Big-name departures are a fact of life for US Presidents as their influence wanes in the second term, but few White House exits in recent memory have caused as much intrigue as the departure of the Obama Administration's chief florist.
Dubbed the War of the Roses by the US media, the departure of Laura Dowling became public only six weeks after she was "escorted from the building", according to one unnamed source quoted by a Washington Post gossip column, provoking speculation of a rift with Michelle Obama, the First Lady.
Officially, all is well, with the East Wing office of Michelle Obama issuing a statement thanking Dowling for the "lively and colourful" floral arrangements that have adorned state dinners and White House side tables since she was appointed in 2009.
"No two arrangements were ever the same and each one left guests with a lasting impression of the elegance and history of the People's House. We are grateful for her contribution over the years and wish her well," it said.
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However, East Wing watchers noted Dowling's belated send-off was not signed by Michelle Obama and was distinctly tepid compared with the tributes paid to other departing White House retainers such as Sam Kass, the Obamas' personal chef, who left in December.
In a statement issued through her lawyers, Dowling denied being "escorted from the building".
She said she had resigned to explore "exciting new opportunities" and would soon launch a new design consultancy.
"I don't think she was fired," a friend said, suggesting that long hours and a desire to capitalise commercially on such a high-profile position explained the decision to leave.
Still, the whispers have continued with some local designers speculating to the Washington Post that Dowling's taste for ebullient, overflowing displays in the French style had clashed with Michelle Obama's desire for a cleaner, more modern aesthetic.
They pointed to a recent refurbishment of the Family Dining room of the White House by Michelle Obama. It included abstract paintings and a modern carpet as evidence that Dowling's traditional "fussy style" was no longer wanted.