Fresh flowers and fruit decorate the White House for the holidays

Wednesday, November 30th 2005, 11:48 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The White House is experimenting with a nontraditional Christmas tree decoration this year _ laboratory test tubes.

As part of the ``All Things Bright and Beautiful'' theme selected for the 2005 holiday season, first lady Laura Bush came up with the idea of decorating Christmas trees with fresh flowers.

That left White House Chief Florist Nancy Clarke with the problem of keeping all those roses, lilies and azaleas properly hydrated.

``One of my suggestions was that we take a test tube, a regular test tube from any kind of lab and wrap it with wire,'' Clarke said. ``We could fill it up with water and actually make a Christmas ornament and still give our flowers a water source.''

It worked, and on Wednesday, when Bush presented 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue's holiday decorations, flower-bedecked Christmas trees stood in the State Floor rooms.

The centerpiece, Bush said, is the official White House Christmas tree, a 18 1/2-foot Fraser fir adorned white lilies, crystal ornaments and white Christmas lights. The tree is so tall the Blue Room's chandelier had to be removed.

``I think it is one of the most beautiful Christmas trees I've ever seen,'' Bush said.

Wearing a Carolina Herrera two-piece suit _ what she called ``her new red suit'' _ she also presented simple one-color bouquets of tulips that grazed mantels, and boxwood garlands with gold trim that adorned mirrors. Wreaths with gold-trimmed lime sashes hung in windows and fresh tangerines or pears played prominent roles in table centerpieces.

Bush said they deliberately took a simpler approach to the decorations, holiday cuisine and the official Christmas card to highlight the elegance of the official residence.

``We used natural and real flowers, fruits and garlands to show how beautiful nature is,'' she said.

The natural theme could be seen in the holiday food choices as well. Samples of the cuisine to be served at upcoming parties included cheese from Vermont and Minnesota, Virginia ham and traditional fruit cake and apple cobbler.

Straying from the simplicity, however, was an enormous and elaborate gingerbread White House, made by White House pastry chef Thaddeus DeBois.