|The International Rose Test Garden sits above Portland in Washington Park and is home to more than 10,0000 rose bushes and over 600 varieties. It is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States and exemplifies Portland's nickname, "City of Roses".|
The roses bloom from April through October with the peak coming in June, which is when we were there, so it was a sight, and a scent, to behold.
In the early 1900s, over twenty miles of Portland's streets had been lined with rose bushes for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Portland was already dubbed "The City of Roses" and so the idea of a test garden was a way to solidify the city’s reputation as a rose-growing center internationally.
In 1915 Jesse Currey, president of Portland's Rose Society and Sunday editor of the Oregon Journal, convinced city officials to institute a rose test garden to serve as a safe haven during World War I for hybrid roses grown in Europe. Rose lovers feared that these unique plants would be destroyed in the bombings. The Park Bureau approved the idea in 1917 and by early 1918, hybridists from England began sending roses.
The garden was dedicated in June 1924 and Jesse Currey was appointed as its first rose curator, serving until his death in 1927. Since 1940, the rose garden has been one of the official testing gardens for what is now called the American Garden Rose Selections.
Originally, the garden occupied about a block, sandwiched between a playground and an elk corral and in 1928 the original garden was replaced by a parking lot and moved to its current location. In the 1950s, when Washington Park's zoo moved to its current location, the garden was expanded to its present size of 4.5 acres.
There are several gardens in the Rose Garden; the American Garden Rose Selection test garden covers two terraces of the garden.; the Gold Award Garden, dedicated in 1970, features award-winning roses from the AGRS Test Garden—its gazebo is a popular spot for weddings. The Royal Rosarian Garden displays roses honoring past Prime Ministers of the Royal Rosarians, a civic group which serves as the official greeters and goodwill ambassadors for the City of Portland who serve in the many Rose Festival events and features a stone bench honoring Jesse Currey; the roses in the Royal are no longer commercially available.
In 1975, the Miniature Rose Garden, a test ground to help determine what miniature roses will go to market, was established; it is one of only eight such miniature rose testing grounds for the American Rose Society. The Shakespeare Garden was donated by the Shakespeare Society in 1943 and originally featured botanicals mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. Over time, the Shakespeare Garden has evolved, planted with summer annuals, tropical plants, year-round shrubs, and roses, all named after characters in Shakespeare's plays.
If you ever get out that way, this is a great spot to spend some time; the flowers are gorgeous, and the aromas are fabulous.