Roses in the City: International Rose Test Garden (Portland, OR)

Given that I’m not a nature person, I sure went to a lot of gardens in 2011 when I visited Portland, Oregon. Portland is a very tiny city and they’re very into the outdoors, so I guess it’s fitting. The first garden I went to was the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. It’s the oldest operating rose test garden in the United States and it’s what gives Portland the nick name of “City of Roses.”

What is a “rose test garden”? It’s a garden where different varieties of roses from all over the world are sent to be planted “and are evaluated on several characteristics, including disease resistance, bloom form, color and fragrance,” per the Wikipedia page. There’s an amphitheater in the International Rose Test Garden as well as several works of art. The best time of the year to visit is June, but you’ll be in for some sweet blooms if you visit anytime from April through October.

There are four different collections within the garden: the Shakespeare Garden, Gold Medal Garden, Royal Rosarian Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. The Shakespeare Garden features blooms that are mentioned in his plays and poems; the Gold Medal Garden features blooms that are award-winning (and there’s a gazebo, so this spot is popular for weddings!); the Royal Rosarian Garden features blooms that honor the Prime Ministers of the Royal Rosarians (a civic group that is comprised of the official greeters to the city of Portland); and the Miniature Rose Garden are grounds to test out what miniature roses will go to market.

The Shakespeare Garden was obviously my favorite, simply because of it’s name – because let’s be real, most roses look the same to me – and my love for the Bard.


Best of all: it’s FREE to visit these gardens! Visiting hours are from 7:30am to 9pm and there are free tours, too. If this sounds like your kinda thing, you can find out more information here to plan while you’re visiting Portland. And now here are some photos of some pretty roses:

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