Hello again and thank you for listening to the newest episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.
This is part 2 of my back-to-back episodes on American grown roses, in honor of Valentine’s Day, taking place later this week. In our previous episode, I introduced you to Danielle Hahn of Rose Story Farm, based in Carpinteria, California.
Today, I hope you’ll enjoy my conversation with Sandra Peterkort Laubenthal of Peterkort Roses.
Most U.S.-grown roses hail from California, which accounts for 75 percent of the nation’s overall floral production. Yet in Oregon, Peterkort Roses has raised hybrid teas for the floral trade since the 1930s. The Peterkorts, a third-generation Oregon family, currently produces 2 million roses annually, using many sustainable growing practices.
“We have this certain niche, and we really want to support the local floral industry,” says Sandra, granddaughter of Joseph and Bertha Peterkort, who came to Oregon from Germany and started flower farming in 1923, raising sweet peas, gerberas and pansies.
Historically, the state had been home to several commercial cut rose growers, but during the past two decades those operations either shifted to other crops or folded altogether. “We are an anachronism, but it seems like the ‘City of Roses’ should have its own local rose grower,” Sandra points out.
Here’s the video segment produced by Anne Jaeger for The Oregonian/Oregon Live: “Sustainable bouquets — buying local extends to flowers, too!”
Peterkort’s elegant blooms look vastly different from those softball-sized imported ones that are offered by supermarkets, wire services and conventional flower shops every February 14th.
Instead, Peterkort’s 60-plus rose varieties are closer to what you might find gracing a mixed perennial border in the garden. Specialties include the hybrid tea rose, with upright, spiraled petals; a German-bred hybrid tea that features multi-petal characteristics of an old garden rose; and dainty spray roses with many small blooms on a single stem. Today, Peterkort’s 16 hoop houses produce thousands of rose stems, as well as gorgeous Oriental and Asiatic lilies, maiden fern, orchids and new crops like ranunculus and anemone.
Designers count on Peterkort as an important local source for bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, flower girl wreaths and tabletop arrangements. The versatile color palette begins with pure white roses and ends with ones covered in dark, velvety black-red petals. Unlike unscented imported roses, these have a light, pleasing fragrance. Because Peterkort harvests its flowers one day and sells them the next, their roses are super fresh and, as a result, are long-lasting in the vase.
“I’ve been ordering roses from Peterkort for years,” says designer Melissa Feveyear, owner of Seattle-based Terra Bella Floral Design, who specializes in local and organic flowers. With varieties like ‘Piano Freiland’, a red, peony-shaped rose, and spray roses that last several weeks in an arrangement, Peterkort’s blooms make up in quality what they don’t have in size, she says.
“Because the stems are thinner than (those of) imported roses, they’re very easy to use in hand-tied bouquets. You can group a bunch together for really stunning impact without making the stem feel too bulky for a bride to hold.”
Indeed Peterkort is the last Oregon rose grower, but in fact, customers around the country have begun to discover these boutique blooms. A message on the company’s web site helps to explain their popularity: “What can we say about a bunch of people who are still dedicated to growing cut flower roses in the U.S.? . . . We continue because we are obsessed.”
Peterkort’s sustainable practices produce greener blooms:
- During the winter months, Peterkort increases the amount of artificial greenhouse light, thereby producing more roses in less space for the same amount of energy. Energy curtains provide additional insulation as outside temperatures drop. The panels are made of Mylar and are suspended from cables across the greenhouse ceiling, containing heat within when closed.
- Peterkort uses an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system of biological controls to curb aphids, spider mites and other predator pests.
- Peterkort selects disease-resistant rose varieties and suppresses the spread of fungal diseases by maintaining ideal temperature, humidity and air circulation levels inside the greenhouses and keeping the ground clear of dead leaves and debris.
- All packaging is recycled and roses are wrapped for market in newspaper purchased from a local charity.
Here are some of my arrangements from Slow Flowers, featuring roses and lilies grown by Peterkort Roses:
For many sweethearts, Valentine’s Day is filled with expectations and anticipation. Yet for followers of the Slow Flowers movement, the romantic holiday is not complete unless the flowers we give and receive come from local farmers who use sustainable practices. Peterkort is one such source. Please ask your local florist to order these domestic roses rather than the steroidal giants that must be shipped from afar, a continent or two from here.
In fact, here is my list of American rose farms. If your local florist says, “I can’t find American-grown roses,” then give him/her my recommendations and ask them to do their homework. You have to care enough to do the right thing.
It has been my pleasure to share with you today’s podcast conversation with Sandra Laubenthal. All photos are (c) Debra Prinzing.
Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 6,500 times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.
Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net.