The primary purpose of this garden is to serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties. The City of Portland Gold Medal Awards are issued annually to the best introductions. The first "Gold Medal" rose award was given in 1919, making it the oldest rose testing program of its kind in the United States. Portland is the only North American city to issue such awards. These award winning varieties are planted in the Gold Medal Garden.
The terrace above the Shakespeare garden was originally planted in old garden roses. By 1959, so many Gold Award roses had crept into the terrace that it became known as the Gold Award Garden and the old garden roses were moved to another area of the garden.
With the support of the Portland Rose Society, today’s Gold Medal Garden was constructed in 1969 commemorating 50 years of Gold Medal awards in the City of Roses. In 1991, the Portland Rose Society donated the gazebo to the Gold Medal Garden, a popular spot for weddings and a wonderful vantage point from which to view the award winning roses.