The White House’s Rose Garden has become a common backdrop for presidential press conferences and official state photographs, but it wasn’t installed until 1962. John F. Kennedy wanted to improve the White House grounds, and asked Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a close friend of the Kennedys and an avid gardener, to come up with a plan. Kennedy envisioned a “traditionally American” garden, according to the Washington Post, as a flower-filled setting for official ceremonies and for the first family to enjoy when the cameras weren’t around.
Mellon came up with the plan for the Rose Garden and worked with the White House head gardener Irwin Williams and landscape architect Perry Wheeler to see her garden come to fruition. The Kennedy family loved the garden and to properly thank her for her hard work, Jackie Kennedy knew it would require a very special thank-you present.
Sadly, tragedy struck and in the wake of her husband’s assassination, Jackie and her family had to leave the White House prematurely. Jackie never forgot Mellon’s hard work, though. According to the Post, as a Christmas gift in 1966, she presented Mellon with a handmade scrapbook she had personally created. Inside, the inscription read: “For Bunny — who made the Rose Garden — and who brought so much happiness to all our lives.”
The green-and-white striped scrapbook was a heartfelt thank you filled with memories of Mellon’s work. There were blueprints of the garden design, photos of the work in progress, Jackie’s own drawings, and dried flowers and plants from the garden were pressed into the scrapbook itself. To really make the memory book truly personal, Kennedy filled its pages with notes to Mellon, including one about how much her late husband loved the little spot of earth: “All his happiest hours in the White House were spent in his garden,” she wrote, according to the Post.
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Mellon reportedly adored the scrapbook (how could she not?) and made sure to include it in her collection of rare gardening and landscape design books and artifacts housed in the Oak Spring Garden Library in Upperville, Va., which she had specially built to house her collection. It just goes to show the power of a truly thoughtful handmade gift.