Landscaping with roses in Portland

Landscaping with roses in Portland
by Liz Vernon

Rose gardens in Portland aren’t appreciated only by those who live in the City of Roses – they even have international admirers. Just ask Judy Giorgi.

The Gresham member used to host exchange students each summer and often took them to gardens like the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.

"They're so in awe," Giorgi says. "One of the girls used at least a roll [of film] and told me the pictures were for her Portland book. When her mother called from Italy to thank us, she said, 'Your roses are beautiful.'"

Giorgi and her late husband, Don, found rosebushes at their home when they moved there 11 years ago, but they quickly put their own mark on the collection, moving some of the plants and adding others.

"Sometimes something would strike us and we'd say, 'We've got to have it,'" she says. "That's how we usually pick our roses."

But other people aren't so spontaneous. Some visit one of Portland's three rose gardens or the annual rose festival for ideas of what they'd like to plant in their yard before visiting local nurseries.

Barclay Bullock, owner of highly rated Barclay's Gardens & More, says people most often think of color and fragrance when picking their flowers, and reminds them to select a suitable site in their yard because roses need plenty of sun and air.

Diseases shouldn't be a problem. "Breeders have worked those out, so [diseases are] less prevalent nowadays," he says. "Newer varieties are much less susceptible."

William McClenathan, store director at highly rated Portland Nursery on Division Street, says many clients choose their flowers for sentimental reasons.

"They might have an idea of what they consider to be a rose - they might want something like what they see at the florist, or remember it as one grandma used to have in her yard."

That's how member Sally Leet of Tigard thinks of them. "I will always associate a Tropicana rose [a red-orange hybrid tea] with my father, and a Peace rose [a light yellow or cream-colored hybrid tea] with my mother and her mother."

Curator Harry Landers and other staff and volunteers maintain the more than 8,000 roses at the International Rose Test Garden. While homeowners' rose gardens are much smaller-scale, many people still need help with the maintenance.

Bullock advises homeowners to ask potential companies about their experience with annuals or perennials.

"Don't assume they have that expertise," he says. "They may not be able to handle rosebeds."

Giorgi now relies on highly rated Withers Landscape & Maintenance. "They're wonderful. They cut them back in the fall, and the roses looked gorgeous this spring," she says. "They pruned and come back as the roses put out new growth."

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