The backlash from the public was particularly fierce regarding the removal of roses and the elimination of 10 crabapple trees planted during John F. Kennedy’s term. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief and Washington Correspondent, questioned the disappearance of the trees, while New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow described the renovations as a ‘Marie Antoinette moment’ amidst the ongoing pandemic and rising unemployment.
The rationale for Melania’s changes, such as the removal of the crabapple trees due to excessive shadowing of other flowers, was largely overlooked. Despite C-Span reporting that these trees would be replanted elsewhere on the White House grounds, a petition to restore the Rose Garden to its former state gathered over 80,000 signatures.
Melania refrained from responding to the criticism until August 2021, around the first anniversary of the renovations, when presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss branded her redesign as an ‘evisceration.’ Melania’s office, which rarely engages with such issues, decided to counter the allegations.
Melania clarified that Beschloss had used a misleading image of the garden before her chosen roses had bloomed. This defense was seemingly supported by current First Lady Jill Biden, who shared a photo of Melania’s blooming roses in May.