The green side of the White House


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Ever wonder what the president sees when he walks out his front door? Last week, 30 writers, educators, gardeners and community activists got a private tour of the White House grounds and gardens as part of a social media "Tweetup."

Although the house is open for tours Tuesdays through Saturdays, its green spaces are on display only twice a year.

First up was the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the East Colonnade, first planted in 1913 by President Wilson's wife, Edith, and today used for small gatherings and tea parties. Framed with holly hedges and boxwood, it explodes in fall with a colorful mix of orange and yellow chrysanthemums and bright-blue salvia.

Next came the 1,100-square-foot White House Kitchen Gardens (and Beehive), planted by Michelle Obama in 2009 with more than 50 varieties of fruit bushes and vegetables -- many from heirloom seed -- to promote healthy eating. The harvest, which this year totaled more than 1,000 pounds, ends up in Obama family meals and on the table at state functions. Amid the peppers, herbs and lettuce are rows of Chinese cabbage known as pac choi.

Then it was back up the South Lawn toward the White House to the Rose Garden. This colorful yet tranquil space is where the president holds press conferences and hosts dignitaries when the weather's nice. Edged in boxwood, the 125-foot-long garden is thick with shrub and tea roses and seasonal flowers. We all stopped to sniff the still-blooming red-black 'Pat Nixon' roses.

For more garden images, go to www.post-gazette.com or Twitter @gtmckay or #WHgarden.

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