Experimental Beauty - Rose Test Garden, Portland

Guest Post by: Suzette Barnett


Portland's International Rose Test garden isn't like anything I've ever seen before. It's primary purpose is as a testing ground for new rose varieties and it is the oldest rose testing program of it's kind in the United States. They care for over 10,000 plants of 500 varieties. For almost one hundred years, the city of Portland, Oregon is the only North American city to give an award for new breeds of roses, the "Gold Medal" rose award.

The concept of a test rose garden comes from 18th Century France, where they began the hybridizing of new roses from pre-selected plants. In modern times, new rose breeds are evaluated on 14 different characteristics including habit, vigor, disease resistance, color, flower production, form, foliage and fragrance.

The garden is less than ten minutes from Downtown, it's free to visit and I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon. A must-see.


The Language of Roses

A rose language was created as a means of communication between lovers who were not allowed to express their feelings.

Red Roses symbolize love, courage, and desire.

Dark Crimson roses are given as a symbol of mourning.

Pink represents grace, elegance and gentleness.

White roses stand for innocence, purity, and humility, but can also mean secrecy.

Yellow roses symbolize jealousy in the Victorian times, but now show friendship and freedom.

Orange roses show enthusiasm and desire.

Blue roses are associated with fantasy and the impossible, as no rose is truly blue in nature.


It's worth noting that they have a gift shop which you'll adore if you love roses or flowers in general. They have a large selection of locally made products from roses and rose essence such as soaps, lotions and teas, not to mention very lovely rose-themed cards and souvenirs. The shop is non-profit and all proceeds from sales is used to support Portland's public rose gardens.

I hope you get a chance to visit! To see all my photographs of the gardens, check out my Pinterest.