Best Local Guide To The Portland Rose Garden

As an native Oregonian I’ve been delighted by the stunning Portland International Rose Garden. The flower-laden Portland Rose Garden is the crown jewel of the City Of Roses and one of the best Portland parks to visit.

Filled with thousands of gorgeous roses, this test garden is a must see for tourists and locals alike. Consider us your local guide as we learn about the history, testing ground, and logistics of visiting these historically rich rose beds.

Let’s explore the beautiful Portland Rose Garden today and answer all your questions as a visitor.

yellow David Austin rose at the Portland International Rose Test Garden
photographs copyright @Green Garden Cottage. Please do not reuse without permission.

About

The Portland International Rose Test Garden is found in Northwest Portland.

The gardens offer sprawling paths overflowing with thriving rose bushes which peer down at the city from the top of Nob Hill.

At over 100 years old the Portland Rose Garden is the oldest public rose test garden in the United States. There are over 650 different rose varieties and testing spans hybrid roses to disease resistance.

garden path with sprawling pink and red roses at the Portland Rose Garden

The gardens are maintained by several hired professionals and the Portland Rose Society, a group of volunteers.

The Portland Rose Garden features sprawling paths, rose plants of many varieties, a gift shop, amphitheater and picnic tables. Expansive views from the rose gardens showcase the aptly named Rose City and Mt. Hood.

New rose varieties are still being tested today. Rose cultivars are sent from all over the world and are evaluated for their bloom formation, color and disease resistance.

The best time to visit the International Rose Garden is April through October (this fluctuates based on local weather).

The International Rose Test Garden is a jewel among many sight seeing destinations near the city of Portland. Filled with vibrant color and fragrance, the rose garden will delight your senses and inspire your soul.

Let’s travel down the brick walkway, stop to smell the roses and explore some of the Portland rose garden history together….

History

The Portland International Rose Garden has a fascinating history.

In 1915 the globe was besieged with the horrors of a cross continental world war. Rose lovers were concerned that the unique and valuable hybrid roses grown in Europe would be destroyed by bombs.

With 20 miles of rose lined streets, the city of Portland had already shown itself dedicated to roses. The City Of Roses certainly embraces vibrant rose jewels that flourish everywhere.

pink rose at the Portland International Rose Test Garden

Jesse A. Currey was the president of Portland’s Rose Society at the time. He championed for a rose test garden to be added to the city as a safe haven for different varieties of hybrid roses.

He convinced city officials and the idea for a safe haven rose garden took root.

By early 1918 roses had begun to arrive from other countries. The gardens were originally very small: just a city block in size, not yet a formal garden.

By 1921 the International Rose Test Garden and the amphitheater had been designed by the city’s landscape architect and the gardens were dedicated in June 1924. Jesse Currey was the garden’s first rose curator, filling this role until his death in 1924.

pink and red roses at the Portland International Rose Garden

Purpose

Historically the primary purpose of the garden was to protect and cultivate rose varieties that were endangered during World War I.

Today, the gardens fulfill many roles:

  • The Portland Rose garden receives hundreds of roses donated yearly. It is one of just eleven American Garden Rose Selections test sites located in the United States
  • New varieties of roses are studied, tested and evaluated for two years to determine their quality for commercial use
  • Sprawling, well maintained gardens attract over 700,000 visitors yearly
  • A free daily tour is available for those who’d like to learn more about the roses and history of the garden
  • A miniature rose garden was added on in 1975 and helps to determine which mini roses will go into commercial sale
  • The amphitheater features many yearly events, classical music being one of the main themes
steps leading through garden paths with rose bushes in the background at the Portland Rose Garden.

The Gardens

You can find four primary rose gardens (and the miniature rose garden):

The AGRS Garden:

The American Garden Rose Selection sprawls over two terraced sections of the park. The roses are evaluated and judged for two years based on a variety of criteria including aroma, flower formation, and disease resistance.

The Gold Award Garden:

The Gold Award Garden features the best new roses from the AGRS garden. A wall honors past Portland Rose Society presidents.

The Royal Rosarian Garden:

This garden features roses that honor prime ministers of the Royal Rosarians. The Royal Rosarians are a group of civic volunteers who serve as the official greeters and goodwill ambassadors of Portland (often featured in the popular Rose Festival parades).

The Miniature Rose Garden:

The Miniature Rose Garden is a miniature rose testing garden for the American Rose Society.

The Shakespeare Garden:

Donated by the Shakespeare society in 1943, this portion of the garden features a variety of annuals, shrubs and roses that are named after the characters in Shakespeare’s plays.

orangeish yellow David Austin Rose at the Portland International Test Gardens

Garden Tours

Garden tours are hosted by volunteers and are available daily at 1 p.m. and last about one hour. Tour groups of 11 or more are available at a nominal fee.

Kinds Of Roses

The Portland Rose Garden features over 10,000 roses. The rose varieties range from miniature, shrub roses, climbing, tree, David Austin roses (our favorite), Grandiflora and Hybrid Teas.

Did You Know? The Rose Gardens feature one of just five testing sights in the United States for the popular David Austin Roses. No pesticides or chemicals are used on the roses.

Parking

Parking is in short supply at the Rose Garden. Spots are available on SW Kingsington Ave and SW Rose Garden Way.

A free shuttle is available through the Explore Washington Parks Shuttle. You can also try parking below Washington Park and walking to the rose gardens.

When Is The Portland Rose Garden Open?

The rose garden is open daily from 5 am until 10 pm. (See their website for more information here).

The Best Time To Visit

Make sure to time your visit when the roses are actually in bloom: from late April until early October. Roses bloom through the entire summer, and late May, June and early July are peak season times to visit.

June through early July should be mild in temperature and the rose bushes in peak bloom. On a clear day stunning views of the Willamette River and downtown Portland can be enjoyed.

pink and red roses climb the tennis court fence at the Portland rose garden.

Tips From A Local Oregonian

Here are a few tips from a local photographer on visiting these award-winning roses:

  • Bring a water bottle and sunscreen, just in case you are lucky to get a rare sunny day
  • Layered clothing are a must have in Portland: bring a light jacket that can wrap around your waist if it warms up
  • Sneakers are a great idea when exploring the hilly rose gardens
  • Overcast clouds are perfect for photographing the roses. Take advantage of the ample ambient light
  • On sunny days, place the sunlight behind your rose flower and overexpose your photos just a tad
  • Respect the rules and don’t pick the flowers, leave them for others to enjoy!
  • Help the volunteers out by cleaning up after yourself
white rose shrub bush at the Portland Rose Gardens.

Sightseeing Near The Portland Rose Garden

Nestled in Washington Park, the Portland Rose Garden has many nearby attractions.

After enjoying the sights and smells of hundreds of individual rose bushes head to some of these other nearby Portland sight seeing destinations:

The Pittock Mansion

Hoyt Arboretum

World Forestry Center

The Oregon Zoo

Japanese Gardens

Peninsula Park

a park bench in washington park near the portland rose garden

Read our inspirational flower quotes here!

Portland Rose Garden Weddings

You can celebrate your love affair with a backdrop of romantic rose blooms with a wedding hosted at the Portland International Rose Garden.

The International Rose garden offers an intimate and romantic venue for weddings of small size.

The Shakespeare Garden, Secret Garden and Gold Medal Gardens are available with limited seating capacities. This gorgeous rose filled wedding photographed by Deyla Huss showcases the beauty of a summer wedding in full bloom.

The best months to get married at the International Portland Rose Garden are July, August or early September. The majority of roses will be in full bloom at this time and the chance of a clear day higher.

To find out more information about fees and policies regarding booking the Rose Garden visit Portland’s wedding venue information here.

a pink climbing rose bush on a lampstand at the portland rose gardens.

Other Rose Gardens In Portland

The city of Portland boasts miles or rose-bordered streets. Their vibrant colors and sweet fragrance fill the sunny days of a Portland summer with so much beauty.

Aside from enjoying the bountiful rose blooms within the city, be sure to enjoy Ladd’s Addition located in SE Portland. This gorgeous garden features azaleas, camellias, and 3,000 roses.

And take a trek to the Peninsula Park Rose Garden in North Portland, which features a traditional French garden design and a fountain in the center of the park. Dating to 1913, Peninsula Park Rose Garden is the oldest rose garden in Portland.

FAQ

Is the Portland Rose Garden Free?

Yes, the Portland Rose Garden has free admission. The park is open daily and free public tours are available.

Do You Need Tickets For The Portland Rose Garden?

No, you do not need tickets for the Rose Garden. Admission is free, but be weary of limited parking, especially on the weekend and busy holidays like Memorial Day weekend.

How Big Is The Portland International Rose Garden?

The Portland International Rose Garden is 6.9 acres of tiered rose gardens. Located on Kingston avenue, the park overlooks downtown Portland. Views of the Cascade mountain range can be seen on clear days, featuring the prominent Mount Hood.

When Should I Visit The Portland Rose Garden?

The best months to visit the rose garden is May-September. Go in the early morning before the crowds arrive!

Should I Visit The Rose Garden In October? (Or November, December, January?)

You can visit the Portland Rose Garden in October and in the winter months, however the roses will not be in bloom. The park is surrounded by evergreen trees and shrubs and is still a lovely place to visit, just keep in mind there are no blooms.

Conclusion

Portland’s International Rose Test Garden is a delightful floral feast, rich in fragrance and beauty.

Whether or not you are a rose hobbyist you will enjoy visiting the oldest official rose test garden in the United States. Immerse yourself in the beauty and history of the Portland rose gardens, and let us know how your visit went in the comments!

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3 Comments

  1. We have plans on visiting the west coast someday. I’ve been but my wife has never seen the pacific coast. As she has a very big green thumb, I’m sure she’d love this. Great tips to be able to know what we’re in for regardless of when we pay a visit.

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