The International Rose Test Garden is magnificent garden dedicated to growing roses set in Portland’s Washington Park and is home to more than 7,000 rose plants in 550 varieties. The purpose of the Garden, which is the oldest operating public test garden for roses in the country, is to serve as a testing ground for new roses and exemplifies Portland's nickname the “City of Roses.”
The International Rose Test Garden is spread over nearly five acres across several tiers with panoramic views over the Willamette River and East Portland and on a clear day, breathtaking vistas of the Cascade Mountains and Mount Hood. The 7,000 plus roses in the park may start opening anywhere from mid-May to late June, depending on the amount of sunshine there is, and usually bursts into full bloom about the first week of June. There is an annual Rose Festival in June to showcase the garden’s great bounty before the flowers start fading in mid-October, again, depending on the weather.
The International Rose Test Garden features some of the world’s most popular varieties, including the hybrid tea rose, cluster-like floribunda roses, long-stemmed Grandiflora roses, and miniature, climber, shrub, and tree roses.
The International Rose Test Garden features several collections with unique characters ranging from rose varieties named after Shakespeare to award-winning Gold Medal roses. The Garden also features a variety of sculptures and fountains, including the Frank E. Beach Memorial Fountain, a modern stainless steel sculpture, and fountain by artist Lee Kelly.
Donated by the LaBarre Shakespeare Club in 1945, the Shakespeare Rose Test Garden was originally designed to include only herbs, trees, and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. The trees in the garden grew so prolifically that the sun-loving plants that were originally planted needed to be replaced by more shade-loving plants to keep the trees. The rose varieties in the Shakespeare Garden, however, are still named after characters in Bard’s plays in his honor. Oher features in the natural garden include a raised sitting are, shady lawn for picnics and winding brick pathways, making it a popular venue for small weddings and intimate celebrations. The focal point of the Shakespeare Rose Test Garden is a brick wall featuring a plaque with Williams Shakespeare’s image and his quote, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”
The Royal Rosarian Garden honors the goodwill ambassadors and rosarians who serve in the many Rose Festivals around the world. Planted in 1924, the garden features rose varieties that have been named after each knighted rosarian, as well as each of the primary Rosarian Prime Ministers. An exclusive ‘garden-within-a-garden’ features many varieties of roses that are no longer commercially available.
The Miniature Rose Garden is a unique testing ground for miniature roses (one of only six such grounds) for the American Rose Society and features single elevated beds for each of their unique varieties. The annual national winners are displayed in the middle of the garden along the center aisle.
The Gold Medal Garden is a formal garden with award-winning roses dating back to the 1960s. Located on a terrace above the Shakespeare Garden, the Gold Medal Garden is home to all the varieties of roses that have won Gold Awards. The acclaimed garden also features several walkways, a central fountain, and a lovely gazebo, making it a perfect venue for weddings and other special celebrations.
In addition to the garden’s collections, the Test Garden is home to an amphitheater which hosts a range of classical music concerts and plays throughout the year. The amphitheater is also a favorite place for picnicking and games during the summer months.
The International Rose Test Garden is located at 400 SW Kingston Avenue (Rose Park Road) in Portland and is open from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm daily with free admission. The garden is wheelchair accessible and free tours led by trained volunteers are offered from June through September. Guided tours for groups of 10 or more can be arranged for a nominal fee per person. Free public concerts are held in the garden over a two week period during summer, usually in August.
400 SW Kingston Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205, Phone: 503-823-3636