Portland isn't called the City of Roses for nothing. It is home to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. It boasts more than 7,000 rose plants of about 550 varieties.
The roses bloom from April through October with the peak typically coming in June. New rose cultivars are continually sent to the garden from many parts of the world and are tested for color, fragrance, disease resistance and other attributes. It is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States.
The original idea for the test garden was born out of World War I. Citizens in Portland were concerned that roses in Europe would be destroyed during the War. The city accepted the idea and the test garden was born.The primary purpose of this garden is to serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties. The City of Portland Gold Medal Awards are issued annually to the best introductions. The first Gold Medal rose award was given in 1919, making it the oldest rose testing program of its kind in the United States. Portland is the only North American city to issue such awards. These award winning varieties are planted in the Gold Medal Garden.The terrace above the Shakespeare garden was originally planted in old garden roses. By 1959, so many Gold Award roses had crept into the terrace that it became known as the Gold Award Garden and the old garden roses were moved to another area of the garden.With the support of the Portland Rose Society, today’s Gold Medal Garden was constructed in 1969 commemorating 50 years of Gold Medal awards in the City of Roses. In 1991, the Portland Rose Society donated the garden's gazebo, a popular spot for weddings and a vantage point from which to view the roses.