Northern California is literally abloom with opportunities to take an aromatic break. We may not have been the first to cultivate roses—that honor appears to belong to the Chinese some 5,000 years ago—but they sure love it here. Need proof? Take a stroll through these top gardens for acres of roses, including hybrid teas, new varieties, antique roses, and all-time favorites.
Opened in 1937 on the site of a former prune orchard, the 5.5-acre San Jose Municipal Rose Garden boasts lawns, redwoods, a fountain, and more than 4,000 rose bushes of 189 different varieties. Showy hybrid teas account for 75 percent of the collection. The garden blooms from April through November, with May being the peak month. As a test garden for the All-American Rose Selections, this San Jose garden is a great place to check out new varieties not yet released to the public.
With 1,200 bushes spread over 1.5 acres, the McKinley Park Rose Garden is Sacramento's largest garden devoted exclusively to roses. Varieties that can take the city's hot summers are a specialty here. The garden's oval shape reflects the running track that occupied the site before roses began arriving in 1940. Elsewhere in the state capital, if you're looking specifically for antique roses, don't miss the spectacular collection at the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden in the Old City Cemetery.
Stunning views of San Francisco Bay greet visitors to the Berkeley Rose Garden, before they step down a terrace hillside covered with 3,000 bushes and 250 varieties. A WPA project dedicated for public use in 1937, the 3.64-acre garden includes a 220-foot-long redwood pergola whose preliminary design was suggested by the famed architect Bernard Maybeck. The big show here usually happens in mid-May.
Nearly 5,000 rose bushes flank a 10-tier waterfall and the winding paths of the seven-acre Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, tucked into a green canyon in a residential Oakland neighborhood. A 1930s-era formal garden, it's on the National Register of Historic Places and has been accredited by the American Rose Society. The height of the blooming season is late-May and June, though you'll find flowers all the way through October.