After living in Portland for a year and a half, I finally made it to the International Rose Test Garden.
I have to say that I never thought it was necessary because Portland is already called the “City or Roses” or “Rose City,” or whatever, all the time. They’re everywhere! There’s a medium-sized rose garden near my house at Peninsula Park, and every residential block you walk through is bound to have at least two rose bushes growing in front lawns.
However, I was impressed with this International Rose Garden. It is situated on top of a hill in a wooded area and manicured almost perfectly.
Each bush has a different type of rose displaying its particular color to the world, whether white or red or white with red tips, or small purple ones or huge pink ones. It was an interesting experience to get up and personal with the roses and examine their lovely form and sniff what they have to offer, and compare it to other smells I have come across in my life, whether sweet tarts or lavender or perfume or sugar or cucumbers or the other rose I had just smelled.
I think the best way to experience this place is to get really close with the specific batches of roses with all of your senses and display their unique differences, and then step back a bit, walk around, gaze over some new bushes from a distance and see and smell and hear their collective make-up.
This place also made me nostalgic for a small rose garden I would frequent in Prague. This one was up a hill in a big park near where I was living, behind that psuedo Eifel Tower and before some other strange-looking socialist dormitories. I would walk through it almost daily when the weather was nice or almost nice, and do what I did at the new rose garden, by touching and smelling and observing their individual characteristics and collective whole. Gardeners would often trim this garden to keep it neat, so I would pick up the expired flowers and their thorns from their piles on the ground so that I could bring them back to my tiny, spartan dormitory for subtle decoration. I think all rose gardens in the future will always remind me of this one…