Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Peninsula Park Rose Garden

I am no fan of roses, they’ve never appealed to me. I don’t particularly care for the flower, a dozen roses is a gift my husband would never dream of giving me. But the plant itself is even worse. They are just so unattractive, something that is better hidden. Like the framework behind a beautiful stage production.
Rose ambivalence aside, Peninsula Park in NE Portland has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe because it was close to our first (rented) home in Portland or because it’s where we first saw a Chug (Chihuahua + Pug) and fell in love with the crazy odd dog mix that we would go on to adopt. Or (knowing me) it’s more likely because this rose garden is not THE Portland Rose Garden, it’s kind of a forgotten gem, or the ugly step sister, and I love the sunken garden aspect of the park.Rather than try to explain the history behind the park I thought I would just leave it to the experts from the City of Portland Parks and Recreation Website:...“Peninsula Park is a good example of a formally designed neighborhood park, typical of the early 1900s. It includes the city's first public rose garden and first community center, a historically designated bandstand, and Portland's second oldest playground."
"The park was purchased by the city in 1909 for the sum of $60,000 with funds raised in a 1908 bond measure. Originally owned by local businesswoman Liverpool Liz, it had been the site for a roadhouse and racetrack for quarter-mile horse racing."
"The rose garden, designed by Emanuel L. Mische, is one of Portland's most beautiful formal rose gardens, with 8,900 plantings on a two-acre site. Visitors are greeted by magnificent plantings of 65 rose varieties which border the steps leading to the sunken rose garden, the only one in Oregon. The rose garden was the showplace of its time, with 300,000 visitors in the first year alone. The official Portland rose, named Mme. Caroline Testout, was cultivated in the garden. Once planted by the thousands along the streets of Portland, this rose earned Portland the name 'City of Roses.' In 1913, floral enthusiasts selected Peninsula Park as the location for an annual rose show. In 1917, Washington Park on Portland’s west side was selected as the site of the International Rose Test Garden and most of the rose show activities were moved there." "The octagonal bandstand overlooking the rose garden was constructed in 1913. It was used for World War I patriotic demonstrations and is now the site for many summer weddings and concerts. This wonderful gazebo-like structure is a National Heritage historical structure and was designated a Portland Historic Landmark in 1973. It is the last of its kind in Portland.”
...and speaking of roses…the annual Portland Rose Festival is now entering its last week of events, culminating on Saturday with the Grand Floral Parade and the finale of the dragon boat races on Sunday.
Not that I’ve ever actually taken part in any of the festival events, except gawking at the fleet when they arrive. For some reason I absolutely love the sight of these big ships parked along our waterfront. It puts everything into perspective. The ships arrived last week, but I didn’t get any pictures. These show the fleet that visited Portland last year (although the skies look suspiciously like this year) and were borrowed from a fellow Portlander named Jeffrey, I stole them from his blog. I hope you don’t mind Jeffrey.
I wonder…are there cities that have Agave festivals? Or Aloe parades? Maybe the annual Cactus Days?


  1. For not being a fan of roses, you have a few nice shots there. I especially like the first one of that Sally Holmes climber peeking through the balustrade.
    I love Peninsula Park, too, and I agree it has much more to recommend it than the Rose Test Gardens, and a lot more heart. One of my favorite things there is watching little kids playing in the fountain in summer, sometimes with a dog or two. They have such a good time.

  2. AnonymousJune 08, 2010

    thanks for the blunt comments on the rose. I have to agree...not my favorite plant...and there are a couple climbers that are starting to grow on me. Hurray for keeping history alive Portland on the 2 acres. Matti

  3. I'm laughing now - I was surprised to see roses on your post title, but thought maybe their thorns made them dangerous enough for you to like them! I guess I was wrong. We have a local rose garden, and it's not very pretty. There are too many hybrid teas with spindly knees. Roses need to be engish roses or old roses and interplanted with perennials, shrubs and vines to please me.

  4. Oh, these formal gardens are so heartbreaking in a way - all that work and fuss! I am not a big rose fan either for most of the year but then they bloom and I relent, especially if they have an intoxicating scent.

    If there isn't an agave festival, maybe you should found one! The Portland Spiky Plant Days?!

    There is something called the Cactus Festival, but it's a music festival in Europe. Pretty good line-up!


  5. I am ridiculously attached to my roses and have spent may hours swooning both at Washington Park and Peninsula. Thank god I have no more room to expand my collection.Our wet spring this year (not as wet as yours ) has me stripping off blackspot festooned foliage after work every evening-I don't spray. I have many puncture wounds , but on the plus side, one can drink wine and pluck foliage simultaneously.This helps to dull the pain.

  6. AnonymousJune 08, 2010

    Hi Loree~~ Somewhere in California they have a garlic festival. Would this count?

    I happen to love roses and the shrub type bushes really have improved with good plant breeding. However they need to be planted within a mixed border. These single specimen monocultures are boring, if you ask me.

    The last time I went to the Rose Festival parade, I ended up with a migraine and decided the whole thing was overkill. I mean, if you've seen a hundred floats you've seen them all. I couldn't wait for it to be over. ... And then there's the time as a teenager I drank a little too much then went on one of those rides at "The fun center" on the muddy water front. Ah, the memories...

  7. Looks like a nice garden. I like roses, especially other peoples roses. They are generally to fussy for me to grow. I have a few, but I try not to get too invested.

  8. Not a fan of traditional rose gardens but roses are much more than hybrid teas. Loree, you can grow ramblers up there or Rosa rubrifolia! Huge fan of those big ships, though. So cool to see them moving behind the still city as they come into port.

  9. MuchMaid, you are so right about the fountain! Even when we were there on a coolish day folks were gathered around.

    Matti, there was a climbing rose growing up and around a telephone pole on our street, until someone cut it down. That rose I loved, it had personality.

    VW, are you talking about the rose garden at Manito? It always amazed me to see people getting their pictures taken there when just a few feet away in the perennial garden there were so many more beautiful plants!

    Karen, good find! I wonder why they named it the Cactus Festival? If I do start a spiky plant fest it will have to be during the rose festival, as an antidote. We'll do all the un-festival like things, no parade or family fun park. Maybe it will involve tours to my favorite spiky nurseries!

    ks, not waiting until after gardening to have wine but gardening with wine! Oh I like your style! I have a sister-in-law who it completely gaga over roses. In fact their garden is 1/2 agaves (my brothers contribution) and 1/2 roses. It's in interesting mix.

    Grace, I wondered if you would take offense at my light rose bashing! Glad to hear you enjoyed your young rose festival days...I am sure if I had grown up here I would probably have a similar tale. And yes...the Gillroy (?) garlic fest could come close!

    Laura, then this would be perfect for you...you can just enjoy...no maintenance required!

    Denise, so have you been a Portlander at some point? Your comments have me thinking perhaps you've been here more than just for a couple of visits?

  10. I don't know what is going on here, but many of your photos are not coming up for me. No one else has mentioned it, so I guess it's my problem, not yours. Sometimes these things fix themselves...hope so in this case.

    My dad proposed to my mom at the Peninsula Park Rose Garden...with a corsage of gardenias.

  11. We have always had the Azalea Festival here in April, complete with the Azalea Queen. The festival also celebrated the NATO pact as Norfolk is home to the NATO Staff College. When I think of azaleas I naturally think of Cold War alliances, don't you? Each year a different country in NATO was celebrated and the queen always came from that country. This year they dropped the Azalea name and just called it the NATO Festival.

    BTW, I bet there must be a story behind Liverpool Liz.

  12. As a member of one of the oldest and largest Italian families in the City of Roses, I love the park since my family has been going there since it started. Give me rose flower water in my lemonade any day or rose crème brûlée will do. Yes, it is true, I prefer to eat my roses.

  13. I despise rose gardens of this sort---all those roses laid out in a grid, surrounded by boxwood. But I LOVE old roses rambling through a mixed border--so romantic, not at all snooze-inducing, and no more trouble to grow than many other tough perennials. So for me, roses are all about context.


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