imaginary outfit: rose-garden tourism


Last June, I was in Portland, Oregon, staying in a neighborhood of exuberant gardens. Plants spilled out and over the sidewalks, filling berms and medians and cracking pavements—heavy-headed rudbeckias and bright wiry poppies, stalky hollyhocks and elegantly gnarled Japanese maples, and everywhere, roses.  In the mornings and evenings, before and after work, I'd go get coffee and chouquettes and walk and admire. One house had tied a pair of scissors to a spectacularly thorny rosebush heavy with blooms, hung with a laminated sign that read "HELP YOURSELF."

Portland is an excellent city for roses—the International Rose Test Garden is there, with its more than 10,000 bushes. A heavenly place, truly, that you smell before you see, but I particularly love the tennis courts perched on the hillside above it. Some time ago, a rainbow array of roses were planted against its chainlink fence, and now it is encrusted with blossoms. Every time I visit, I curse dumb airlines that make toting my tennis things a costly hassle because hitting there would be a dream come true.

I thought the garden and the tennis courts were the rosiest places in town, but as I was ambling in my temporary neighborhood, I noticed a strong scent of rose. Following my nose, I came upon an unlooked-for delight: a diamond-shaped park densely planted with roses, nested right in the neighborhood. As I walked up and down, reading all of the roses' names, I noticed a sign: "South Rose Garden." The fact that "South" was specified made me wonder if perhaps there was a "North Garden," so I walked that way. Reader, there were FOUR rose gardens—one for each cardinal direction, each stacked with rows of blooms named after old movie stars, descriptive adjectives, and forgotten French ladies. I stumbled upon them all, one after the other, increasingly giddy. (I suppose I could have looked it up on the map, but I didn't and got to enjoy the absolute surprise of finding each one.) I had found Ladd's Addition Gardens; four rose gardens framing a central circle with camellias and rhododendrons.

I do not know if anyone would plan a neighborhood around a garden now, but I am so glad someone did, and that people still take the time to tend the roses so anyone who happens by can enjoy them. I'm headed west for work again soon, and I hope to find them blooming.