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tv   The Presidency Betty Ford White House Gardens  CSPAN  August 31, 2022 12:36pm-1:42pm EDT

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she became first lady on august 9th, 1974 when her husband took the oath of office following president nixon's resignation. this tribute focuses on the white house --
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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
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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 sounds to me like the early white house with something like george washington would've wanted. and executive mansion, not a palace. >> that is absolutely correct, that is 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 every president including george washington has walked upon the white house grounds >>
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tell me a little bit about what you know. you are a historian, you are not here as a gardener, you are 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 took on importance and got the money to do something about it? >> abigail adams, the first first lady to live in the white house, talking about the first ladies especially today. she described the scene to her daughter in the year 1800, in a letter to her daughter. she described the scene as a place without the least fenced yard and other convenience, she optimistically noted it was a beautiful spot capable of every improvement. jefferson moved in in 1800 as well.
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i'm sorry, 1801. he immediately got to work improving the grounds. he actually, in part, developed the first landscape planned for the white house and spent the next years of his presidency developing the grounds. >> of course, he had monticello that he was also developing. he was soembody that had european training in terms of the architecture. those physical settings were very important to him. throughout the rest of the 1800 leading up to the civil war, at that point downtown washington was still a work in progress. the washington monument was only have built and the capitol dome was not finished, as i recall. were there other first ladies who notably made an effort to bring the white house and it's a physical surroundings up-to-date? >> sure, perhaps the best
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example is mary todd lincoln. , from that time period. at that point in time the white house had a vegetable garden. a kitchen garden in today's parlance. it was approximately one acre in size, and the lincoln's, the gardeners at the white house grew most of the produce that was consumed by the lincoln's. mary todd lincoln had a special interest in the flowers, but also the kitchen garden. the 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? of course, the kitchen garden is something that was kind of
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brought back in the 2010's. whether other times? i assume they had a garden to help feed the family, through most of the late 18 hundreds. >> yes, the first fruits and vegetables were probably planted on the white house grounds during james madison's tenure. 1809 maybe on into the prior of the burning of the white house and the war of 1812. really, this took off by the tenure of john quincy adams and andrew jackson. that is when the kitchen garden really got going. what i find very interesting, i hope other people do as well. i was able to track down the receipts for fruit and vegetable seeds purchased during the lincoln administration. >> can people eat today why american presidents and first ladies eight? >> absolutely, it is good to have a list like that from any american president, it is great if you can have it from abraham lincoln. today you can still purchase
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all matters of fruits and vegetable seeds, beats, turnips, lettuce, cabbage, beats, the like of that. you can purchase those online for specialized seed growers, i believe as a treat to those attending the event in person, in picking up their boxed lunches there is going to be a type of seed that would have been grown at the white house during the 19th century. >> that is a wonderful legacy, it is in our backyard. i live in washington d. c., same house for 40 years. my husband always had a big vegetable garden. it was only during the pandemic that i started an actual flower garden, maybe i should see whether the past presidents grew peonies as i am hoping
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this year mine may come up as the first time. >> i can tell you for a fact, the wife of theodore roosevelt, you said irises and peonies? >> irises and peonies. >> she definitely had those growing in what was the progenitor of the current rose garden. it was colonial style down her time period. >> i want to get to the rose garden, but first i will start with this. the rose garden, i have been in and out of 1000 times. >> lucky you. >> lucky me, over the course of 40 years and seven presidents beginning with president gerald ford. the rose garden was always a formal office space, it was an official event space, it was not just for the dogs. everyone was just saying you can tell the president dogs have been there, but it was a beautiful setting, outdoor setting. it was used constantly, even in the cold and rainy weather. jacqueline kennedy raided the
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rose garden, was that a dramatic departure point from generations before? or, was it a process of evolution? >> it was definitely a process of evolution and a dramatic point of departure. the answer to your question's both. really, the history of that site as a garden space begins in 1903 with first lady roosevelt. she developed a garden both on the east side, where the jacqueline kennedy garden is located. what was known then and now as colonial styles gardens. boxwood hedge's, gravel walks, spaces of garden flowers. old-fashioned favorites in
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addition to irises and astors, roses as well. it was typical of the kind of thing you would see and maybe mount vernon. that lasted for a about a decade until her successor, ellen wilson completely did her current spaces in a more modern taste. ellen wilson was also a painter and she had when i would call a modern aesthetic, under her the modern rose garden things 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 and by the 1930s it was still in place. i hate to say, the garden was a little bit overgrown and not particularly well kept. i think any gardener can commiserate with that. then, during the truman renovation of the white house
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turn 1948 and 1952, and pretty much the entirety of the grounds was enveloped as a construction site. the white house was torn down to the bare walls and the studs, famous photos of a bulldozer inside of the white house, obliterated the previous iterations of the garden. then bring in jackie kennedy and jfk in 1962 with the modern rose garden. >> that is where mrs. kennedy called in bunny mellon who extensive, lovely recreation. the white house grounds and the rose garden are really formal places, very few people in the public get to visit personally. it is not a suburban backyard. you described in your book and your chat so that it has more relaxed functions. it is a private place for families but it is almost, kind of, i think you call it
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supernatural. >> yes, i think most people in the united states or anywhere around the world view the white house as this, sort of, supernatural place. to be fair, it kind of is, it is also, at its core, a home and a home office. for those of us still going through the pandemic that probably sounds pretty familiar. so, instead of just being my home office or your home office, it is the home office of the president of the united states. the white house is also known as the peoples house, that really means the white house grounds are the peoples ground. if you start to think about it that way it is not 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
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white house facing pennsylvania avenue. and a more private, less formal, backyard. that is the larger south grounds looking down towards the washington monument. that is 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. you are a historian, i am 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 is resistane to that. i think it is fair to say people have had an opinion about melania trump's recent rose garden renovation. the history of that site, the
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rose garden is a fairly historic white house grounds 1962 is not that long ago. and previous to that time there were different iterations of that garden. the idea that the grounds are sacrosanct is not really true, the president and first lady are temporary residence when they're there they are in charge. every president and every first lady has had the good sense to tread lightly, no pun intended, on the grounds. and respect the history, add to it rather than subtract from it. this definitely includes first lady trump's recent renovation. rachel lambert mellon, bunny
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mellon, specifically, even in 1989 she returned to the white house to spruce up the rose garden under the reagan administration. at that time even mrs. mellon, the original creator of the rose garden was actually advocating for the removal or some of those crab apple trees. they were the crux of criticism that mrs. trump received. this is because the roses and the other plants underneath it needed more light. the bigger the tree gets as it grows the more it is going to shade things out. mrs. mellon was even in favor of removing some of those trees. the trees that were removed last year were actually the second or third iterations of the crab apples, they were not the historic trees. >> i must confess, i do not take sides on politics but i miss the trees. especially when i was doing a new stand up in the rose garden and you had the beautiful blossoms behind you, the beautiful magnolias in the corner. the trees all around and also gave the rose garden a bit of
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seclusion. it gave it a definition. you as the historian have a phrase that i do not know how to translate into average. what does the phrase, what do you professional historians mean by a period of significance? is it the last 230 years a period of significance for the white house? >> you took the words out of my mouth. at the risk of summarizing too much for fellow historians, a period of significance is a
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fancy way of saying the important thing in history happened. a lot of historians think gettysburg national battlefield park. the place there is more or less significant because of the battle fought in 1863 during the american civil war. it is pretty easy to wrap your head around a period of significance in a place like that. in the white house it is different, on the white house grounds it is different. the entire 200 plus odd area. there are very few places in the nation that you can say that about. even more significant to me is 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 that affected me? it has to do with the beautiful jackson magnolias, which are how old now? >> if you believe the story associated with them, they were planted by andrew jackson sometime around 1828. >> they are gigantic, what we see close-up is there are huge
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metal poles going up the entire length, they are wired together because the president's marine one helicopter comes out of the downdraft, beats against them. one morning, i got a call from the abc news desk at about 1:10 in the morning and they said a plane has crashed into the white house. get there quick, i got there, turns out it was a tiny ultralight plane. 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 event the next day. he pulled up, hit the ground, and actually went straight up through and smashed and broke 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. my goodness, it scared all of us. >> absolutely.
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my hats off to you because i write about things after they happened, you are there covering it live. i can only imagine what that is like. it was during the clinton administration, and i believe the thankfully the president and first lady were not home at the time. >> which is why i was not at the white house at one clock in the morning. >> very quickly, the jackson magnolias, there are lots of trees on the white house grounds that presidents have planted for a very significant historical reasons. do you have any favorites? >> yes, president gerald ford and first lady betty ford planted an 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 200th anniversary of the nation. >> was this the era where we
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were losing so many elms? >> i believe so, yes, unfortunately. the good news is that there are some genetically resistant hybrids available now, one of which was originally discovered literally on the national mall. those are beginning to be planted at the white house now. >> and, laura bush, when they redesigned pennsylvania avenue asked there be american elms, perhaps these hybrids, planted all up and down at the address of 1600 pennsylvania avenue. some people said that was bringing about a restoration of elms, which had died off and oaks had become so predominant. but the historic importance of the presidents planting trees, that is a real legacy for the white house. >> absolutely, for many years the oldest tree with a known presidential association wasn't
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american elm, planted by john quincy adams in about 1826. >> front or back lawn? >> south one, actually on one of the large mounds. you probably remember it. it is an enormous tree, a section of it is actually on display at the white house visitors center. that was the oldest tree with a presidential association, you can see how far back that goes. currently there are 33 plantings that were either planted by a president or a first lady. they jackson magnolias are the oldest, some of their history is a little bit in doubt because they did not show up in early photographs of the white house. it is a beautiful story that they are 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
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fountain. it is one of the smaller trees on the grounds, but it punches above its weight class, particularly because it is red in the fall, and it really stands out. that was planted in 1893 by the first lady francis fulsome cleveland. >> so many of the plantings around the white house are there for security. a hotel just a block from a white house reopened after years of being closed. the secret service actually went up to the roof top restaurant, checking on the sight lines so the president would not be exposed in public. i guess that is the kind of thing we have to worry about in the 20th and 21st century. >> it is, touching on the need for security, a more recent planting was a flowering
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dogwood planted by president bill and first lady hillary clinton. in honor and in remembrance of the oklahoma city federal bombing. >> gerald and betty ford put in the swimming pool, you cannot see it from the street, i cannot see it from west executive avenue, the street that is now just a parking lot. 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. do some people consider that an eyesore or is it a charming addition? certainly something that americans first families have enjoyed since the ford era. >> i do not think i know anybody who considers it an eyesore. that is really because of what you just said, nobody can really see it until you are right up on it.
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for that matter the same goes for the white house tennis court, and a number of other spots on the white house ground. they have been very carefully installed over years to not impinge the historic heritage on the ground. really, do not interfere with views to and from the white house, the iconic shots of the exterior of the building. no, i do not think anybody would consider it an eyesore. >> do you know what first lady
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used it more than anybody else? barbara bush loved to swim, she had to be very careful to make sure when she wore her white terry cloth bathrobe down the colonnade she got by without anybody seeing. i remember old pictures of the white house showing they had a greenhouse or a conservatory. >> the greenhouses and the conservatory are both 19th century aspects of the white house and of the white house grounds. the conservatory was a private space for the president and their invited guests. it was a beautiful, exotic place. it was located on top of the west terrace. it was accessed through what was at one time president grant's billiard room. the greenhouses were exactly what it sounds like, a series of working buildings that produced camelias, ferns, orchids, there were actually two rows houses at its peak. and two rows houses show where the priority has always been for presidential flowers.
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these were not small enterprises, they cover significant acreage and they were located where the modern-day west wing is. in fact, they were removed in 1902 when roosevelt built the west wing. >> he ran out of family space inside the white house. he wanted offices without six kids underfoot. >> those of us working from home today can relate. >> the pandemic taught us all at that, didn't it? i would love to wind up on something that touches on that. i know it does not technically have to deal with the gardens 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 goats and sheep and 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
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course. >> but, dogs, and some cats, and i think some of the kids had a gerbil or two. that also shows how the white house, although it is a tribute to the glory of the united states and a centerpiece of our civic society, it is also a home. do you have any favorite pets back in the archives of presidential history? >> absolutely. putting aside the dogs and the cats for the purposes of this, i should confess that i am originally from the state of wisconsin and i'm a little biased because of that. my personal favorite presidential pet of all-time was a dairy cow named pauline
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wayne, possibly the greatest pet name in all of presidential history, also the proud pet of president taft. pauline wayne grazed on the white house grounds, as well as the grounds of the eisenhower executive office building. she was something of a local celebrity, she was interviewed by members of the press. she never really said much. it was a good time, everybody liked her very much. she was a gift from a wisconsin senator who had heard that president taft, who it is fair to say was probably the largest president, he was not a small man. >> 300 pounds or so as legend has it. >> yes, he was apparently having trouble getting enough fresh milk, and being a representative of the dairy state, he sent the president pauline wayne. the president loved her very much, he did not generally let
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pauline travel, because she needed to provide milk and she was also a pet. one of the few times she did travel, she traveled by her own personal railway car. 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, somewhere along the lines her train car was detached and was on its way to the chicago stock yards on a different train. it was caught just in the nick of time, otherwise that story would have not had a very happy ending. she came back to the white house safe and sound and then when president taft's administration ended she went back to the senator's farm in wisconsin. >> so, pauline got the retirement after four years just like the presidents do. >> absolutely. >> well, the mistake and the
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grace of the white house never goes into retirement. thank you so much for sharing the history and the depth and the information. i think a lot of us had no idea behind the legacy of the white house. thank you so much, now, just for the next few minutes, a bit of time travel. going back to the ford's hometown of grand rapids, michigan, we want you to hear someone who knows some of the ford family's earliest stories, please welcome michigan florist bing
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goei. >> the ford family enjoyed giving flowers. it is not unexpected that she would have a love for flowers, look at her last name. yes, she always enjoyed flowers. >> they direct relationship with the president and mrs. ford was not part of my story. my relationship is really with the children as we provide the floral tributes at his birthday, for mrs. ford at her birthday, other special occasions. the children and others involved were wonderful human beings, kind and compassionate. they care and it shows how they also enjoy using flowers to express their appreciation for their constituency here in west michigan. president ford loved to send mrs. ford flowers, every day flowers, not always the same thing. when there are special occasions president ford knew that one of betty ford's
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favorite was yellow roses. so that would always be part of the gift that he would provide for her. >> also, there were times in which it was a special occasion in which mrs. ford would want a corsage. her favorite corsage flower was the white orchid with the yellow throat. one of the floral arrangements that is a standing order for president and mrs. ford was sympathy flowers or someone that they knew here that they wanted to send a floral tribute. this is the standing order that you can see, here, that they would always want to send. president ford would always want to have red white and blue flowers, and so, their favorite flowers to be used where the white magnolias, red carnations,
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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. their biggest thing is they always wanted to have a big red ribbons in the center. we have also received different letters from mrs. ford, this one is a letter that was sent to frank devos. this one was sent to me personally by mrs. ford. from after they left the white house, there is a company, hauserman orchids in illonois when they found out that mrs. ford was going to be a keynote speaker at one of the allied floral conventions in colorado
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in 1982, the hauserman orchid organization wanted to also bring out the orchid that would be named after mrs. ford. and at that time what they were producing they asked if mrs. ford would allow them to name that. this is the result of that effort. in the words of the grower, elsie betty ford orchid was by far the most complex of any first lady hybrid today. it had an exceptionally long lineage conspiring seven generations of breeding, and 12 different species. to be honest with you, i think that truly reflect mrs. ford. kind, compassionate, and when she walks in a room she makes a statement. i think the orchid reflects that personality of mrs. ford. she has been such a role model for many of us. a role model for the woman, and young ladies, and this nation
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really. we are so excited and honored to have been able to continue that tradition, and to provide the flowers for the ford family. we remember president ford died and flowers were hard to get, and to receive, and we had to fly in a lot of flowers. we heard about this orchid, right? we worked very hard with the hauserman people, the problem was this orchid only blooms three times in a year. and, so, they worked very hard to find a way to force the blooming of the orchid, we were able to get one orchid. we showed it to mrs. ford, we asked her people, hey, if she is willing to receive this
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please give this to her. i think she did, we were so excited to be able to share that with her. it has been truly an honor for us, and, again. mrs. ford has been very kind to us. appreciative of the work that we have been doing on their behalf. but, flowers have played a major role in their lives. they would always send flowers for sympathy, or for any other occasions, friends, family members, things like that. >> thank you. >> you bet, thank you so much. ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> betty ford's legacy did not end when she left the white house. vail, colorado was a favorite family gathering place for all of the fords. nicola ripley is going to join us from vail, colorado. the curator or the executive director of a betty ford's final garden gift to america. the betty ford alpine garden. nicola, welcome and tell me, where is it you are sitting, what are we seeing here? >> i am sitting in the alpine house at betty ford alpine gardens, the alpine house is right next to the education center, which is at the heart of the heart of the gardens. this is a cold greenhouse where
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we have alpine plants in bloom. the gardens themselves are still under snow and so we chose the alpine house so we could bring some color to the presentation. >> wonderful, tell me, first of all, how did all of the start? >> it started when vail was in its very early days, we are 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 8200 feet what kind of plants will grow here. they decided to start a public display garden, the piece of land that the town of vail gave to them was right next to the gerald ford amphitheatre. and, the town was delighted with the garden that was put in place.
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and, invited the group that had started what was called the vail alpine garden to grow bigger and bigger, and, to develop the gardens around the amphitheater. it was at that point that the group decided to contact mrs. ford and say they would be delighted if she would be willing to give her name to the gardens. she loved the idea, that was in 1988 and she came and helped to open the gardens. and, got very involved and was involved right until she died. so, we were thrilled. >> she had so many friends in the area, i have been to vail
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with the fords. it was my first month on the job covering the white house for abc news. i packed my bags and i got to ski with the president, wave at the first lady. i got to know so many people in the village who were good friends of theirs. that special connection to a president, even one who did not live there year-round, and even after he left office and 1977. it is quite a tribute to have her hand in putting this together. are most of the gardens outside? i know you are inside, but just give us an idea of the expanse of what you have there? >> yes, it is about five acres of garden outside. it is very intensely cultivated as you can see, in here. most of the plants are very small. we do a specialize in mountain plants, and particularly alpine plants. those are plants that grow above treeline in nature. it is a series of winding pathways, water features,
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bridges, it is the beautiful place, right now it is under snow, that is one of the interesting things people say, how can you grow so many beautiful plants with so much snow? but, it is because of the snow that blankets and keeps the plants protected that allows us to grow these amazing plants here. >> the gardens are not going to have insulating effects during the harsh winters, especially living as far north as michigan or illinois where i grew up. we also do not necessarily have
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the water supply, is that a key factor, especially for the outdoor plantings? >> we certainly have irrigation here, most of the plants that we grow in these gardens are either alpine plants, which are adapted, already too harsh winds, low water, or their native plants and native to colorado. and, colorado, naturally is an arid state. native plants do not require a lot of additional water. >> talk a little bit about the plants inside the atrium where you are, the alpine house where you are sitting. these are ones that you care for during the winter months, but they get plenty of sun and except the shortening hours of sunlight. what do you have to do for the plants inside, and second question, is most of this native to colorado or native to the united states? are there alpine imports? >> well, the first part of that question is certainly that most of the plants are in here and different parts of the world.
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the ones that we grow here require a little bit extra care and attention. we have particularly plants called dioneysius which come from the mountains of iraq and iran. they are very temperamental. they grow in alpine conditions, but they do not like overhead water, and so we have them here in very specialized conditions. these are mostly alpine plants all over the world. the rock that they are growing and is a -- rock. it is like a limestone that is deposited, and it is a real favorite for growing alpine plants because the plants grow directly into the rocks.
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the rocks help drain water away from the roots, so that it provides perfect conditions for alpine plants. >> that is fascinating, i had not really thought about the rock element of so many of these plants. they're used to this kind of environment. do these rocks come from colorado? or are they the kind of things that you can import as well? >> this rock is quite hard to find because it is such a specialized rock. this rock came from south dakota. so not too far away, and the other thing to remember about this alpine house is that unlike many botanical gardens that have conservatories, this we spend all of our time trying to keep cool. we want plans to go dormant in the wintertime, it's so even when the conditions are very
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cold outside, with the windows open, we encourage them to take the sleep that they need, and then when the days get long and they get more sunlight than they bounce back into bloom. that is what you are seeing right now. >> and what about bugs? pests? and we have very few bugs in past here. as the climate is changing, things are creeping closer, but the conditions here are generally very harsh. a lot of the things that are problematic in other parts of the country, do not 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 and many of them maybe skiers or visitors in the summer. but how remarkable this collection of plants is for
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people from all corners of the world. >> we certainly had that in mind when we were trying to decide what plants we should grow here. many gardens only grow plants from the region that they are in in the country. we made the decision that we were a very international ski destination. and like you were saying, many others came from all over the world. we made a decision, and we certainly felt the pride of our collection is the colorado alpine collection. but we have things from all over the world. the most asked for plants are the adlevice from the european alps in the deep blue tension. and we also grow a himalayan
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blue poppy, which is not a very easy plan to grow and those are the highlights and this garden. columbine's as well, from colorado. but the international plants causel a stir. >> i imagine it is a learning curve when you are bringing plants from european heights. what have you learned about these plants by putting them in this controlled environment that they are heartier, or more delicate than you expected? have you been surprised by anything that these plans have taught you. >> i would say that they are unbelievably hearty. one of the best things about vail, colorado, we are able to put these mostly out in natural conditions. we plant them in native soil, which is very hard, and it is
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not what your commen garden plants need. but it is what the alpine plants need. they thrive on a very lean, rocky soil. the harder the better really, for most of the alpine plants. in england, where i am from, we have to spend a lot of time protecting our plans, because they get too much rain, they are grown and little closures to help prevent the rain coming down on the plants. but here, we put them out there and they thrive in the environment. and we have to do very little fertilizing and so they make life easy for us in many ways. >> so many gardeners would love to have a garden that makes their life easy. nicola, you get to see so many of the guests and tourists that come through. did you get to host the forwards at the alpine garden? >> yes, many times. they used to come on announced
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most of the time. and they used to come at times when we were not expecting them. that was a real treat. and i remember one particular afternoon, the gardens were very quiet, i had my daughter in her stroller, she was just a little baby, and she was parked by one of the benches in the shade, and i heard a voice calling over to me, did they mind if they moved the stroller? they want to sit at the bench. and i looked over and it was president and mrs. ford. of course, i rushed over and said of course, no problem. by that time, mrs. ford was already playing with katie and her little baby stroller and she said, you know, if you have some errands to run them do not
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mind us we will watch the baby for you while you do your chores. i laugh and tell my daughter that her first babysitter was a president. >> that is a wonderful and very warm, very typical of the ford, 's story about how gracious they were to everyone. nicola, thank you. >> thank you for having me. ♪ ♪ ♪
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for anyone who loves flowers, could there be a more dreamy setting for them then white house itself? betty ford moved in and with her was her daughter susan ford whales, who joins us. susan, welcome from your home in texas. i've covered susan as a reporter since she was 16 years old. those times when you move into the white house, flowers were everywhere. >> my mother loved flowers. she was happy to have fresh flowers in her house, and i like to have fresh flowers in my house here. >> absolutely. and at the white house there is an elaborate hierarchy. there is a full-time florist on the staff.
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i have seen the cart going around 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? >> there is not a greenhouse on the property, and if there is a greenhouse somewhere else, i never got to see it. she loved the fresh flowers, and the white house did beautiful fresh flowers. you have to remember that when we moved in, it was a tumultuous time. i don't think mother got involved in the flowers as quickly as she would have -- that would have been something she would have chosen to do. she had a state dinner within six days of us moving in there. so she had other things keeping her busy. but she loved the floral shop. she would pick the colors, that sort of thing. she has favored flowers, there's no question. >> and we will get to the
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favorite flowers. i want to ask you about the ideas that the white house is a world stage for american design, and your mother could use those state dinners for flowers and statuary's. do you remember that first state dinner. i do not think i was at that one. i was at the one for the shaw of iran. >> i do not think i went to the first one either, because i think we were still living in alexandria, virginia. but the one that stands out to me the most is the one that was done for president sadat. he was a big fan of western art. mother had remington's and other western sculptures as the center pieces. some tables had flowers, some had sculptures, but they did that with other heads of states. she found what they were interested in, and what kind of
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art they were interested in. from there they would choose sculptures to be in the center pieces, and i mean, the social office did an amazing job of coordinating tablecloths with sculptures and flowers and that sort of thing, the china, choosing which china, and my mother made the difference and they went away from long tables to round tables because she felt they were much easier for people to have conversations at. >> susan, you are so right about that and in this white house state dining room there is room with round tables for about 130 guests. those are the years when i first started covering the white house, and i think that was a larger seeding than some of the larger state dinners. the idea that all of the flowers come together to go back to the sadat dinner, not only was it a tumultuous time
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for the united states, and the change of administration in the united states, but it was on the cusp of movement in the middle east a year or two later came the camp david accords. president sadat was a very important player in this with egypt moving would be extraordinary. 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. that was really a classic departure, one that most first ladies never followed through with either. i remember one state dinner, it was for an austrian president or premier, and there were crystal sculptures in the middle. i know that the staff does a lot, but your mother really brought the style and the
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taste. frankly, a level of elegances that was classically hers. >> it really was, anne, and i think her dance background played so much into her life and being so artistic in that sense. she was great with clothes, because before she married my dad, she was a model and a fashion person. putting things together like this was natural to her. somehow, i did not get all of that, but she was very good at it and i admired her taste. >> well, i covered her, including when you when i were climbing the great wall of china together while your mom and dad were waiting for chairman mao to call so that they could go over in beijing for the classic major visit.
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but your mom always did bring a sense of elegances. and the family quarters, she was able to make that comfortable for you, and you were living at home and your brothers were not, was that right? >> yes, i was the only one living at home full-time right then, and we brought some of our furnishings from alexandria and they had their chairs, and that sort of thing, and they brought their bed from alexandria. they liked that bed. you can make that house your own, shall i 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 named in their honor. i did not know this. i have to tell you, if you've never seen it, the betty ford orchid is extraordinary.
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bing goie, earlier in this program, he showed and explained how it took seven generations of breeding to get exactly the style. i understand, from the grower who does this that he even gave one to jill biden well she was -- but your mother, your mother's orchid is absolutely the fanciest and the most beautiful of them all. but her favorite flowers? >> her favorite flower is a rose. she loved pinks, pastels, corals, and pale yellows. and when we designed the cover for her casket, before covering, if you go back and look at those pictures, they were all done in roses of those shades.
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she picked them all out. she picked out those colors herself. and so, she was a pastel girl, she liked pastels. >> and how nice that she could make her own wishes known even after she relinquished the reigns of power. but there is a special flower in her honor as well. >> it is called the betty ford lily. it is a red orange and it is very vibrant. i have several here in texas. every time i move, i dig them up from the yard and take them with me every time i move because other people don't appreciate them the way i do.
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i'm lucky enough because mine blooms around mother's day. i have put them in my daughters -- share them with friends, that sort of thing, and i love my betty ford lily. it's part of your mother's legacy, and part of the reason why the program today so appealing. her influence and her taste is shared by so many people who also love -- even like me, black foam, cannot grow anything, but to be able to appreciate and bringing those absences into our own homes, our own entertaining, we just had a look at the alpine garden, and the wonderful native born plants that grow and beautiful colorado where you in your family spent so many wonderful seasons, warm and cold. betty ford's legacy is one that all of us can appreciate, i think. >> i think that's true. my mother taught me to love gardening when i was a young child. the boys had the job of mowing
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lawns with my dad. and i had the job of making flowerbeds and cutting back roses and doing those things. i am sure that is where i learned the love of gardening, and flowers do not talk back. they just show you beautiful things. that is what i love about them. >> what a great point. if you need a friend in washington, get a bed of flowers. >> 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 of that unpleasantness about burning for white house in 1812. that state dinner must have been a remarkable occasion. >> it was a beautiful evening. i don't know if you were covering the white house than an, but they had put a tent on the south lawn.
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it was the only time that we did it during our administration. it was a white tie dinner. it was the first time i got to wear long white gloves because i wore a one shoulder dress that was probably one of my most favorite addresses ever. i don't know if i had a date. it was a beautiful evening. 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 i think it was the marine band they played the lady is a tramp. my dad was dancing with queen elizabeth and they played the lady is a tramp and i don't know if anybody else knows, my mother did of course, she was highly embarrassed, and i'm sure the news media covered it
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and criticized it for whatever. but it was a loving the evening. there is a picture of mother dancing with prince philip, the energy between the two of them was just wonderful. >> and he is sadly missed now. how nice to have that memory at this point. and yes you are right, anytime royalty arrives at the right house it is always white tie. >> susan, thank you for being, here inferred representing your mother and your family with this wonderful audience that is here to celebrate betty ford's great mastery and great influence on all of us. susan ford bails, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, and now we will hand it back to the gleeves whitney, executive director of the gerald our four presidential foundation. >> wow, what a fine gathering of people to help us celebrate the birthday in a remarkable
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life a first lady betty ford. i'm gleaves whitney, executive director of the ford presidential foundation and on behalf of the foundation i want to express our appreciation to susan ford bails, and compton -- jonathan plus gamma, and nicola -- for their insights and stories.
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ladies and gentlemen the first lady of the united states accompanied by postmaster general lewis dejoy, mr. fred ryan and mrs. ann peterson. ladies and gentlemen, the first lady of the united states accompanied by the postmaster


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