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She's Vacating a Seat of Flower

White House Florist Nancy Clarke carries flowers through an underground hallway -- below the North Corridor, which links the East & West Wings of the White House -- in 1999. (Rick Bowmer/The Washington Post)

Then-First Lady Laura Bush, right, and White House florist Nancy Clarke introduce last year's White House holiday decorations on Dec. 3. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Enlarge Image

Another change in White House style: Chief florist Nancy Clarke is retiring next month after 31 years in the mansion.

"It's such a hard decision," she told us yesterday. "I've been thinking about it for a couple years." She's created bouquets for the Carters, Reagans, Clintons and both Bush administrations (she was especially close to Laura Bush) and the Obamas, but said the timing seemed right to leave -- she's expecting her first grandchild any day.

Clarke, 63, started working in the White House flower shop in 1978 as a volunteer, was hired as a floral designer, then promoted to the top job in 1985. The biggest change? Thirty years ago, the florists were limited to locally grown, seasonal blooms until they started flying in fresh flowers from around the globe. "The whole world opened up," she said.

White House social secretary Desirée Rogers called Clarke "nothing short of amazing" in creating arrangements from traditional to modern. But observers note her departure allows the Obamas to try some new things.

"Basically what we're looking at is less is more," said Robin Sutliff of Georgetown's Ultra Violet Flowers. 'There are all kinds of ideas for being more progressive."

"When I see flowers at the White House, they all seem to be these big round balls," said Allan Woods, a favorite florist of D.C. decorators. "They're very stiff and formal. The flower look could become looser and more contemporary. It would be fun to see them do more edgy arrangements. On the other hand, it is the White House."

His idea: Bring in different florists from all over the country to design for special events -- akin to chef Jamie Oliver cooking for the G-20 leaders at No. 10 Downing St. this week -- to showcase different looks.

Rogers said she did not know when the White House will name Clarke's replacement.

By The Reliable Source  |  April 2, 2009; 6:00 PM ET
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What a cool job to have. What a great job she did.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 2, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I guess this is what passes for news in Donald Graham's WashPost. And anyone wonders why revenue is down?

Posted by: hairguy01 | April 3, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

hairguy01: This is the entertainment section of the paper....lighten up! If you want important news from around the page 1.

Posted by: irishone | April 3, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

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