Visiting the Portland International Rose Test Garden

Last year, I wrote about my first and only 24 hours in Portland. I haven’t been back since, but the vitality and spirit of the city draws me back.

One of the sights we visited (that I never went into detail about) was the Portland International Rose Test Garden. It’s time to fix that mistake and share some info!


What an amazing garden! This 4.5 acre rose garden is located in Washington Park and was founded in 1917 by a group of gardeners. Due to its mild winters and lengthy growing period, Portland is an optimal environment for roses to flourish, even adopting the nickname, “City of Roses,” in the early 1900s.  During World War I, rose hybrid gardeners sent roses from all of the world to the International Rose Test Garden to keep them safe from the bombings in Europe. Since then, a few paid staff members and numerous volunteers from the area have continued to care for the garden each year.


The Portland International Rose Test Garden is one of 24 official testing sites for the All-American Rose Selections (AARS). Roses that perform the best in these testing sites (all with various climates) receive the AARS seal of approval, indicating a top performing rose variety.


The rose garden offers a large testing area for hundreds of new varieties of roses.  The roses are grown here for two years and are evaluated for 11 different characteristics, including vigor, disease resistance, color, flower production, foliage, and fragrance. I was amazed that so many different colored flowers could grow on a single plant! Some rose plants bloomed numerous buds off one branch, creating a bouquet-like effect. So beautiful!


The roses that are being tested don’t have names, but rather numbers. Aisle by aisle, the roses grow in the Portland sun with a beautiful overlook of the downtown area.


There are several different sections within the Portland International Rose Test Garden, including the Shakespeare Garden, the Gold Medal Garden, and the Miniature Rose Test Garden.  Weddings are common in the Shakespeare Garden during the summer months, and picnics and outdoor concerts also take place on property.  It’s an amazing place to take photos and portraits!


As a gardener, I loved walking through the rows of different colored roses, roses that are multi-colored, roses with different types of blooms, and roses of all different sizes and fragrances.  However, non-gardeners will love it too!


In addition, it’s a fun spot to let young ones run around in the spacious garden. The Portland International Rose Test Garden is free of charge (donations are appreciated), leashed dogs are welcome, and tours are given in the summer. Be sure to check out their website for tour times and more information.


When in the area of the rose garden, be sure to walk across the street and up the hill (or take the shuttle) to the neighboring Portland Japanese Garden. It’s an inspiring Japanese garden with 5 sub-gardens, and is also within Washington Park. Portland has so much to offer. It’s definitely worth more than a 24 hour visit!

Happy Travels!


Portland International Rose Test Garden


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