Tuesday, May 5, 2020

JARDIN: Perry Wheeler

White House Rose Garden, Bunny Mellon and Perry Wheeler

Back in the glamorous 1960s America's president was John F Kennedy.  Referencing the Bunny Mellon bio by Meryl Gordon we learned that the Kennedys were very good friends with Paul and Bunny Mellon.  When President Kennedy asked Mrs. M to do him the favor of creating a new garden off the west wing she agreed -however she had some reservations regarding her ability to take on such a massive project.  Ironic, as she learned about gardens from watching the Olmstead brothers install her fathers garden in Princeton, New Jersey...

As a stylish and rich woman Mrs. M cultivated not only gardens but also a coterie of well educated and talented gay men- including the very social Perry Wheeler a man about town landscape architect with whom she had already collaborated.

President Kennedy loved the new garden and often used it for state functions as well as his own personal enjoyment, including the challenge of managing the Cuban Missile Crisis and the subsequent threat of a nuclear war.  He was able to enjoy the garden prior to the assassination which is a small consolation for a tragic ending.

Perry Wheeler came from Cordele, Georgia, a small town south of Atlanta near where my mother was raised.  A graduate of the 1938 Harvard landscape architecture program, he later returned to Atlanta and subsequently was part of the gentrification of Georgetown in Washington, DC.  DF