Step and Smell the Roses

Everything’s coming up roses! Portland’s nickname “City of Roses” rings especially true in June – the landscape is drenched in them right now. This area pumps out amazing specimens due to its location within the marine west coast climate region, its warm, dry summers and rainy, mild winters, and its heavy clay soils. Roses influence much of the local culture too: the Portland Trailblazers’ home court is in the Rose Garden Arena, there’s the Portland Thorns women’s pro soccer team, women duke it out on the Rose City Rollers roller derby team, and the Timbers Army chants “Rose City ’til I die” throughout soccer games.

Rose-a-rama

Rose-a-rama

Portland’s International Rose Test Garden sits atop Washington Park near the Oregon Zoo, Children’s Museum and other attractions. It’s so close to our home, a mere 1.2-mile walk from our front door. Jeff and I have buzzed by on bike and in our car plenty of times, but never stopped to tour the grounds. After passing a bunch of gorgeous, blossoming rose bushes along the streets of our neighborhood on a morning walk with Cooper, I decided Jeff and I need to pay a visit to the motherland.

The International Rose Test Garden is one of 24 official testing sites for the internationally respected All-America Rose Selections (AARS), and one of only six testing grounds for the American Rose Society miniature rose test program. Nearly a century ago, a citizen convinced the local government to set up a rose test garden during World War I to preserve the species of European roses that might be obliterated by the bombings. In 1917, the International Rose Test Garden was born, and today, the 4.5-acre plot lives on as the oldest official, continuously-operated public rose test garden in the U.S. The garden boasts more than 10,000 roses – more than 650 varieties – with an additional 200 to 300 bushes on the way this season. And more than 14,000 volunteers contributed nearly half a million hours of planting and maintenance in the last year – amazing!

Jeff and I hiked to the garden through the Washington Park trails and wandered through the rows on the crisp, 66-degree morning. Families, couples, dog-walkers and a wedding party dotted the grounds and snapped photos of the endless stretches of rose bushes. It’s really breathtaking. And lucky us, June is prime time for the perennials.

We capped off our walk with a lunch stop at Elephants Delicatessen, where I dined on a croque-monsieur and a sticky-sweet crème brûlée beignet while Jeff raved about his veggie frittata. Next up for this summery Saturday: a little BBQ out back with some friends. All the walking earned us some calories for later!

The trail leading through Washington Park to the International Rose Test Garden

The trail leading through Washington Park to the International Rose Test Garden

Washington Park's multitude of attractions

Washington Park’s multitude of attractions

The expansive garden, whose main purpose is to test new varieties from around the world

The expansive garden, whose main purpose is to test new varieties from around the world

Rows and rows of roses

Rows and rows of roses

Big, beautiful bloom

Big, beautiful bloom

Poses by the roses

Poses by the roses

Shakespeare's appreciation for the rose

Shakespeare’s appreciation for the rose

Just a few of the 10,000 bushes

Just a few of the 10,000 bushes

Rose in a spot of sunlight

Rose in a spot of sunlight

Even more beautiful...

Even more beautiful…

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