Portland’s International Rose Test Garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. Unofficially known as the Portland Rose Garden, the space features more than 10,000 roses. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world enjoy it sights and scents annually. The garden also offers spectacular views of downtown and Mount Hood.
The garden was conceived by Oregon Journal editor Jesse A. Currey in 1915 and approved by Portland Parks in 1917. It started as a safe haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe during World War I. Flowers began arriving in Portland in 1918 and the garden and amphitheater were dedicated in 1924. The grounds are split into several smaller areas: the Royal Rosarian Garden, the Shakespeare Garden and the Miniature Rose Garden.
It’s not surprising that this garden, located in Washington Park, is one of the City of Roses’ signature landmarks. The garden is open daily and admission is free. While great city views are offered year-round, the best rose-viewing months are May through September. (When you’re finished admiring the flowers, head across the street to the majestic Portland Japanese Garden for more fabulous flora.)
ROSE GARDEN TOURS
Want more help navigating and understanding the 4.5 acres (1.8 hectare) of parkland and 650+ rose varieties? Portland Parks offers daily free tours led by trained volunteers at 1 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The tours meet at the sign outside the Rose Garden Store. Guided tours for groups of 10 or more are available during the year for $5 per person. Tours must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. Call 503.823.3664 to make arrangements.
On Aug. 26, 2017, the International Rose Test Garden will celebrate its 100th anniversary with free, family-friendly fun. Arrive at 11 a.m. for free cupcakes, then spend the day enjoying tours, temporary rose tattoos and face painting. Watercolor painting will be available for kids and adults, and artwork by public school students across Portland will be displayed. Multicultural music and performances will take place in the garden throughout the day. Head to the Rose Garden Ampitheater at 6:30 p.m. to see Afro-Cuban band Pilón d’Azucarin perform. To sweeten the deal, Salt & Straw will be on hand scooping up its brand new Centennial Rose ice cream. Rose ice tea samples will also be available for attendees. Find more event information here.
Car parking near the International Rose Test Garden is extremely limited. Light rail, bus and free shuttle service are the best ways to reach the park.
MAX LIGHT RAIL
Washington Park is served by the MAX light rail’s blue and red lines. From the Washington Park MAX stop, walk 1.8 miles (3 km) over rugged terrain on the Garden Trails Connection. Guests can also catch a free shuttle to the gardens (see below).
From April through October, the free Explore Washington Park shuttle stops at all the park’s major attractions and the Washington Park MAX station. From May to September, the shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily. In October and April, the shuttle runs on weekends only.
From downtown, take US 26W to exit 72 (Zoo/Forestry Center) and follow signs to Washington Park. Pay to park in designated lots and streets ($1.60 per hour). For real-time parking information and construction alerts and closures, visit explorewashingtonpark.com.