Peterkort Roses is a family-owned cut flower growing business that’s been around since 1923, when our grandparents bought a small farm in the Portland, Oregon suburbs.
Today we grow roses and other crops at a new location near Hillsboro, Oregon.
Our parents, Albert and Mary Anne Peterkort, raised all seven of us to help out with the family business. We are in partnership together, with two of us employed full time and several others performing part-time tasks such as bookkeeping, orchid raising, and selling at the flower market.
Our philosophy is to grow roses and other flowers that will please our customers, most of whom are local florists and wholesalers. We aim for great customer service and continuous improvement in our flowers, against a background of efficiency and conservation. We specialize in roses for florists, wedding flowers, and life occasions.
GREENHOUSE GROWING IN THE 21st CENTURY
Peterkort Roses grows year-round in heated greenhouses. Back in Victorian times these were known as “conservatories” and were the pride of kings and wealthy plant lovers, who kept (and often killed) rare plants collected in far-off tropical colonies.
Skip forward 150 years or so and you see a much different picture. Our greenhouses today feature some interesting innovations:
- Roses grow in hydroponic tubs in coir (coconut fiber), not in the ground
- Drip irrigation provides a steady diet of water, minerals and fertilizer
- Powerful grow lights in winter help augment our clouded-over Oregon sun
- White fabric covers the greenhouse floor to reflect light and help in sanitation
- Automatic ventilators let fresh air into the greenhouse and exhaust excess moisture
- Invisible armies of beneficial insects pounce on aphids, spider mites and other pests
- Central heat from our boiler in winter keeps the roses from becoming dormant, allowing them to produce flowers all year
- Mylar energy curtains are mobilized at night, drawing a heat-saving blanket over the tops of the plants. We use them in hot summer days too, to prevent sunburn.
Every day we walk through the entire greenhouse range and pick the roses that are ready. They are bundled and put in hydrating solution in the cooler.
They soak up water for a while, then we grade them by length and package them for sale. The ends are snipped and they go back in the cooler, this time in a storage solution. They are ready for a vase, topiary or wedding bouquet!
In 1912 our grandfather, Joseph Peterkort, left his home in Germany and headed for Oregon where relatives were homesteading.
He went to work at the nearby farm of Gustav Teufel, who had come from Germany in the late 1800s, and now had a nursery nearby and a large family. There he met the oldest daughter Bertha, and they were soon married.
In 1923 Joseph and Bertha bought part of his cousin Gerhard Holboke’s farm and set up their own greenhouse operation with a wood burning boiler for heat. They grew gerberas, sweet peas and pansies. It was fortunate that they had five children to help with all the work.
New crops were added, such as holly for Christmas decorations. Family lore has it that Gustav Teufel had been employed as a gardener at one of downtown Portland’s grand estates. He made cuttings from an English holly tree there and planted them at his own farm. This was the beginning of the holly business in Oregon.
Roses came along during the 1930s, beginning our long education in rose growing. Old varieties such as “Better Times” were popular. Our mom, Mary Anne Holboke, who lived at Gerhard Holboke’s old farm just up the road, was the first rose grader. She and our dad, Albert, were married in 1952.
Dad took a great interest in orchids. He worked with cattleyas to cross breed them and develop new varieties. He grew them from seed in flasks of agar, and won many prizes at the Oregon Orchid Society shows. Cymbidiums and slipper orchids were added to the collection, too.
In the old days local growers delivered flowers every day to Portland’s florists. But in the early 1940s the Portland police, unhappy with traffic congestion downtown, began to ticket and generally make life miserable for the delivery wagons.
So the growers and florists got together and set up the Oregon Flower Growers Association. They bought a brick building at the corner of SE Taylor and Grand Avenue on Portland’s east side. This was a success, and eventually this site became congested too. In 1989 everybody moved to Portland’s Swan Island Industrial Park into a brand new building, the Portland Flower Market.
Expansion in the rose business during the 50s and 60s called for the tripling in size of our greenhouse operation. Joseph and Bertha retired, and left the business in the capable hands of the next generation. Joe Jr. and Frank took good care of customers, Lois operated the office and the telephones, and Albert handled flower production.
In the 1980s the freeway intersection near the farm needed to expand, and a new light rail transit station with a large parking garage was planned. A move was inevitable. Albert and Mary Anne bought a farm further west in Scholls, near Hillsboro. They built a brand new greenhouse range to continue the business. Now they in turn have retired and the third generation is growing flowers.
As members of the next generation, inheriting a business that has been in the family for over 80 years, we find our task challenging yet exhilarating. Foreign competition, energy costs, the internet, and changing tastes make our job very different from the past and sometimes anything but a bed of roses. However, we take courage from the knowledge that others have overcome what seemed like insurmountable difficulties. Perhaps this quote from Goethe is a good summary:
"That which thy fathers hath bequeathed unto thee,
Earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it!"