Beautiful flowers unfurl visual music all their own. Nancy Clarke, White House Chief Florist, has let her tremendous talent with flora and fauna sing to White House guests for the last six presidencies. Just in her early sixties after 31 years at the White House, one really important event she is looking forward to is the birth of her first grandchild. In May, she will officially retire, leaving the new First Lady and her staff to interview replacements. There are no shortage of high end DC floral designers eager to take up the challenge and try to fill the chic ceramic pots of their predecessor. (Nancy Clarke)
The Social Secretary is ultimately accountable for ensuring the mix of arrangements allows for a modern culture while honoring historic moments that blend contemporary and classical. One item noticed by the First Lady as she toured European palaces and historic residences last week were the floral arrangements and the bouquets she received. When Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II greeted President & Mrs. Obama in her private parlor, there was a simple and stunning spring arrangement of pink and white posies full to the brim on the side table beneath a master artwork. The First Family sees the little touches and warmth that floral arrangements make in the residence's formal and informal rooms. They have yet to experience the floral center pieces that burst forth augmenting the rare Monroe candelabras at State Dinners with a Head of State present. The Obamas had their first run through for a state dining occasion in February with US governors invited for the full treatment and dancing afterwards in the East Room with Earth, Wind & Fire. (Michelle Obama's first trip to the Residence are on November 10, 2008)
Chief florist is no small job as new arrangements need to daily freshen the entire White House and that includes all of the guest bathrooms as well as the Oval Office. In the background of many official White House photographs are testaments to Nancy Clarke's floral design experience from the Carters to the Obamas. The White House Christmas and Holiday decorations are spectacular. Thanks in no small ferns, due to the planning and resource management of the Chief Florist. The Florist Shop has huge needs with very little space, especially refrigeration capacity, as the displays are seen by all of the guests being entertained during high traffic times.(Bush 2007 State Dinner as selected by the First Lady)
Yes, with every new administration there is always turnover. First Lady Hillary Clinton sought a new White House Chef not long after coming to the White House. Laura Bush did not make wholesale changes to the East Wing until after her husband won a second term, then replacing the Executive Chef Hillary had selected, the talented Walter Scheib with a promotion to the current incumbent. Nancy Clarke has been there through it all and is ready to watch another do magic with the gossamer petals while paying close attention to the details of protocol and customs.