The Woodland Park Rose Garden is a wonderful place to visit. Located next to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the 2 1/2 acres are filled with 280 varieties of roses. The garden opened in 1924 (87 years ago!) and it’s purpose was to provide a free public display of roses suitable for Seattle’s climate, and it continues to do just that. This is a happy place. There are clouds of color floating over the manicured lawns, as the roses are grouped together by variety. The statuesque conifers provide structure, along with the newly restored fountains and gazebo. It’s a peaceful place, filled with the incomparable perfume of one of the world’s best loved flowers, the rose. Visitors can pick up a rose identification list at the entrance to the garden and consequently learn the name of every rose on the premises (my personal goal).
There are roses of all types in this garden. The hybrid tea rose is perhaps the most popular type, with one bloom on each long stem. The floribundas are smaller and bushier and sport a cluster of flowers on each stem. Miniature roses have even smaller blossoms and shrub size and often are planted in containers. Climbing roses can be trained to go up and along fences, trellies and columns. Tree roses or standard roses are hybrids grafted onto a single cane up to 36 inches long, giving the appearance of a small tree covered in blossoms.
The best time to visit is in June, when the flowers and foliage shine. Today in August some of the shrubs were showing the effects of fungal disease and insect pests. With our cool, wet spring this year, black spot and other problems began early and have been taking their toll on many plants. The Woodland Park Rose Garden uses only organic growing methods, no chemical sprays allowed. It takes extra effort, but it really does show which varieties grow well here in the Pacific Northwest. The ones with leaves are keepers. So on your next adventure, skip the elephants and orangutans and watch the floribundas and hybrid teas outside of cages, roaming free. The greatest show on earth—a rose garden!