April 22, 2016 1:00 PM EDT

As both the seat of American executive power and the home of the President’s family, the White House serves as a three-dimensional message that the administration sends out to the world. Sometimes the President uses the White House—the building itself, and the art and furniture it contains—to say that the United States is a world power. Sometimes he uses it to tell citizens that he’s just like them. And that message doesn’t stop at the door.

The grounds of the White House have also served to telegraph an image, perhaps most famously with the Victory Garden established by Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II, and echoed in the kitchen garden that has grown during the Obamas’ time in the executive mansion. The grounds have also been the site of fun both public and private. As these images show, the White House gardens have served a wide range of purposes over the years—and no matter the aim, they almost always look good.

All Photos from All the Presidents’ Gardens© Copyright 2016 by Marta McDowell. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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