What to Do at the Rose Garden
Hello sunshine and blue skies! 🌞 A couple weeks ago we drove to Washington Park to visit the incredible Portland International Rose Test Garden, and it was teeming with beauty! As soon as we walked in sight of the rose bushes, the floral aroma surrounded us. We walked meandered along the paved and stone paths and on the grass in between each rose bush. Honestly, we saw rose varieties that you never could have dreamed of! Some really do look as if they were hand painted, like the ‘Scentimental’ Floribunda rose. I could have sworn that someone must have come in and tie-dyed light pink roses with dark pink dye. And they smelled AMAZING! Better than any perfume you could buy in the store. You could spend hours walking along all the pathways and smelling each unique rose. 🌹
In the early summer warmth, families gathered on blankets for picnics and kids were laughing and playing in the amphitheater, which uses massive live trees as the stage’s curtains. During the summer, this grass and stone amphitheater hosts live Shakespearean plays. But I suggest to arrive early reserve a nice spot on those nights to avoid the crowds that build up.
Take a stroll through the grounds and you’ll find a few views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood through the trees. Walk a little farther and you might find yourself in the Shakespeare Garden. There’s a memorial to the famous playwright, donning one of Shakespeare’s quotes, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”
When to Visit the Rose Garden
The beautiful grounds of the rose garden are open & free to the public year-round. The rose garden in the winter can be a really beautiful and peaceful experience. Sometimes we go up on a cold day and walk around the paths to reconnect with nature. The rose bushes are pruned to thorny stumps. But the lush greenery of arbor vitae and cedar trees are thriving. You might just get an entire section of the garden to yourself, to fully immerse yourself in Winter’s raw beauty.
However, if you’re planning to take in the gorgeous technicolor rainbow of roses in bloom, then you’ll want to plan your trip between late May and early October. The Oregon sunshine warms all the roses and carries their perfume in the air. Summer finds the gardens much more crowded, but there are also more events to catch, such as live performances in the amphitheater!
There are over 10,000 rose bushes you can smell, in over 600 varieties! So I’d suggest to plan to spend one hour at the minimum in the gardens!
There is a free Washington Park shuttle service that runs from March through September. The shuttle can get you from the Washington Park MAX station to all the various attractions at Washington Park, including the Rose Garden, the Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center, etc. You could also walk through the Hoyt Arboretum to get to most of the park’s attractions.
Rose Garden History
The Portland International Rose Test Garden is actually the oldest publicly-run garden of its kind in the entire United States! In 1917, the building plans for the rose garden got approval. And by the beginning of 1918, hybrid roses began arriving from England to keep them safe during World War I.
The large grass and stone amphitheater was designed back in1921. This is a common place for a picnic, or to watch the theater performances in the summer!
There’s even a not-so-secret society called the Order of Royal Rosarians that was founded way back in 1912. In order to join, you have to be knighted under your namesake rose! You can see the Royal Rosarians in the Rose Parade and other activities of the Rose Festival between late May and mid-June in Portland. You can take a walk through the Royal Rosarian Garden section of the rose garden. Stop and smell the namesake roses of each past Prime Ministers of the Royal Rosarians!
Alos, are you wondering why it’s an “international” “test” garden? Well, new hybrid rose varieties are sent here from all over the world. They’re grown in these Oregon’s ideal rose conditions to test for factors like color, fragrance and resistance to disease.
Visit the Rose Garden Now!
The Portland International Test Garden is a wonderful and magical place to visit, at any time of the year. It’s completely outdoor, so plan your attire accordingly. A rain jacket is never a bad idea in Oregon. We went in June and the roses were in FULL BLOOM! It sprinkled on us for about twenty minutes, during which we just hid under and archway of vines and blooms. When you visit, you’ll find that the rose garden is an ideal place for a solitary walk, a romantic stroll, or a fun excursion for the family.
Want to know what else there is to do in Oregon? Tons! Visit Camp 18 for a good old logger-style breakfast. Or drive out to Mount Hood and pick apples in the fall!