The International Rose Test Garden is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States. It was founded in 1917 on the hills of Washington Park in Portland, Oregon.
The city has many smaller rose gardens. The garden at Peninsula Park is older than the International Test Garden, and has nearly 9,000 traditional rose plantings.
Four pollarded trees stand at every intersection in the garden.
In the early 1900s, Portland was already known as "The City of Roses," thanks to 20 miles of rose-bordered streets (planted for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition) and lots of local rose lovers. The Portland Rose Society was founded in 1889.
Landscaped within a ring of evergreens, the garden's atmosphere is distinctly Pacific Northwest. Portland summers are filled with flowers, but none better personify the city than the pairing of roses and Douglas firs.
Some award-winning roses are highlighted outside of the ordered beds. Betty Boop roses, recipient of the 2001 Portland Gold Medal, line a walkway.
Many of the garden's first roses were refugees—breeders in Europe worried that their hybrids wouldn't survive World War II, and they sought safe ground for their roses elsewhere. Portland's Rose Society volunteered their garden, and they soon received rootstocks of many European hybrids.
Portland's garden is one of 24 official AARS testing sites, where new roses are evaluated in a variety of criteria over two years. Roses that thrive in the various test zones are given the AARS seal of approval.
When patent protection in the US was extended to include plants, suddenly every rose breeder was clamoring for licenses. In 1938, breeders and rosarians established the All-American Rose Selections (AARS) to evaluate new varieties that flooded the rose market. AARS began testing in Portland in 1940.
The scent of roses floats upwards from the sunken landscape.
The Royal Rosarian Garden was designed to honor a group of "official greeters and goodwill ambassadors for the city of Portland." When a Rosarian is knighted, he or she adopts a namesake rose variety. A bronze Rosarian statue was unveiled this year, for the Centennial celebration. In typical Rosarian fashion, he tips his hat to welcome visitors.
The Gold Medal Garden is landscaped with a fountain, gazebo, walkways, and beds of Gold Medal roses— those honored by the Portland Rose Society. Gold Medals are awarded annually to that year's best introduction to the test garden. The first was named in 1919.
At the far end of the garden is the Queens Walk, where Rose Festival queens are honored with a bronze star. Since 1930, the city has selected their queen—a high school girl—at Portland's annual Rose Parade.
Over 10,000 individual rose plants of 550 species are terraced over 4.5 acres. The garden slopes towards downtown Portland, offering a view of Mount Hood on clear days.