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Home Blog The {Farmer} & the Florist Interview: Peterkort Roses
June 17th 2015

The {Farmer} & the Florist Interview: Peterkort Roses

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Floret

IMG_5469For this week’s {Farmer} and the Florist Interview, I’m delighted to feature the good folks at Peterkort Roses outside of the city of roses, Portland, Oregon. If you follow the blog or my Instagram feed you’ve probably heard me gush about how amazing each and every Peterkort rose is. Even though I grow zillions of my own flowers, I always order their roses for every single wedding and workshop here at Floret. They really are THAT good.

A few weeks ago, Chris and the kids and I took a mini-vacation from our flower farm…and visited other flower farms in the Portland area (no Floret vacation is complete without flowers) including Peterkort Roses. I’ve been longing to visit for years now and I’m so glad I finally took the time to finally do it.

IMG_5301IMG_5303Here’s a little background:  Peterkort Roses is a family-owned cut flower growing business that was established 1923 by the grandparents the Peterkort family that currently operates the business. Siblings Norman Peterkort and Sandra Peterkort Laubenthal run the day-to-day operations and many other siblings and family members also help out.  Their operation includes 16 greenhouses spanning nearly six acres where 100,000 rose plants in 50 different varieties grow.   It was such a joy talking with Norman and Sandra plus seeing their roses—and smelling them—first hand was incredible. Here’s a little excerpt from our visit.

IMG_5441Erin: First off, THANK YOU so much for welcoming us here today and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to show us around and share more about your roses.  I love seeing all these historical photos and reading about the “old days” of rose and flower production and the  history of how Peterkort Roses got it start.  I am, of course, particularly smitten with the photo of the sweet peas! Dad with Grandma sweet peas0002

Sandra: The above photo is from approximately 1928 and features our father, Albert Peterkort,  at around age 10, in the greenhouse on the old farm with his mom, our grandmother, Bertha Teufel Peterkort picking sweet peas.

boysonhorse0001Sandra: This is a photo of our Dad on the farm horse with his two brothers, Joe in the front, Albert in the middle, and Frank on the back.
Mom in geranium house a

Sandra:  Our mother, Mary Anne Peterkort, had her own geranium business on the old farm, she is shown with her plants.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 1.59.51 PM

Sandra: Our Grandma Peterkort’s family the Teufels are shown in their conservatory where they grew potted palms and other plants for rental to hotels etc. Our Grandma Bertha is the eldest girl, on the left.

Erin: These are such great photos!  Thanks again for sharing.  Ok, a few quick questions.  As you know, I’m a huge fan of your garden roses and use them all the time, but I know you grow a lot more than just garden roses. What do you consider to be your specialty? What are you best known for?

IMG_5380 Sandra: I think the overall look of our roses is a little different, maybe somewhat “wild” looking. We’ve always been attracted to shapes that are not the standard tea rose shapes, although we do grow those as well. Also our roses are somewhat varying in the sizes of the heads, with lots of them being smaller, and the stems are different as well, with more flexibility. We will grow varieties that the big growers don’t like because they have long viney stems or have other quirky characteristics that don’t fit in with an industrial rose production facility.

IMG_6364Erin: A lot of U.S. rose growers didn’t survive after the market was flooded with cheap Colombian and Ecuadorian roses after the Andean Trade Preferences Act was passed back in the early 1990’s. Did you alter your production or business strategy in light of that increased competition?

Norman: We decided to capitalize on our connection and service to our florist customers. We do sell to wholesale florists, but we maintain our booth in the Portland Flower Market (we’ve had that since 1941!!!) which gives us a direct link to the florists and we can get their feedback and ideas. We were a founding member of the Oregon Flower Growers Association, which is a cooperative, and we joined the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative when it started up a few years ago. Having those florist relationships means that we perform customer service that is geared towards individual florists.

Another aspect of how we differentiate ourselves is through improving our earth-friendly practices and emphasizing local/US grown. The Oregon State University Extension called me up over 15 years ago and we started working together on using beneficial insects in the greenhouse to eliminate aphids and spider mites. We’ve had really good success and I’m happy to say that we have a population of predators in there now that kicks spider mite butt pretty effectively. I really don’t miss doing fumigation and that other nasty stuff we used to do.

IMG_5339Erin: I know how difficult growing flowers—especially roses—can be and you guys work incredibly hard to produce such high quality blooms. Meanwhile, you suffered through a significant fire last winter, that shocked and scared those of us in the industry that have come to depend on your flowers.  It looks like you were able to recover and rebuild, but I’m sure that wasn’t easy either.

Sandra: It was pretty bad. The fire started outside the greenhouse and then ignited a pile of lily crates which melted a hole in the fiberglass and then trashed our lily area and our winter rose area. We had to redo all the wiring, all the lily irrigation, and we are still working on the winter rose area. We had to buy new energy curtains because they burned and sprinkled burning mylar tinsel all over everything. We had to throw away all our lily crop and a lot of rose plants, so no roses for Valentines for the first time in 80 years!!!

We do have lots of roses that were unaffected in other areas, with plenty of flowers from May to December.   It will take us a while to redo the winter rose area though so January through April will be somewhat minimal for a while. Maybe a couple of years until we get back to where we were.

IMG_5287IMG_5429Erin: For those not familiar with your ordering system, can you walk us through how it works? What is the minimum order for small farmer-florist operations to tuck in a few of your roses into their designs?

Norman: We think $100 of flowers is about what it takes to make it worthwhile. For new customers, we ask for a resale certificate to verify your business. We’ll send new customers a copy of our price list and we recommend you take a look at our web site to get an idea of what you’d like to order. We take orders by e-mail or phone. Shipping by FedEx is good unless you are in the Northwest, in which case UPS is also good. We ship priority overnight so you get your flowers quickly.

IMG_5374 IMG_5456Erin: Ok, I never like being asked this question because my answer seems to change with the seasons, but I’m going to ask it anyway: what’s your all time favorite flower? And how about your favorite rose variety that you grow?

Sandra: Kind of like being asked which is your favorite child! All time favorite flower for me is the rose. Yes, this is true! They smell great, the range of color and form is just amazing! You can never get bored with them because there is always something new. The rose gene pool is really wide and deep with a jillion combinations. Humans have loved the rose for a long time and there are thousands of varieties. What’s my favorite variety that we grow?? I love Moonstruck. The ruffly shape and that creamy old-fashioned color are so beautiful.

Norman: I like roses too because of all the different kinds. They are all beautiful in their own way. My favorite one that we grow? The ones that sell best are my favorite!

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IMG_5399Erin: Excellent! Thanks so much for taking the time with me today. I am so grateful for your time and your incredible talent for growing such amazing roses. They always take my arrangements to the next level!

Connect with Peterkort Roses:

Website: www.peterkortroses.com

Instagram @peterkortroses

9 Comments

  1. Bill Bedell on

    The Teufels and the Peterkorts! West Haven-Sylvan royalty! Very cool pictures, this is an awesome bit of history from where I grew up.

    Reply
  2. The Trials of a Sweet Pea Addict - Floret Flowers on

    […] some great historic images of growers whose love of sweet peas rivals mine.  Seeing some of the Peterkort’s historic photographs as part of my recent interview with them reminded me of some of the fun photos I uncovered during […]

    Reply
  3. Michelle on

    As a true Peterkort fan, having used their roses for years, and my mother before that, it was so fun to see a little bit of history behind the familiar faces. What a legacy and treasure! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Katie on

    Wonderful interview! I loved seeing those old photographs. Can’t wait to see their roses in person at the workshop in September!!!

    Reply
  5. geis on

    Flowers are the beutiful gift of God.

    Reply
  6. Khizer Aslam on

    Flowers are the great gift of the nature. Flowers look very stunning to eyes in the spring season.

    Reply
  7. Jeny De Figueiredo on

    What a great interview! LOVED seeing all the old pictures and all their beautiful flowers! Thanks so much for sharing Peterkort Roses with us!

    Reply
  8. Anna on

    I love this interview and the history behind the business is fascinating. I”m wondering if they have had to deal with Rose Rosette disease? I can only imagine that it could be devastating to the local rose industry?

    Reply

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