Portland is often referred to as the City of Roses because the climate creates the perfect conditions for growing roses. Nowhere is this more evident than at the exceptional Portland Rose Garden in Washington Park.
Nothing short of miraculous, the garden is home to more than 10,000 rose bushes (and more than 650 varieties of roses). Serving as a warm invitation, the rose garden encourages visitors to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of roses.
Even more impressive, the Portland International Rose Test Garden is the oldest continuously operated public rose garden in America and attracts an estimated 700,000 visitors annually.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know before visiting the Portland Rose Garden. Enjoy!
Visiting the Portland Rose Garden
Tips for Visiting the Portland International Rose Test Garden
The rose garden is exposed and shade is hard to come by so don’t forget to pack your sunscreen. I’ve been using this one the past six years, after discovering it in France. You’ll never catch me without it.
The Portland Rose Garden is ADA Accessible
My mom used to bring my grandma to the rose garden frequently, so I can confirm that the garden is wheelchair friendly. The main promenade has a wheelchair ramp (with a slight slope).
Parking is limited
Parking is extremely limited at the Portland Rose garden and fills up quickly during warm, sunny weekends. The rate is $2 per hour or $8 all day, parking is enforced daily from 9:30am to 8pm.
Free shuttle services are offered from April through October. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 9am to 7pm and can take you directly to the entrance of the rose garden.
Public restrooms are available, but food options are limited.
There’s a tiny little cart offering ice cream, drinks and light bites, but your best bet would be to get food outside of the park. Restrooms are provided and can be accessed from the parking lot. There’s also a charming little gift shop that sells adorable earrings and fun souvenirs.
There is no admission fee
It doesn’t get better than free! The Portland International Rose Test Garden is open to the public and free to enjoy. Feel free to stroll through the grounds at your leisure.
Are dogs allowed at the Portland Rose Garden?
Yes, well-behaved dogs are allowed to visit the Portland Rose Garden, but should be kept on the sidewalks and waling paths to avoid causing damage to the rose bushes. There’s a great big amphitheater lawn at the western end of the garden that’s great for picnicking with fido in tow.
Best time to visit the Portland Rose Garden
By and large, roses bloom between May and September. For peak bloom at the Portland Rose Garden, you will want to visit at the end of June, but honestly, you’re bound to see beautiful roses anytime between May and September.
Summer weather in Portland is pure bliss, which is great for anyone visiting the Portland Rose Garden at peak bloom. As to be expected, weekends are much busier than weekdays, so if your schedule is flexible, try visiting during a weekday (the garden is open from 5am to 10pm daily).
In terms of the best time of day, nothing beats the lack of crowds (or glorious light) like the early morning hours. When we lived in NW Portland (here’s photos of our apartment), we used to walk over in the morning before 9am.
Most days we were privy to solitude, so I recommend coming early in the morning to beat the rush. Everyone wants to see the beautiful roses in this garden, so the evening hours become somewhat chaotic (especially on the weekends).
History of the Portland Rose Garden
Originally started in 1915 by Jesse Currey, (an editor at the Oregon Journal and passionate rose hobbyist), the Portland International Rose Test Garden was established in an effort to preserve roses susceptible to destruction during World War I.
Today, the garden is a testing ground for new varieties of roses. Roses (from all over the world) are sent to the Portland Rose Garden to be planted and studied.
The curator at the Portland International Rose Test Garden researches and evaluates the roses to deem their viability for commercial use, which is why this is called a rose “test” garden.
Portland International Rose Test Garden Map
The Portland Rose Garden is easy to explore in its entirety. Rows of massive blooms meander past well-maintained trellises and charming smaller gardens.
Here’s a quick roundup of the sections you shouldn’t miss while visiting the Portland Rose Garden.
- The Shakespeare Garden: Originally containing plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, the garden has grown to include interesting roses with names inspired by Shakespeare. This is a very peaceful and secluded garden that is best enjoyed with a good book in hand.
- Miniature Rose Garden: Reserved to test miniature roses to see how well they’d grow for commercial use. There’s a few stunners in this garden worth seeking out.
- Golden Award Garden: A rose garden devoted to winners of the “best new rose variety” from various years.
- The Royal Rosarian Garden: Home to namesake roses to the Portland Rosarians (founded in 1912), whose members are considered goodwill ambassadors for the city.
I especially like the Golden Award Garden because it houses award-winning roses from previous years neatly in one spot. It’s fun to find the winning rose the year you were born!
Local Tip: The Shakespeare Garden is a great place to take a little break from the roses because they can be overstimulating both visually and fragrantly.
Free Rose Garden Tours
To learn more about the 650 varieties of roses planted in the garden (or roses in general), you can join a free guided tour. Tours are offered daily at 1pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day by trained volunteers.
Additionally, guided tours for groups of 10 or more are available and cost $5 per person. To schedule, call 503-823-3664 at least two weeks in advance.
Who tends to the Portland Rose Garden?
The Portland Rose Garden is tended to by one full-time curator and two part-time assistants. Every plant is pruned by hand annually by hundreds of volunteers. Go, Portland!
Apart from one fertilization per year and sprinklers during dry months, the fate of the roses is left in the hands of mother nature — insecticides are forbidden and ladybugs are employed to handle aphids and pests.
Award | The Portland International Rose Test Garden received The Garden of Excellence Award in 2006 from the World Federation of Rose Societies.
Visiting the Portland Rose Garden (Getting There)
The Rose Garden can be found within the confines of Washington Park, the crown jewel of Portland’s park system. Getting there couldn’t be easier.
Sitting atop a hill overlooking the city skyline and Mt. Hood, you’ll be privy to some of the best views in Portland.
If you’re visiting the Portland Rose Garden by car, allow extra time for parking because the area gets packed during the summer. Take Highway 26 to Exit 72 and follow sins towards the park.
Taking public transportation to visit the International Rose Test Garden is a better bet. You can take the MAX to the Oregon Zoo and then catch the free shuttle to the rose garden. The shuttle schedule can be found here.
Alternatively, you can take Bus 63 to the entrance of the rose garden.
P.S. Don’t forget to visit Oregon’s Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival while you’re in town! Read: Guide to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.
I hope you enjoy your time at the lovely Portland Rose Garden!
More to Do at Washington Park
As mentioned, Washington Park is the crown jewel of Portland’s park system. As such, it’d be a pity not to explore the area a bit more. If you have the time, I highly suggest doing the following.
- Hike the redwood trail at Hoyt Arboretum.
- Visiting the moving Oregon Holocaust Memorial.
- Explore the Portland Japanese Garden (considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the US).
- If you have kids in tow, swing by the Oregon Zoo.
Where to see roses in Portland
Can’t get your fill of roses? Fret not, there’s no shortage of great spots to find roses in Portland. The other two spots you should make an effort to see are Peninsula Park and Ladd’s Addition (both free).
If helpful, here’s a roundup of the 5 BEST spots to see roses in Portland.
Until next time,