A Guide to The International Rose Test Garden Portland

Portland in Oregon is famous for being a fun and quirky city although it’s also a beautiful city and many people refer to it as the being the City of Roses. As its nickname suggests, the city is home to some of the most beautiful rose gardens in the United States and the very pretty Rose Garden is a famous landmark and destination in Portland.

It is a garden of roses situated in the city’s Washington Park. To put the garden’s size into context, it is about 4.5 acres filled with more than 10,000 rose plants in about 600 varieties. Besides thousands of roses, it’s also called the International Rose Test Garden because several rose varieties from across the globe are sent here to test their disease resistance, fragrance, color, and other attributes.

Whether you are into plants and flowers, fragrances, or a visitor who just wants to stop by Rose Garden, here is your go-to guide for the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon…

When did the Rose Garden in Portland originate?

The International Rose Test Garden

The editor of the Oregon Journal, Jesse A. Currey, conceived and started the roses in the Rose Garden in 1915. Eventually, the Portland Parks approved Currey’s proposal in 1917. At first, the gardens served as a haven for various hybrid roses from Europe during World War I. Currey’s initiative was to open a park to house and preserve these roses prone to destruction because of the war. What was once a home for hybrid roses became a haven for visitors who adore plants and roses. Eventually, the grounds were divided into several areas.

  • International Rose Test Garden. This area of the whole garden is well-visited by people. The International Rose Test Garden is one of the 24 sites dedicated to rose testing for the “All America Rose Selections.” The garden has tested some of the best roses in the world. Additionally, roses are tested for different attributes, including flower production, form, colors, scent foliage, and vigor.
  • Miniature Rose Test Garden. This section in the entire garden is one of the six test sites in the US for testing miniature roses. Also, people can see displays of roses that won in national competitions at the center of the garden.
  • Shakespeare Garden. This is another famous site in the garden. The Shakespeare Garden, which opened in 1945, initially aimed to house trees, flowers, and herbs mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare. However, today, it grows roses named after characters in his plays.
  • Royal Rosarian Garden. Visitors can see different roses named after the Royal Rosarians’ past Prime Ministers. They are the official ambassadors and greeters of goodwill of Portland. The small garden houses various roses which are not available commercially.

Places to see and events to attend inside the Rose Garden…

The International Rose Test Garden

Besides the roses as the garden’s main attraction, it also houses various places, events, and activities.

  • Horticulture library. The library is an excellent place to get to know more about roses and other plant species. It has books, videos, and periodicals about gardening.
  • Gift shop. The shop has various items for sale like jewelry, rose bushes, clothes, and many more. The garden is vast; you will surely need some refreshments. Additionally, who does not want to enjoy some food and drinks with thousands of roses in your view?
  • Concerts and art exhibits. If you happen to visit during summer, the Rose Garden has lined-up concerts featuring local musicians and artists. It also hosts art exhibitions every year consisting of sculptures, paintings, and photographs.
  • For people who are into flowers and gardens, the Rose Garden conducts classes such as photography and painting lessons, floral arrangements, and gardening.
  • Twilight in the Garden and Wine in the Garden. The Twilight event happens every late May or early June. Meanwhile, the Wine usually happens every summer. These two events showcase wine tasting, live music, and food made from local restaurants.
  • Seasonal events. Visitors can participate in trick-or-treats, pumpkin carving competitions, and other activities related to Halloween. Additionally, during the winter months, specifically on the holidays, lights will fill most of the corners of the garden. Also, on Valentine’s Day, the garden will be full of live music, food, and wine tastings.
  • Portland Rose Festival. The event also falls during the summer. It is a three-day event featuring concerts, parades, and food vendors.
  • Garden tour. It’s a daily tour which usually takes about an hour. It features the Rose Garden’s history and other relevant and interesting facts about the place.
  • Insect safari. This is another tour where visitors can see insects being attracted to roses. Also, the excursion will tackle the different insects and their roles in helping roses grow.
  • Rose show. It’s another summer event featuring roses grown by the members of the Portland Rose Society. There are competitions, roses lectures, and vendors participating in the event.

How to get to the Rose Garden in Portland

Portland Rose Festival - Oregon

There are only limited parking spaces near the Portland Rose Garden. The garden does not have a specific lot for parking, but visitors can use the spaces near the garden to park their cars. Additionally, it can be beneficial to reach the park through bus, light rail, or free shuttle.

  • By light rail or bus. You can take TriMet bus 63, which passes from Providence to Washington Park. There are bus stops near the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden. Take the MAX light rail red and blue lines if you wish to go by light rail. As you get off at the stop near Washington Park, transfer to the Park’s free shuttle. The vehicle will bring you straight to the Rose Garden.

The free shuttle runs every fifteen minutes from 9:30 AM to 7 PM from March until September. In October, the shuttles operate daily from 10 AM to 4 PM. While in November, visitors can ride the shuttle on weekends from 10 AM to 4 PM.

  • By car. Take the US 26W until exit 72 if you are coming from downtown. You then follow the signs leading to Washington Park. There are pay-to-park spaces which can be around $2 per hour.

Tips when visiting the Rose Garden

International Rose Test Garden - Oregon

With the vast lawn the garden offers, it would be a waste just to take a tour and leave. You can bring a basket of food and look for shady areas for your picnic. Enjoying your food while feasting your eyes on the plethora of roses around you will be a delight.

As you stroll along the roses lanes, enjoy the panoramic view of Mount Hood, Downton and East Portland, Willamette River, and the Cascade Mountains.

The don’ts

Rose Test Garden - Portland

In the same way that nature brings beauty to the garden, visitors must also ensure they respect what is inside the Rose Garden. Avoid stepping on the roses. Caretakers make sure they grow beautifully, and the last thing you want is to destroy them. Additionally, some roses here are rare, so you must be extra careful when sightseeing. The garden also prohibits the picking of flowers. Avoid littering. In most cases, do not bring your dog.

Things to bring

As this is an outside excursion, wearing comfortable clothes and shoes can be beneficial. Also, it pays to bring your hats, umbrellas, and sun protection, especially on summer days. If cafes are not ideal for you, it would also be great to bring snacks and drinks. As much as possible, only get the necessary things in your visit. Having large bags with you can be a hassle as you explore the entire garden.

The best time to visit the Rose Garden in Portland

The International Rose Test Garden

May through December are the best months to visit the Rose Garden as these are the months when roses usually bloom. Additionally, you can witness the peak of roses blooming, usually at the end of June.


Is the Portland Rose Garden open daily?

Yes. People can visit the garden from 5 AM to 10 PM. Suppose you wish to witness the sunrise from above; you can go in as early as five in the morning. Since it closes at ten in the evening, you can also see the sunset as the city’s backdrop.

Is it free?

Besides being open from Mondays through Sundays, the Portland Rose Garden is also free. In some cases, it also accepts donations.

Who takes care of the thousands of roses?

Volunteers are ensuring that the roses are growing healthy and beautiful. If you wish to participate and volunteer, you can reach out to Portland Parks for the process.

Can wheelchairs smoothly pass through the garden?

Yes. The grounds are generally gravel or grass. The enhancements on the main promenade included paved pathways so strollers and wheelchairs could also pass through seamlessly.

Are there other nearby gardens visitors can explore?

The Rose Garden in itself is already vast. But if you wish to explore more on fora, you can head to the Portland Japanese Garden, Peninsula Park and Rose Garden, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.


We also have posts on…


Leave a Comment