Welcome to Rarity Gardens, where we grow more than 850 different herbaceous, Itoh and tree peony varieties on the fertile, northern slopes of Mt. Hood. We’re Jim and Lore Sampson and we’re glad you’re here! Locally, we’re known as the ‘Peony Ambassadors’ as we delight our neighbors and friends in discovering the joy and beauty of peonies.
Location, Location, Location! When we finally found our home here, in the beautiful upper Hood River Valley, it seemed like the perfect fit for our family and our needs. Beautiful vistas of Mt. Hood and the Cascade Mountains, deep fertile volcanic soils with abundant irrigation, and delicious forest spring drinking water.
Our temperate climate with USDA Zone 4-5 winter temperatures are similar to our Midwest experience but last only 4 or 5 weeks. Low summer humidity and modest spring precipitation support both delightful living and superb plant cultivation.
At 1,800 feet on the northern slopes of the mountain, we've found the perfect median between Eastern Oregon's semi-arid, high desert climate and the soggy Willamette Valley, famous for its rainfall.
Lore is the 'Western scion' of Wavecrest Nursery, her family's Michigan nursery renowned as horticultural pioneers in developing and promoting the best of rare and unusual woody landscape specimens for discerning Midwest gardeners.
A nurseryman's daughter, with a University of Michigan education, Lore's love of gardening and perennials are evidenced by her lifelong leadership in garden clubs and plant societies. She was the founding president of the Hood River Valley Evening Garden Club and is Past President of the Columbia River Daylily Club. More recently Lore served as President of the American Peony Society, the global association and designated International Registrar for the species. She is a frequent lecturer and keynote speaker at gardening events here in the Pacific Northwest.
Jim is a sagebrush and sandhill, East Oregonian raised on a cattle, hay and fruit ranch on the mighty Columbia River. His youth was a Huck Finn existence of slipping off from chores to hunt, fish, and raft in the woods and sloughs along the river.
Later, in and out of Oregon universities while 'soup boning' in carpentry and mechanic trades, he eventually went east and earned his BS Forestry in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan.
It was here that karma helped West meet East, and one spring day in 1976 on 'Hospital Hill' overlooking the Upjohn Peony Garden in Nichols Arboretum, Lore accepted Jim's marriage proposal. Although it took a decade for Jim to relocate Lore and their two boys back to Oregon they landed in Mt. Hood by yet another random stroke of good luck.
Today, the boys are grown and have moved on. Rarity Gardens' rows of trees and shrubs have evolved to perennials; fine Hostas, daylilies and especially, peonies. (Yes, we still have several giant weeping larch trees developed by Lore's dad and named 'Dr. Seuss Trees' by the neighbors.)
Jim has retired from teaching middle school science and math, although he misses 'blowing stuff up'.
Partners in business and marriage Jim and Lore abide by the two agreements made over forty years ago.
First: We will have no employees. If we can't personally do it, it doesn't get done. Customers deal directly with us and we get to be out with the plants, not behind a desk or directing crews.
Secondly: We agreed that Jim would make all the big decisions and Lore would make all the little ones. (So far, they've all been little decisions!)
Lore loves to talk peonies, share recommendations and offer advice and experience.
Ever the educator, Jim generously shares his knowledge about everything from soils and fertilizers, to favorite tractor implements and cultivation practices.
Call us! And never stop growing!
Lore & Jim