Portland’s obsession with the rose began when the local Rose Society planted 20 miles of the flower in honor of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905. Ten years later, the president of the society, Jesse Currey, successfully persuaded the city to create a test garden to save and cultivate rose varieties from Europe during World War I.
Dubbed the International Rose Test Garden, the resulting rose garden is now nurtured within Portland’s Washington Park. From April through October, it exhibits over 10,000 rose plants that bloom from 650 varieties. A wonderful scent wafts through the garden, especially as the roses become most aromatic in the afternoon when the day is at it’s warmest.
The garden is split into three sections: the Royal Rosarian Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. The first traces its roots back to the very origin of the garden and has its own secret rose society: the Order of Royal Rosarians. Members of this order are the official greeters and goodwill ambassadors of Portland. There also lies a stone bench to honor the garden’s founder.
The Shakespeare Garden houses roses named after characters from his iconic plays. A memorial to the bard sits along the lush flowers with a quote reminding visitors of his love of roses. Lastly, the Miniature Rose Garden grows and tests miniature species of the flower. Also seen in this kaleidoscopic garden are the winners for the Gold Award for best new variety of rose.