Monday, April 11, 2011

The Secret Life of a White House Gardener

By Casey Calhoun, White House Assistant Gardener
From Dorothy St. James's "Flowerbed of State"

Good gracious, it's wonderful to meet you! I'm Casey Calhoun, Assistant Gardener at the White House. It took me a while to get here because I had to wait for permission from the East Wing to participate on this blog. The White House frowns on any kind of showboating or self-promotion on the part of the staff.

I agree with them on this one hundred and ten percent. The First Family's lives should remain private. Besides, I'm a team player and have never felt comfortable being the center of attention.

But I do have permission to tell you this much: the First Lady, Margaret Bradley, has tasked me with developing an organic gardening program for the gardens and lawn. The reason for her very special project is

Seth Donahue, I swear, don't you dare censor me.

As I was saying, the reason for her special project is a SECRET. (Not even Seth, the First Lady's social secretary, knows why. That Margaret Bradley would trust me with the secret and not him has Seth seething with jealousy.)

My love for gardening and for the land comes from my grandmother Faye, who also taught me how to act like a good Southern lady (although I can't say I always make her proud on that account. I have a bit of a wild streak in me.) Grandmother Faye and my aunts Abla and Willow raised me in the historic City of Charleston, South Carolina.

Oh my, the gardens in Charleston are drool-worthy! The loveliest of them all is, of course, my grandmother's. Her garden wraps around the old family estate in the South of Broad neighborhood, providing stunning colors and textures ten months out of the year.

You'd think I'd lead a quiet life, but *sigh* trouble seems to find me. I'd only been working at the White House for a few months when XXXXXXXXX

Seth, I’m warning you. The Communication's Director has approved that I write this. Go read her letter if you don’t believe me.

Where was I? Oh yes...I'd only been working at the White House for a few months when...

I stumbled across a dead body in Lafayette Square!

She'd been stuffed into a trashcan.

Now everyone at the White House is worried about what is happening. The Secret Service believe that President John Bradley might even be in danger!

If you were in my shoes, I know you wouldn't sit on your hands and hope for the best. I saw something in that park that pre-dawn morning. If I ask a few questions, I'm sure I can trigger a forgotten memory that will help the Secret Service puzzle out what is happening and why.

Easy-peasy, as my Aunt Willow would say. What harm could come from asking a few questions?


Dorothy St. James writes the White House Gardener Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Flowerbed of State will be published May 3, 2011 (NEXT MONTH!) Visit with Dorothy on the web or at Facebook.


  1. Casey, why do I think those few questions are about to land you in a heap of trouble?

  2. Hi, Casey,

    Of *course* you should ask questions! I know I would! If there's any way for me to travel from my White House to your White House, I will do so and voice my complete support. Then again, you may be better off without my involvement. There are a few folks there who would have my head.

    Good luck. I have faith in you. Can't wait to read what happens next. Less than a month left until FLOWERBED OF STATE comes out. Very excited!

  3. We're counting on you nosing around, Casey! And, looking forward to reading all about it. You go girl! But be careful.

  4. Those beautiful gardens gave me a boost this morning, Casey (dreary here with patches of snow remaining)also a bit of hope. Gardeners need imagination, tenacity, hard work and a certain strength of characters. I think you'll solve that mystery. I wonder if it's connected to XXXXX?

  5. That Seth sounds like a pest. I bet *he* knows a lot more than he's letting on!

    ~ Krista

  6. I love gardens, especially Southern Gardens! After reading your blog, I will be going out today and buying one of your books. Sounds great!

  7. Thank you, Janet and Erika. I'm glad you agree with me!

    Ollie, I would appreciate any advice that you can give on cutting through all this darn red tape. I despise paperwork.

    Mary Jane, it's hard to imagine snow on the ground. It's wonderful weather in D.C. The cherry trees have just finished blooming. Moving from Charleston to Washington, which isn't that far north, was a shock. Grandmother Faye told me that the temperature is going to climb close to 90 degrees today. It's nice to finally live somewhere where spring lasts more than a handful of days.

    Krista, Seth is a pest. He thinks everyone around him is incompetent, and he keeps trying to do their jobs as well as his. He has a bad temper to boot. The White House staff all try to avoid him.

  8. What lovely photos... I especially like the stone pathway and the little tete-a-tete arrangement of table and chairs. I love sitting out in the garden. Gives me an idea for my own backyard!

    I'm sure your 'nosing around' will go just fine.

  9. Casey, I'm leary of Seth. Keep a watchful eye. But I have to say I adore the pictures of the gardens!


  10. Thank you for stopping by, Victoria and Avery. I'm glad you enjoyed my pictures. I brought a camera to the White House the other day and snapped a bunch of pictures. I'm glad they came out!

    Jshonka, I love to visit Southern gardens to get ideas for my projects. In my hometown of Charleston, SC, there's no shortage of gardens to visit with all the plantations and historic sites. Middleton Plantation and Hampton Park in the heart of Charleston are two of my favorite places.

  11. Oh this is going to be interesting!

  12. Casey! I love your gardens and can't wait to get lost in your life!!

  13. In the words of Hill St. Blues, just be careful out there.

  14. Casey better be careful,something is always popping up in your garden.

  15. You'd be surprised what a few "simple" questions could land you in, Casey! So be careful, and I'm looking forward to reading about your project!