Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thousands Tour White House Gardens; First Lady's Kitchen Garden Is Must-See For Visitors

Guests wait in long lines to see famous vegetables...
White House visitors on Saturday and Sunday got to see First Lady Obama's Kitchen Garden up close during the annual Fall Garden Tours. While I was there on Saturday, the line to view Mrs. Obama's signature project stretched straight across the center of the South Lawn, and people were more than willing to wait. They were among the thousands of people who tromped around the South Lawn under perfectly sunny skies. A tour booklet and photo placards placed around the South Lawn identified what visitors were looking at, which included trees planted by past Presidents; the area where President Obama held his "Beer Summit" in 2009; and the Rose Garden. But Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden seemed to be the most popular stop on the self-guided tour. (Above: The line to see Mrs. Obama's signature project)

Chief Horticulturalist Jim Adams greets the crowds...
Mrs. Obama last harvested the garden on Oct. 5, and bounty was used for Thursday's State Dinner, something Chief Horticulturalist Jim Adams, on duty while I was there, was mentioning to the guests as they stood behind metal barriers and looked at the 1,500 square-foot, four-season garden. (Above: Adams on duty by the garden)

Visitors had plenty of questions. Many wanted to know what was growing directly behind Adams in the photo, above: It's Hyacinth beans, a favorite of President Thomas Jefferson, Adams said.

"They're good to eat when young, but otherwise sour," Adams said. He added that the beans are grown primarily for ornamental reasons. He also pointed out that the two beds he stood in front of are both dedicated to Jefferson, and use seeds and seedlings from Jefferson's own vegetable garden at his plantation home, Monticello, in Virginia.

Many visitors, based on over-heard comments, were surprised to see the White House beehive, which sits near the Kitchen Garden. President Obama was off campus at a golf game on Saturday, and on Sunday, for part of the day, he was at the dedication ceremony with the First Family for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Stevie Wonder was among the musical acts that performed.

The Marine Corps Band played all day at the bottom of the South Lawn during the Fall tours. Guests were allowed on the grounds at timed intervals, but then allowed to stay as long as they liked.

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