While this year marks the centennial celebration for Portland's International Rose Test Garden, home gardeners in Inner Southeast Portland have cultivated their favorites here for even longer. Portland's Pacific Northwest climate is ideal for growing roses, which can bloom any month of the year. We have an incredible selection of colors, sizes, and styles that smell fragrant and develop specific growth habits.
Portland has been known as "The City of Roses" since 1888, when Georgiana Pittock, wife of Oregon newspaper publisher Henry Pittock, invited friends to display their roses in a tent set up in her garden. Frederick Holman helped found the Portland Rose Society in 1889. The first Portland Rose Festival parade was held in 1907, and the Royal Rosarians – Portland's non-profit ambassadors of goodwill – were formed in 1912.
Genie Aylor Giles, a transplant from Texas who lives on S.E. Clatsop Street, is thrilled with Portland's roses. "We have 22 varieties at our home here in Sellwood," she says. "We buy several kinds every year to try out. Most are fragrant, and most are the 'David Austin type', which have lovely petals. My favorite so far is 'Double Delight', which starts out cream-colored, and then turns bright red as the flowers unfold. It's very fragrant, and doesn't grow out of hand."
Another favorite bloom in our part of town is named "Day Breaker" – which starts out orange, and turns pale yellow as it matures.
Many gardeners know all their roses by name. "This yellow one in front of the house is called 'Graham Thomas'," Giles explains, "And the pink one is 'Strawberry Hill'. 'Betty Boop', over there, blooms all summer long."
Due to careful IRTG records, rose lovers can select favorites by name for their gardens. For 100 years, the International Rose Test Garden has tested a plethora of specific varieties.
At the centennial event held August 26 at Washington Park, Commissioner Amanda Fritz remarked that the celebration marked 100 years of stewardship, volunteerism, and Portland's passion for roses.
Portland Parks and Recreation Director Mike Abbate added, "We thank the many partners and volunteers who have given countless hours to develop and maintain the gardens."