"How's your ficus?" says Palm Room owner Brandon Peterson every time my wife and I set foot in his store. We are connected to Peterson because of a 5-foot-tall houseplant we bought from him that sits in our kitchen and soaks up sun all day. But this is exactly what keeps us going back to the Palm Room for every new houseplant we buy. And we buy quite a few. As one of the first businesses to spearhead Ballard Avenue's early 21st-century renaissance, the Palm Room has staked its claim as the spot young North Enders head to for indoor greenery. Though Peterson's obviously obsessed with plants, he doesn't regard them like fine china. When the aforementioned ficus was turning brown in spots, he said: "Just give it water. It's going through an adjustment." He offered the same sort of analogy when assessing the supposed ills of a rosemary-leafed bonsai. He was right both times: Both plants adjusted to our home and now are abundantly green. When I went in to buy a new stone pot to replant the ficus, I looked at the price tag and asked, "Why is this so cheap?" Peterson waved me away, saying, "I'm Norwegian. We don't overcharge for anything."—Brian J. Barr 5336 Ballard Ave. N.W., 782-7256.