My First Ladies: Twenty-Five Years As the White House Chief Floral Designer
In this book Nancy Clarke reveals the touching, funny, and illuminating story of what it was like to serve under six administrations and to help each first lady find her own personal style when it came to planning flower designs, state dinners, and holiday festivities in the White House. Readers learn how Nancy gave comfort to Nancy Reagan when she discovered she had cancer and how she helped Laura Bush to gain the confidence to select bright, bold flower arrangements over the more conservative palettes she had used in her first years as first lady. See the deep bond that developed between Nancy Clarke and Barbara Bush and feel what it was like to be standing in a bunker right next to President Bush in the days following 9/11. Only Nancy Clarke can reveal the inside story of what it was like to work for more than 30 years in the White House she called her second home.
china she ordered, she joked about a new charity organization she was starting: The Nancy Reagan Home for Wayward China. Even when she was dealing with intensely personal difficulties, Mrs. Reagan employed her sense of humor. After President Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer, I know she was deeply worried about him, but I think occasional moments of levity helped her cope. For example, immediately following the president’s surgery, the White House was inundated with gifts of flowers. I
file in case anything opens up,” but before he had a chance to hang up, I told him that I’d attended Hixson’s School of Floral Design. He paused for a moment, realizing that I might legitimately be helpful. “I see,” he said. “Would it be possible for you to come in for an interview next week?” Little did I know at the time that this one phone call would lead to thirty-one years at the White House — with almost twenty-five of them as chief floral designer — and to relationships with six first
what she meant, because Laura Bush was so reserved and even standoffish at first, with a more subdued personality than any other first lady I’ve worked for. But over time, as we got to know each other better, we developed a strong, if quiet, bond, especially during our planning for Christmases and her daughter Jenna’s wedding. And after she’d been in the White House for several years, we reached the point where we knew what the other was thinking before either of us said a word. Getting
the ranch after checking into our motel, we went to the original farmhouse, where a refrigerator tractor-trailer sat at the end of the driveway. Members of the military and workers from Homestead Heritage (which Mrs. Bush referred to as “the Community”), a local organization whose constituents the Bushes hired to help them at the ranch, had already unloaded all the flowers into the refrigerator truck. I climbed into the truck to be sure the flowers had made the trip in good shape. Everything was
schedule, all the while keeping up with the everyday flowers in dozens of White House rooms. I remember stretches of three or four weeks (sometimes six, when the Clintons were the first family) when we had an event every day — dinners, concerts, luncheons, press conferences, and more — and I didn’t get a single day off. Sometimes we also had to supply flowers for Air Force One and Camp David, too. The key to keeping up with everything without getting stressed was being extremely, meticulously