consider it an eyesore. >> do you know who, which first lady used the pool more than anybody else? >> i believe it was barbara bush. >> it was barbara bush, who loved to swim. and i think she had to be very careful when she wore her white terry cloth bathrobe, he got by without anybody seeing her. [laughter] i remember old pictures of the white house showing they had a greenhouse or a conservatoriesome. >> yeah. so the -- conservatory? >> yeah. so the greenhouses and the conservatory are both 9th century -- 19th century aspects of the white house and the white house grounds. the conservatory was a private space rather for the president
and first lady, their invited guests, and it was this beautiful, kind of exotic place. it was, and it was located on top of the west terrace, you know, the west colonnade. and it was accessed through what was at one time president grant's billiard room. and the greenhouses were just exactly what it sounds like, a series of working buildings that produced camellias, ferns, orchids. there were actually two rose houses at its peak, and so, again, with two rose houses, it shows you where the priority's always been for presidential flowers. and these were not small enterprises. they covered significant acreage, and they were located where the modern-day west wing is. in fact, they were removed in 1902 when theodore roosevelt
built the original west wing. >> he ran out of family space inside the white house, so he built the west wing so he would have offices that didn't have six kids can underfoot. >> and again, i think those of us working from home can relate to to that. >> pandemic taught us all a lesson, didn't it? i would love to wind up touching on something that touches on that. i know it doesn't technically have to do with the gardens and the growth and the design, but every family i covered at the white house had pets. i was not there for the kennedy ponies or the historic, you know, goats and sheep, whatever. i was there for gerald ford's dog liberty who i think got one of the first splashes into the gerald ford pool -- >> and liberty's puppies, of course. [laughter] >> but dogs and some cats were -- and i think some of the kids had a gerbil or two.
but that also shows how the white house, although it's a tribute to the glory of the united states, it's the centerpiece of our civic society, it's also a home. do you think, well, do you have any favorite pets back in the archives of presidential history? >> oh, absolutely. so putting aside the dogs and the cats for the purposes of this, i would, well, i should confess before i say anything else, i'm originally from the state of wisconsin k if i'm a little biased because of that. but my personal favorite presidential pet of all time was a dairy cow named paulene wayne, also probably the greatest pet name in all of presidential history that was also the proud pet of president taft.
and paulene wayne grazed on the white house grounds as well as the grounds of thizingen hour executive -- the eisenhower executive office building. and she was something of a local celebrity. she was interviewed by members of the press. she never really said much. but she, it was a good time. everybody liked her very much. and she was a gift from a wisconsin senator who had heard that president taft who, it's fair to say, was probably the largest president, he was not a small man -- >> 300 pounds or so as legend has it. >> yeah. and he apparently was having trouble getting enough fresh milk. and being a good representative of the dairy state, he sent the president paulene wayne, and the president loved her very much. he did not generally let pauline travel because she needed to
provide milk, and she was also a pet. but one of the few times she traveled, she traveled by her own personal railroad car. so she really traveled in first class. the problem with this is she was going to the wisconsin state fair, a bit of a favor from the president. and the -- somewhere along the lines her train car was detached and was on its way to the chicago stockyards on a different train, and it was just caught just in the nick of time, otherwise that story would have not had a very happy ending. >> oh -- >> but she came back to the white house safe and sound, and then when president taft administration ended, she went back to the senator's farm in wisconsin. >> so pauline got retirement after four years just like presidents do. >> absolutely. >> well, the mystique and the grace of the white house never goes into retirement, and, jonathan, thank you so much for sharing the history and the
depth and the information. and i think a lot of us had no idea behind the legacy of the white house, and thank you so much. now, just for the next few minutes a bit of time travel. going back to the fords' hometown of grand rapids, michigan, we want you the hear someone who knows some of the ford family's earliest stories. please welcome michigan florist bing goee. >> the ford family enjoyed giving flowers. it is not unexpected that she would have a love of flowers because of her maiden name. [laughter] so, yeah, she always enjoyed flowers. the direct relationship with president and mrs. ford really was not part of my story, but my relationship is really --
[inaudible] as we provide the floral or tributes for president ford at his birthday, for mrs. ford for her birthday and other special occasions. the children and then also those who are involved with the ford family. they were simply wonderful human beings. they're kind, they're compassionate, they care about the constituents, and it shows how they also enjoyed using flowers to express their appreciation w. president ford loved to send mrs. ford flowers. just everyday flowers, there's not always the same thing. but when there are special occasions, president ford knew that betty ford's favorite flower was the yellow rose. so that always would be part of the gift that he would provide or sent to mrs. betty ford.
♪ >> also when there was times in which there was a special occasion in which mrs. ford would want a corsage, her favorite corsage flower was the white -- orchid with a yellow throat. one of the floral arrangements that is a standing order, president and mrs. ford would send sympathy flowers for someone that they knew in michigan that they wanted to send a floral tribute, and this is the standing order that you can see here that they would always want to send. president ford would always want to have white -- red, white and blue flowers. and so their favorite flowers would be used, the white glad yell las, the red carnations and the blue iris. every time a sympathy floral arrangement was being sent by president ford and mrs. ford, it had to be these flowers and this
design. and then their biggest thing is they a always wanted to have big, red ribbons in the center of it. we had also received different letters from from mrs. ford. this one is the letter that was sent to -- this was the letter that was sent to me personally by mrs. ford. mrs. ford, after they left the white house, there is a company -- [inaudible] in illinois. when they found out ott that mrs. ford was going to be a keynote speaker at one of the floral conventions in colorado in 1982, i believe it was, the orchid organization wanted to also bring out the orchid that would be named after mrs. ford. and at that time, they had this orchid that is an orchid that was unnamed but that they had produced, and they asked if
mrs. ford would allow them to name that orchid. and this is the result of that effort. it was by far most complex of any first lady hybrid today. it had an exceptionally long lineage comprising seven generations of breeding and -- [inaudible] and i think, to be honest with you, i think that truly reflects mrs. ford; kind, compassionate and when she walked in the room, she'd make a statement, and i think the orchid certainly respects that personality and that character of betty ford. you know, mrs. ford had been such a role model for many of us, a role model for the women and the young a ladies of this community and of this nation really. and is we're so excited and honored to have been able to
continue that tradition and to provide the supplies for the ford family. president ford died december 26 or 27th, and flowers were hard to get, you know, and to receive. we had to fly in a lot of the -- so we heard about this orchid, right senate we work very hard with people. the problem was this only blooms certain types of the year. and so they worked very hard to find a way to force the blooming of the orchid. and so we were able to get one orchid. we showed it to mrs. ford, and we asked her people, hey, if she is willing to receive this, please give this to her, and i think she did. we were so excited to be able to share that with her.
basically, it's an honor for us. susan ford has been very kind to be us and appreciative of the work that we've been doing on their behalf. but flowers, they played a major role in their lives. they would always send flowers, right? for sympathy or for many other occasions, for their friends, family members and things like that. >> [inaudible] >> you bet. thank you so much. ♪♪ >> betty ford's legacy did not end when she left the white
house. vail, colorado, was a favorite gathering place for all of the fords, and nicola whitley is going to join us from vail, colorado, the cure to have, the executive director of betty ford's final garden gift to america, the betty ford alpine garden. nicola, welcome. and tell me where is it you're standing or is sitting and what are we seeing here? >> so i'm sitting in the alpine house at betty ford alpine gardens. the alpine house is right next to the education center which is half of the gardens x this is a cold greenhouse where we have alpine plants in bloom. the gardens themselves right now are still under snow, and so we chose the alpine house here so we could bring some color to the presentation. wonderful. tell me, first of all, how did
all this start? pleasure. >> so it started when vail was in it very early days. so we're talking sort of 1986. the ski mountain had been open for a few years, but the town was really starting to grow. and local gardeners got together and said we need to show people who are coming to live at 8,200 feet what kind of plants will grow here. so they decided the start this public display garden. and the piece of lands that the town of vail gave to them was right next to the gerald ford amphitheater. and the town was delighted with the garden that was of put in place and inviteed the group that had started what was called then the vail alpine garden to grow bigger and bigger and to
develop the garden around the amphitheater. and it was at that point that the group decided to contact mrs. ford and say, you know, that they would be delighted if she would be willing to give her name to the garden, and she loved the idea. that was in 1988, ask she came and helped -- and helped to open the gardens and got very involved and, you know, was involved right until she died. we were thrilled. she had so many friends in the area. it was my first month on the job covering the white house for abc news, i packed my bags and got to ski with the president and got to know so many people in
the village who were good friends of theirs. and i set a special connection to a president, even one who didn't live there year round and even after, of course, he left office in 1977. it's quite a tribute to have her hand in putting this together. are most of the gardens outside? i know you're on the inside, but just give us an idea of the expansion of what with you have there -- expanse of what you have there. >> yeah, it's about five acres of garden outside, and it's, you know, very intensely cultivated as you can see in here. most of the plants are very small. so we do specialize in mountain plants and particularly alpine plants. and those are plants that grow above treeline in nature. so it's a series of winding pathways, water features, bridges. it's a very beautiful place.
right now it's under snow, and that's one of those interesting things people say, you know, how can you grow so many beautiful plants with so much snow? but it's because of the snow that blankets and keeps the plants protected that enables us to grow as many things as we can here. so most of us with backyard gardens aren't going to have both the insulating effects during harsh winters especially living as far north as michigan or illinois where i grew up. but we also don't necessarily have the water supply. is that a key factor especially for the outdoor plantings? >> we certainly have irrigation here, but most of the plants that we grow in these gardens are either alpine plants which are adapted already to harsh winds, low water or their native plants and native to colorado.
and colorado naturally is an air rid state, so -- air rid state, so native plants don't require a lot of additional water. >> talk about the plants inside the atrium or the alpine house where you're sitting. these are ones that you care for during the winter months, but they get plenty of sun except for the, obviously, the shortened hours of sunlight in the day. what do you have to do for the plants inside, and second question, are most of these native to colorado or native to the united states? are there alpine imports from the alps? >> well, the first part of that question about -- well, certainly most of the plants in here are from different parts of the world, and the ones we grow in here are the ones that require a little extra care and
attention. so we have particularly plants which come from the mountains of iraq and iran, and they are very temperamental. they grow in alpine conditions, but they don't like overhead water. so we have them here in very specialized conditions so these are mostly alpine plants but from all over the world. the rocks that they're growing in is a rock which is like a porous limestone. it's deposited in warm springs, and it's a real favorite for growing alpine plants because the plants go directly into the rocks. the rocks help drain water away from the roots so that it provides perfect conditions for alpine plants. >> that's fascinating. i hadn't really thought about, of course, the rock element of so many of these plants are used to that kind of environment.
do these rocks, do they all come from colorado or are those the kind of things that you can import as well? >> well, this rock is such a specialized rock, it came from some private land in, so not too far away with. the other thing to remember about alpine house is that unlike many botanical gardens that have conning serve stories -- conservatories, this we spend all our time trying to keep cool. we want our plants to go dormant in the winter time, so each when the conditions are very, very cold outsides, we'll have the within does open, and we -- windows open, and we encourage the plants to take the sleep they need over the winter time. and then when the days get longer and they get more sunlight, then they bounce back into, into bloom. and that's a what you're seeing right now. >> that's wonderful. what about bugs?
pests? >> the fortunate thing is we have very few bugs and pests up here. you know, at the climate is changing a little bit, things are creeping closer, but the conditions here are, generally speaking, very harsh. and so a lot of the things that are problematic in oh parts of the -- in other parts of the country don't cause problems for us here. >> do you have -- i've been to vail in all seasons with the fords. as i recall, there are many foreign visitors. and they must take a remarkable look at the kind of alpine setting as well. many of them may be skiers or vetters in the summer, but how remarkable this collection of plants is for people from all corners of the world. >> we certainly bore that in mind when we were trying to decide what kinds of plants to grow here.
you know, many gardens only grow plants from the region that they are in in the country, and we made a decision that we were a very international ski destination. like you say, many of our visitors come from all over the world and so we made a decision. we certainly, the pride of our collection is our colorado alpine collection. but we have plants from all over the world and the most asked for plants are the idle wise from the european alps and the deep blue -- also from the alps. and we also grow himalayan blue poppy which is not a very easy plant to grow, and those are the highlights of this garden. columbines too, of course, from colorado. but, no, the international plants cause a stuff.
>> i imagine it's a learning curve, especially when you're bringing in plants from the himalayas or the european heights. what have you learned about these plants by putting them in this kind of controlled environment? that they are heartier or more delicate than you expected? have you been surprised by anything that these plants have taught you? >> i would say that they're unbelievably hearty. one of the best things about vail, colorado, is that we are able to put these mostly out in natural conditions. native soil, for the most part, which is very hard and would not grow your common garden plants, but it's what the alpine plants need. they thrive on a very lean, rocky soil. so the harder the better really for most of those alpine plants. in england where i'm from, we
have to spend a lot of time protecting alpines because they get too much rain, so they're grown in little -- to prevent the rain coming down on the plant. but here we can just put them out there, and they thrive in the environment here. so we have to do very little fertilizing, very little watering. so they made life easy for us really in many ways. >> so many gardeners would love to have a garden that makes their life easy. you get to see so many of guests and tourists who come through vail. did you get to host the fords at the alpine garden? >> yes, many times. in fact, they used to come unannounced most of the time, and and, you know, come at times when we weren't expecting them.
so that was a real treat. i remember one particular afternoon the gardens was very quiet, and i had my daughter in her stroller, she was of just a little baby, and she was parked by one of the benches in the shade. i heard a voice calling over to me did i mind if they moved the stroller because they wanted to sit at the bench. and i looked over, and it was president and mrs. ford. so, of course, you know, i rushed over and said, you know, of course, no problem. but by that time, mrs. ford was already, you know, playing with katie in her little baby stroller, and she said, you know, if you don't -- if you have some errands to run, you know, don't mind us, we'll watch the baby for you while you do, you know, while you coto your chores. and -- you do your chores.
i laugh and tell my daughter that her first babysitter was a president. >> that's a wonderful and very warm and very typical of the fords, warm story about how their graciousness with everyone. nicking la, thank you. >> thank you for having me. ♪♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> for anyone who loves flowers, could there be a more perfect,
more dreamy setting for them than the white house itself? betty ford moved in and with her, her daughter susan ford bayles who joins us now. susan, welcome from your home in texas. when you -- i've covered susan as a reporter since she was 16 years old. susan, those times when you moved into the white house, flowers were everywhere. >> my mother, you know, loved flowers, and so she was happy to have fresh flowers in her house. and i like to have fresh flowers in my house here. >> absolutely. at the white house, there is an elaborate hierarchy. there is a full-time florist on the staff, and i have seen the cart going around in the white house putting fresh flowers on almost every table on a daily basis. did your mom get involved with that? was there a greenhouse on the property where she could come in
and choose things? >> no, there wasn't a greenhouse on the property, and if there is a greenhouse someplace else, i never got to see it. but she loved the fresh flowers and, yes, the white house did beautiful fresh flowers. you've got to remember, anne, when we moved in, it was a pretty tumultuous time, so i don't think mother got involved in the flowers as quickly as she would -- that probably would have been something she would have chosen to do, but she had so many other things. as you know, she had a state dinner within six days of us moving in there. so she had a lot of other things keeping her busy, but she loved the floral shop. and she would pick the colors and that sort of thing, and she had favorite flowers, there's no question. >> well, we're going to get to the favorite flowers, but i want to ask you about the idea that the white house a world stage for american design, and your
mother could use those state dinners for flowers and statuary. do you remember that first state dinner in i don't think i was at that one. i was at the one for the shah of iran. >> right. i don't think i went to the first one either because i think, actually, we were still living in al sand try ya, virginia. -- alexandria, virginia. we hadn't moved in. but the one that stands out to me the most was the one that was done for president sadat9. and he was a big fan of western art. and so mother had remingtons and other western sculptures as the centerpieces. some tables just had flowers and some had sculptures. but she did that with other heads of state. she found out what they were interested in and what kind of art they were interested in, and then from there they would choose sculptures to be in the centerpieces and the flowers.
and, i mean, the social office did an amazing job of coordinating table cloths with sculptures, with flowers and that sort of thing and the china, and choosing which china. my mother, i know, made the difference and they went away from longhand tables to round tables because she felt they were much easier for people to have conversations. >> susan, you're so right about that. and in the white house state dining room, there's room with round tables for about 130 guests. and those were the years when i first started covering the white house. and i think that was a larger seating than some of the earlier state dinners. and the idea that all of the flowers and the oh decor come together -- other decor come together, to go back to the sadat dinner, not only was it a tumultuous change for your parents and the administration change in washington, but it was on the cusp of movement in the
middle east. eventually, another year or two later came the camp david accords, and president sadat was a very, very important player in this. egypt was going to be extraordinary. and he was such a worldly man, and he did appreciate american culture and the idea that these famous remington bronzes could be put on a white house dinner table surrounded by beautiful flowers. what's really a classic departure, one that actually most first ladies never followed through either. i remember one state dinner, i believe it was for an austrian president or premier, and there was crystal sculpture in the middle. and i know that the staff does a lot, but your mother really brought the style and the taste and, frankly, a level of elegance that was classically hers. >> yeah, it really was, anne. it was, you know, i think her
dance background played so much into her life and being so or artistic in that sense. and she was great with clothes because, you know, before she married my dad she was a model, and she was a fashion person. and so putting things together like this was, was natural to her. somehow i didn't get all of that, but she was very good at it. and i ad mired her taste. >> well, i covered her in the serious stuff too including when you and i were climbing the great wall of china together while your mom and dad were waiting for chairman mao to call so they could go over in beijing for that classic, major visit. but your mom did always bring a sense of elegance. but in the family quarters, she essentially was able to make that comfortable for you. you were living at home, your brothers were not, right in. >> yes, i was the only one
living at home full time right then. but, yeah, we brought some of our furnishings from alexandria for their den so that they had their chairses and that sort of thing, and they brought their bed from alexandria because they liked that bed. so, you know, you can make that house your own, shall we say. >> susan, i want to ask you about something that i did not know existed until two months ago. the last 15 first ladies have had orchids designed and is named in their honor. i did not know this. and i've got to tell you, if you have never seen it, the betty ford orchid is extraordinary. earlier in this program we showed it and explained how it took seven generations of breeding to get exactly the style. and i understand from the grower who does in that he even gave
one to jill biden while she was still vice president's wife, and that is now her first -- this beautiful yellow one. but your mother's, the mother's -- your mother's orchid is absolutely the fanciest and the most beautiful of them all. but her favorite flowers? >> well, her favorite flower is a rose, and she loves pinks and pastels and corals and peal yellow concern pale yellows. when we designed the cover for her casket, the floral covering, if you go back and look at those pictures, they were all done in roses of those shades. and she picked them all out. i mean, she picked out those colors herself. it wasn't done after she was gone. so she was a pastel girl. she liked pastels. [laughter] >> well, she, and how nice that
she could make her own wishes known even after she relinquished the reins of power. but there's a special flower in her honor as well, a lily? it's called the betty ford lily. >> it's kind of a red-orange. it's very vibrant. i have several growing in my yard here in texas. -- yard here in texas. every time i move i dig them up from my yard and take them with me because other people don't appreciate them the way i do. and i'm lucky enough that mine usually bloom about mother's day. and i had put them in my daughters' yards and shared them with friends and that sort of thing, and i love my betty ford dailily. >> well, i think part of your mother's legacy and one of the reasons this program today is so appealing is that her influence and her taste is shared by so many people who also love --
even like me, black thumb, can't grow anything. to be able to appreciate and bring those essences into our own homes and our own entertaining, and and we just had a look at the alpine garden that bears her name and the wonderful, natural native born plants that grow in beautiful vail, colorado, where you and your family spent so many wonderful seasons, warm and cold. betty ford's legacy is one that kind of all of us can appreciate, i think. >> i think that's true. and my mother taught me the love of gardening when i was a young child. the boys had the job of mowing lawns with my dad, and i got the job of learning to weed flower beds and cut back her roses and do those things. so i'm sure that's where i learned the love of gardening
and, you know, flowers don't really talk back. they just show you beautiful things, and that's what i love about them. >> what a great point. if you need a friend in washington, get a bed of flowers? [laughter] >> yes, exactly. >> susan, nothing beats royalty, and your parents welcomed queen elizabeth and prince philip to the white house at the time of the american bicentennial, putting to the side all that unpleasantness about burning the white house in 1812. but that state dinner must have been a remarkable occasion. >> well, it was a beautiful evening. i don't know if you were covering the white house then, anne, but it was -- they had put a tent on the south lawn, and it was the only time we did it during our administration. and it was a white tie dinner. it was the first time e got to wear long white gloves because i wore a one-shoulder dress which
was probably one of my most favorite dresses ever. and don't know if i had a date. at least it doesn't stand out. this was a beautiful, beautiful evening. but one of the funny stories from that evening was the fact that the band, when they played the first song for the first dance and they, i think it was the marine band -- >> marine band, okay, they played the laid deand the tramp. i don't know if anybody knows this, but my mother was highly embarrassed. and i'm sure the news media covered it and, you know, criticized or whatever, but that was a lovely, lovely evening. and there is
your mother and your family with this wonderful audience of betty ford and her great insolence on all of us. susan ford bails thank you for joining us. >> thanks audrey. >> thank you and now we will hand it back to the executive director of the gerald r ford presidential foundation. >> wow, what a fine gathering of people to help us celebrate the birthday and remarkable life of the first lady betty >> ford. i'm executive director the general art for presidential