Last week, I had the joy of visiting Portland’s International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. Although we lived in Portland for a year and have visited many times since, the International Rose Test Garden was a place that I not seen. It did not come without some effort.
I took the Max train from downtown to Washington Park. The Max is a convenient and inexpensive way to tour the Portland metro area. The trip took less than fifteen minutes each way and only cost five dollars round trip. A bargain!
I arrived at 7:30 in the morning. The garden opened at sunrise, so I was actually not early. However, as the garden is two miles from the Max station, I had been counting on taking a free shuttle that stops at the major sites of Washington Park. Other attractions in Washington Park include: the zoo, arboretum, children’s museum, a war monument, a forestry museum, and a Japanese garden. These is a lot to see! I had failed to check the operating times for the shuttle and learned that it didn’t start running until 8:30.
I was not going to stand around until 8:30, so I started walking.
My walk took me through winding roads and hiking trails. I was alone for most of it, including the wooded areas. It was both peaceful and unsettling. These was no one around! I saw about fifty wild rabbits and an enormous water cistern covered in graffiti. I crossed train tracks and bridges. I applauded my sensible decision to wear athletic shoes, rather than sandals. I’m not a morning person and this was quite an early morning adventure!
I also got super sweaty and decided that it was a good idea to take a selfie in the woods. At this moment, as I’m writing this post, I’m thinking that it is sensible to share this photo with my readers. I will probably regret this. I’m a hot mess.
Shortly before reaching the Rose Garden, I encountered The Elephant House, which is now a picnic area made out of the elephant barn from the original zoo. The Elephant House has delightful animal art.
About forty minutes after beginning my walk, I reached the International Rose Test Garden. Entrance to the gardens is free and it was jammed with visitors. A fascinating fact about the garden, is it was founded during WW1, because people were worried that varieties of roses in Europe would be destroyed in the bombings. Rose afficianados sent roses from Europe to be cultivated and preserved in Portland.
The garden is amazing and magical. It was just like stepping into the pages of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I’m fairly certain that I visited at the very best time of the year, as all of the rose bushes were in full bloom. I was there just a week after Portland’s annual Rose Festival, which includes a parade and fair in downtown. The vibrant colors and sweet fragrance overwhelmed my senses. I was in awe at the spectacle. I had no idea that there were so many varieties of roses. Simply stunning.
Every year, a queen is chosen for the Rose Festival. The garden has a “Queens Walk” which features paving stones, each with the name of a former rose queen and the year that she reigned. It’s a lovely tribute to a Portland tradition.
The garden also has a modern geometric sculpture with a water feature.Kids were splashing in the water. The entrance to the garden has a bronze statue of a man that is named The Royal Rosarian. It was created by artist Bill Bane.
Portland usually has wet and gloomy weather, however the summers are glorious. This particular day was on track to beat heat records. I love extremely hot weather, but I was melting. To refresh myself, I purchased a bottle of Fentimans’ Rose Lemonade at the garden gift shop. It was the yummiest lemonade that I have ever tasted.
I spent about an hour in the garden. If you want to maximize your time and see another amazing garden, you can also do the Japanese Gardens, which are located just feet from the International Rose Test Garden. The Japanese Gardens do have an entrance fee, but it is absolutely stunning and worth paying to experience. Check out my trip report from the Japanese Gardens here.
Luckily, by the time I was ready to leave, the shuttle was running. Two miles is not a long walk, but with the heat, I didn’t want to do it twice!