Do you love roses and live in the Portland, OR, area? (Or are you visiting?) Have I got the place for you! Just 30 minutes south of Portland is Heirloom Roses, a grower and seller of all kinds of roses perfect for the Northwestern climate (and beyond). With 7 acres of display gardens and 500 rose varieties for sale, it’s a great place to go see what’s growing on with these incredible plants. My family visited in mid-September, and we were amazed at the number of roses still flowering!

Heirloom rose display

The sales area at Heirloom Roses is divided by category for easy plant selection.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Rose display garden

The display gardens beautifully illustrate the way each rose is meant to be showcased.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Eternally Yours rose

During our visit we discovered Eternally Yours rose, which has a wonderful citrus fragrance.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Rosemary Harkness rose

This is Rosemary Harkness/plants/rosa-harrowbond-rosemary-harkness/, proclaimed to be a World’s Best Hybrid Tea rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

First stop: the display gardens. They’re roughly divided into categories. There are separate gardens featuring divinely scented roses, test roses, miniatures, old roses and cold-hardy forms. There’s also an All-America Rose Selections (AARS) award-winner garden, with winners of the coveted AARS medal for every year since 1940.

One thing that really struck me about the growers at Heirloom Roses is how incredibly knowledgeable and helpful they are. The young man we talked with not only really knew his roses, he also directed us to specific selections. When we asked him where to find a certain cultivar, he pulled out a map with every cultivar listed on it. When we asked for information on roses for shade, he immediately gave us a great handout.

What’s more, they gave us great information on common pests and diseases of roses. For instance, to combat slugs and snails – a ubiquitous problem here in the Pacific Northwest – we learned we can tempt them with beer. (Simply put 1 inch of beer in the bottom of an empty tuna or cat food can, and wait to see what gets trapped overnight.)

Probably the biggest thing that sets Heirloom Roses apart from many other growers is its commitment to growing own-root roses. Unlike grafted roses, own-root ones are grown on their own rootstock, which makes them more cold hardy. (The tops of grafted roses are often killed during winter, and the roses that come from the roots are inferior.) While the plants Heirloom Roses sells are in small pots, they can be sold this way because they’re grown on their own roots.

Now I’ll tell you, I’m not a big fan of hybrid teas or rose gardens in general. But I thought Heirloom Roses offered something different – especially with its selection of old and shade-tolerant roses. I really enjoyed our visit. Not only was it beautiful, it was a great way to find out what grows well in the Willamette Valley. (We paid special attention to rose shrubs with healthy foliage in fall, and then chose accordingly.)

So if you’re a rose lover and looking for somewhere new to go – or if you live in the Portland area and are trying to entertain your mother-in-law – consider spending a lazy Sunday afternoon in the gardens of Heirloom Roses. You can’t plan a more aromatic day!