Zonal denial: Pushing the envelop searching for survivors

May 2014 Posted in Business, People
Dr. Tim Peters owns Raintree Tropical and Northwest Family Medical. Photo by  Brenna Wiegand

Dr. Tim Peters owns Raintree Tropical and Northwest Family Medical. Photo by Brenna Wiegand

By Brenna Wiegand

White-wrapped plants dotting the hillside give the illusion of a graveyard, but Dr. Tim Peters is sure most of his young palm trees will make a comeback.

The optimistic family practice doc owns Raintree Tropical, specializing in hard-to-find tropical or tropical-looking indoor and outdoor plants. And with his knowledge of tropical plants, he has plan to “doctor” the white-wrapped plants back to health.

Peters, 53, was bitten by the tropical plant bug while living in Taiwan as a young child.

He was born in Kansas and grew up in Mount Angel, where his father Dr. Virgil Peters, ran a medical practice for 31 years. Before that, Virgil worked at a mission hospital in Taiwan.

Tim followed in his father’s professional footsteps, attending George Fox University and then University of Kansas medical school.

Meanwhile, his wife, Dr. Sarah Peters, grew up in Nebraska, attended Bethel College in Kansas and University of Nebraska Medical School. The two ended up doing their residency together at Saint Joseph University Medical School in Wichita.

They married and moved to Silverton more than 30 years ago, opening Northwest Family Medicine not long after. They have two “very active” kids — Matthew, a junior at Silverton High, and Rachel, an eighth grader at Evergreen School. From basketball games to tennis matches, the Peters enjoy attending their children’s events.

“Kids these days don’t have as many opportunities for working as I did, so it’s nice to be able to provide them the opportunity,” Tim said. “There’s just a mind set you have to learn — both are good, hard workers now.”

Raintree Tropical
3408 Cascade Hwy. NE, Silverton
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays,
Fridays and Saturdays
raintreetropical.com
503-873-2644

They’ll be lending a hand in creating a new display garden at the nursery, where Tim spends his day off, perhaps using more Latin than while at work.

“It started off I just got some orchids and built a little greenhouse,” Peters said. “Then I thought, ‘Wow, it would be fun to sell a few of them.’”

Spurred on by Orchid Society shows and new plants to be discovered and acquired, he opened Raintree Tropical in April 2005.

“My goal is to find species that nobody has so far found that will grow in Oregon — interesting, unusual stuff,” Peters said. “The closest I’ve come to that is the Jubaea chiliensis (Chilean Wine Palm). (Jelly palms) Butia eriospatha and Butia capitata are also promising for this area but sometimes you have to get them bigger to be more stable.”

“What makes us unique is the selection of palm trees and some other unusual plants, is they are not widely available in the trade,” said Steve Linn, nursery manager. “We’ve probably got the widest selection and volume of palms in the Northwest.”

Rare also is their collection of indoor plants, orchids and citrus.

Dr. Tim Peters and Farley the cockatoo. Photo by Brenna Wiegand

Dr. Tim Peters and Farley the cockatoo. Photo by Brenna Wiegand

“It’s a challenge,” Linn said. “You’re pushing the envelope… It’s not easy.

“I warn people when they’re going to need protection; elsewhere I’ve seen palms that aren’t hardy being labeled as if they were and that works to the detriment of anybody in the industry,” Linn said. “Ideally somebody who is into tropicals would have a greenhouse where they could put things for the winter or possibly a well-lit room with good humidity and air circulation. Otherwise they’re tossing the dice.”

The “warm greenhouse” contains many orchids, indoor ferns, palms and cycads, all mixed up for a journey of discovery. There are Tillansias that live on air, jasmine that blooms by night, plants whose roots are exposed and those who trap live prey; carnivores like the pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap.

The next greenhouse is for hardier plants that ought still be overwintered.

“This is where I come to harvest my citrus,” Tim said. “The lemons and tangerines do very well.”

He’s found a strain of non-edible banana that’s nevertheless incredible.

“These things are great; they’ll get up to 12-15 feet tall in a big clump and have big long leaves,” Tim said. “If it’s a hard winter, they’ll freeze to the ground and then come back.”

Trees in the yard include oil-bearing olives, magnolias, mimosas and “several types of cool bamboo” on consignment.

The star of the palms at the nursery is the hardy windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei.

“That’s the bread and butter,” Tim said. “I also like T. fortunei ‘Wagneranius,’ which is just as hardy, and T. takil; they’re just as hardy but very rare…

“The reality is I just like experimenting with zonal denial, especially with what will grow in Oregon that has the tropical look to it,” Tim said. “I like unusual or tropical plants and like to visit them wherever I go.”

A lot of their seed and plants come from Hawaii and Tim is experimenting with growing palms on four acres in Maui.

“There are worse hobbies for him to have,” Sarah said. “Mostly I’m a housewife and mother.”

A biology major, she maintains the large flower beds around the house and a summer vegetable garden.

“It’s a wonderful life,” she added. “We are very blessed.”

They built their own “little piece of Hawaii” onto their home — a 20-by-20-by-20-foot dirt floor atrium, glassed in on the front and top, filled with tropical plants. Farley the cockatoo lives there, too.

“We walk through there all the time; daily,” Sarah said.

“It’s a jungle on one side of the house,” said Tim, gesturing toward an ambitious philodendron inside. “It’s the one your grandma always has — well, that’s how it looks when it gets going.”

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