The half-acre Rose Garden has undergone several iterations since it was first introduced in 1913 by Ellen Axson Wilson, the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson, but most Americans associate it with a redesign that began in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy enlisted Rachel Lambert Mellon, a socialite and family friend, to assist Jacqueline Kennedy with revamping the garden.
Mrs. Mellon, known as Bunny, designed a large rectangular space bordered by two diamond-pattern planting beds. That design was studded with boxwood shrubs, magnolia and crab apple trees, and — of course — pale pink, yellow and white roses. Completed in 1962 over about four weeks, Mrs. Mellon’s redesign set the standard for updates since. (Nancy Reagan again consulted with Mrs. Mellon on a restoration project, citing some troublesome crab apple trees, in 1981.)
The renderings of Mrs. Trump’s project adhere closely to the design Mrs. Kennedy unveiled more than half a century ago. Since the beginning of her time in the White House, Mrs. Trump has channeled Mrs. Kennedy’s legacy as first lady, including working with the White House Historical Association, an organization Mrs. Kennedy founded in 1961.
Mr. Trump has been less subtle in his attempts to draw that comparison. “We have our own Jackie O.,” the president said on “Fox & Friends” last year, referring to the name Mrs. Kennedy took when she remarried. “It’s called Melania, Melania T.”
Mrs. Trump, who studied architecture (though she did not receive her degree) and worked as a model, has spent some of her time in the White House focusing on aesthetic upgrades. Her child-focused initiative, Be Best, has been targeted by critics who say her efforts are undermined by her husband’s behavior, though in recent weeks she has distributed food boxes and Be Best-themed items to charities around Washington.
She has updated several living areas and features of the White House grounds, including the bowling alley and the tennis pavilion. When she shared an update on construction of the tennis pavilion in March, Mrs. Trump received criticism for promoting a design project as the American death toll from the coronavirus began to rise.