Portland has many nicknames, and one we commonly hear about is “City of Roses” or “Rose City”. The climate makes it the ideal spot to grow roses outdoors. Although you can see roses scattered throughout the city, one of the best places to see them is the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL ROSE TEST GARDEN
The free rose garden is home to over 8,000 rose plants and roughly 550 different varieties. It’s one of eleven American Garden Rose Selections test sites, and the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States! The garden covers 4.5 acres of land with several tiers to explore.
New roses are sent to the garden from all over the world to be evaluated before going to market (although a lot of the roses in the garden are already sold to the public). They look at everything from disease resistance to color and fragrance.
BEST TIME TO GO
The roses bloom anytime between April and October, but the peak usually comes sometime in June. We visited a few times starting in May and the roses definitely weren’t in full bloom yet.
Since the site isn’t updated with the current bloom status, we found that the best way to see what the current bloom was by stalking the Instagram location tag. Just be sure to you look through plenty of the latest photos in case people are posting late or from previous trips.
NAVIGATING THE INTERNATIONAL ROSE TEST GARDEN
We simply strolled through the gardens looking for photo opportunities, but if you want to search for specific roses, look for the most up-to-date map listing on the premises. A couple notable areas:
- The Royal Rosarian Garden has roses that are no longer commercially sold.
- The Shakespeare Garden contains roses features in his writing and also other summer annuals, tropical plants, and year-round shrubs names after characters in his plays.
- The Minature Rose Garden is one of only eight miniature rose testing grounds for the American Rose Society and helps determine which go to market.
- The center aisle of the middle garden features the winners of the national annual American Rose Society.
If you want to get more insight of the garden, free tours are offered to the public daily at 1 PM from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. To be a part of the tour, meet at the Rose Garden store at before 12:50 PM.
PARKING & DIRECTIONS
International Rose Test Garden
400 SW Kingston Avenue
Garden hours: 7:30am-9:00pm
Paid parking is available in Washington Park but is very limited, especially when the weather is nice and during the weekends. If you do find parking, simply find a machine to pay for your parking and follow the instructions. It’s $1.60 per hour. Check explorewashingtonpark.com for real-time parking info, construction alerts, and road closures.
- You can take the MAX Light Rail to Washington Park via the blue or red lines. It is a 1.8-mile walk from the Washing Park MAX stop on the Garden Trails connection. You can also take the free shuttle to the gardens.
- There is a free Explore Washington Park shuttle that stops at all the park’s major attractions between April and October. It runs every 15 minutes from 9 AM to 7 PM between May and September and runs only on the weekends in April and October.
- You can also take the TriMet bus #63 from Providence Park to Washington Park. The bus stops near the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Garden.
MORE ROSE GARDENS AND ROSES IN PORTLAND
- Peninsula Park Rose Garden – Portland’s first public rose garden and where they first held the Rose Festival. 700 N Rosa Parks Way, 97217
- Ladd Circle Park and Rose Gardens – There are four rose gardens on the north, east, south, west end of the neighborhood. 1996 SE Ladd Ave, 97214
- Pittock Mansion – There are 100 different species of roses on the grounds. Don’t forget to look out for the Gold Struck Georgiana Pittock Rose. 3229 NW Pittock Dr, 97210
- Don’t miss the views on the east side of the grounds. You can see the city, and on clear days, get amazing views of the cascades.
- Bring a picnic and enjoy it in the amphitheater.
- Visit early morning to avoid crowds.
- All photos were taken with:
It can get really crowded, so you may have to wait around for a while if you want to get a shot alone. This is just another view of reality vs instagram. I actually had to photoshop a head out of the bushes. Can you tell?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust