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Extension Answers: Virginia farm helps renovate White House Rose Garden

Extension Answers: Virginia farm helps renovate White House Rose Garden

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Rose Garden overview

Bird’s-eye view of the renovated White House Rose Garden with NewGen Independence® boxwood parterre hedges and ‘Green Beauty’ boxwood ‘cloud effect’ podium plantings.

What does every 60-year-old farmer have in common? No matter where they live, no matter what they grow, every 60-year-old farmer was an 11-year-old child at some point in their lives. To one 11-year-old, 4-H made all the difference in his life and the lives of their children.

In 1947, Paul Saunders was 11. He lived on a subsistence farm owned by his father and uncle in Nelson County. Paul was interested in trying a new 4-H project, something different than the livestock and crops they already grew on the family farm.

His “4-H Teacher,” according to Paul, was a Mr. Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead came out to see young Paul and after some research and examination, sold Paul on the idea of branching out into growing boxwoods as a 4-H Project.

Fast forward 73 years and Paul and his sons are contributing boxwoods from their farm to rejuvenate the White House Rose Garden. It is actually Paul’s second time planning and planting at the White House. His boxwoods were part of the last replanting of the Rose Garden in 1962!

Andrea and I are proud to be part of Paul’s extended family. His son Robert is married to Andrea’s sister Pat so we are especially proud of their accomplishments. The official press release was sent to us by Robert. It reads:

Saunders Brothers Inc. and NewGen Boxwood, introduced by Saunders Genetics, LLC, were instrumental in the renovation of the White House Rose Garden, unveiled to the public by First Lady Melania Trump on Saturday, Aug. 22. The iconic space had changed very little since 1962 and a major overhaul was long overdue to protect and maintain the garden for future generations. In June, the Saunders were invited to the White House to consult with landscape architecture firms Perry Guillot Inc. and Oehme, van Sweden and Associates on options for boxwood cultivars. This collaboration was the first step in a process that culminated in the selection and installation of over 400 Saunders Brothers boxwood, including 350 NewGen Independence from the NewGen Boxwood collection.

“The most renowned garden in America was in trouble,” said Bennett Saunders, general manager of Saunders Genetics and co-owner of Saunders Brothers, the parent company of Saunders Genetics. “I had seen the problems from TV news coverage in the Rose Garden. An intensive garden like this needs to be renewed every 20 to 25 years. The boxwood were suffering from insect and disease damage. On top of that, they were in danger of attracting Boxwood Blight, an invasive fungal disease that entered the United States in 2011.”

Saunders Brothers advised the project committee in the selection of better Boxwood Blight resistant

NewGen Independence for the formal parterre hedges. Identifying Boxwood Blight resistant cultivars for the update was specifically a part of the master planning. Saunders Brothers also supplied more than 50 large ‘Green Beauty’ boxwoods to create the pairs of groupings of specimen shrubs that frame the sides of the President’s step landing outside the Oval Office. In July, assisted by the Saunders team, landscape architect Perry Guillot personally selected all the specimen shrubs from the Saunders Brothers farm fields.

The Saunders family’s integral connection to the Rose Garden spans two generations. In 1962, Paul

Saunders supplied 1,500 boxwoods for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s historic Rose Garden initiative. Paul and his sons Tom, Bennett, Jim, and Robert now manage Saunders Brothers Inc. and have continued to supply boxwood and consult with the White House throughout the years, highlighted by the extensive renovation this summer.

“The Rose Garden is an American treasure that has been spectacularly restored to a classic design similar to the original design of 1962,” said Robert Saunders, general manager of Saunders Brothers. “It is an honor for our company to continue a 58-year tradition of assistance to the White House Rose Garden.”

Saunders Brothers Inc. celebrates over 100 years in business, beginning as a partnership between five brothers in 1915. The nursery has been a leading grower of boxwood for 70+ years. Today, third generation brothers, Tom, Bennett, Jim, and Robert, with their dad, Paul, operate the wholesale nursery, orchard, and farm market. The wholesale nursery operation now consists of approximately 100 acres of container production and 150 acres of field boxwood production, shipping over 1,000 products to garden centers, landscapers, and re-wholesalers throughout the mid-Atlantic region. A 175-acre orchard provides fresh fruit for the on-site farm market as well as other wholesale and retail markets.

Saunders Genetics, LLC, was formed out of research and development by the Saunders family to understand and find solutions to the challenges of boxwood, including blight, disease, and pests, to usher in a new era of boxwood performance and choice.

 NewGen® Boxwood is the marketplace brand identity for Saunders Genetics’ two 2020 introductions, NewGen Independence® and NewGen Freedom®. NewGen® Boxwood is characterized by better disease and pest resistance and superior garden performance and beauty.

Congratulations to our brother-in-law Robert and his family. They have worked very hard and very smartly to be in position to contribute to the beauty of our nation’s landscapes.

Upcoming Events

Oct. 14--Smyth County 4th Grade Ag Field Day. (Plans are to go virtual this year.).

Oct. 15--Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 8 a.m. until noon (limit of 10 attendees).

Oct. 16--Deadline to Consign Calves to the Nov. 11 VQA Sale.

Oct. 22--Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 5-9 p.m. (limit of 10 attendees).

Oct. 29--Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 8 a.m. until noon (limit of 10 attendees).

Oct. 30--Deadline to Consign Calves to the Dec. 2 VQA Sale.

Nov. 5--Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 5-9 p.m. (limit of 10 attendees).

Nov. 11--VQA Calf Sale, Tri State Livestock Market, 7 p.m.

Nov. 12-- Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 8 a.m. until noon (limit of 10 attendees).

Nov. 16--VQA Steer Take Up.

Nov. 18--VQA Heifer Take Up.

Nov. 19--Pesticide Recertification, Smyth County Office, 5-9 p.m. (limit of 10 attendees).

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in these activities, call Andy Overbay or Pam Testerman at 276-783-5175/TDD 800-828-1120 from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.

Dr. Andy Overbay is Smyth County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

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