I walked by the White House a few weeks ago to look through the fence at the famous vegetable garden. Then I took a further look around and realized that all of the ornamental beds and pots on public view, on all sides of the house, were planted out in red wax begonias.

Just wax begonias combined with dusty miller.

And I thought, “seriously?”

Yes, this — just this, all around.

I know they’re tough and look neat and give reliable color and my feet were hurting from too much walking, but how dull.

The kitchen garden looked fine and huge kudos, but next year, would it not also be educational for D.C. schoolchildren to learn to spell ‘Asclepias tuberosa‘ — as they tuck them in around the fountains with maybe some native switchgrass and goldenrod* — or even the family to which it belongs, ‘Apocynaceae‘ (formerly thought to be ‘Asclepiadaceae‘), and its subfamily, ‘Asclepiadoideae.’

Or maybe just the word ‘perennial,’ which I have to let spellcheck fix every time I write it.

Why do we have wax begonias at the White House, while the British Museum currently has this?  (“North American Landscape:  Kew at the British Museum”)

* and even some scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus c-o-c-c-i-n-e-u-s), which was planted at the Old Executive Office Building and looked great. (Addendum:  I’m now thinking it could have been this.)

9 thoughts on “A-s-c-l-e-p-i-a—

    1. The Smithsonian just down the street makes very interesting gardens on a government salary. Well, it has some private support, but money is always tight there. If the W.H. could find donors for its furniture during the Kennedy Administration, why not for the garden now?

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