The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is celebrating its 85th Anniversary! The gardens are inviting the public to visit this historic botanical garden during Bloom Season in May. Relax and unwind in the garden, paint, sketch or take photographs, attend seasonal special events, shop at the garden themed “Bloom Room,” and support the future of the “Rainbow on the Hill.”
Established in 1927 to honor Frank H. Presby, founder of the American Iris Society, and lovingly maintained by curator Barbara Walther for 50 years, the collection of irises is now maintained by the Citizens Committee and is the largest public garden of its kind in the United States.
To ensure the garden’s museum quality collection is properly preserved for future generations, the 85th bloom season is highlighted with a formal fundraising campaign for the Citizens Committee. A 2012 goal of $85,000 has been set with donations being accepted on-site, through the mail, and online. Donation levels of $8.50 (Friend), $85.00 (Patron), $850 (Supporter), and $8,500 (Enthusiast) are suggested and will be gratefully acknowledged. Checks can be made payable to “Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.”
“Presby is a vital component to the Montclair community and is well respected throughout the horticultural industry. With flowers dating back to the 1500’s, the Iris Gardens is a living museum of botanical preservation that attracts tourists from around the world annually," said Linda Sercus, Executive Director of the Citizens Committee of the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.
“We invite the public to visit the gardens, marvel at the beauty of the irises during their bloom season and support the Citizens Committee’s work to preserve this unique historical resource. This is a spectacular, natural display of beauty that is recognized internationally,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
Bloom season is expected to occur from around May 5 through June 3. However, a mild winter may shift this period by a week or more. Nearly 14,000 rhizomes (bulbs) from approximately 3,000 iris varieties will produce more than 100,000 blooms this Spring! The Bloom Room gift shop will be open with an exciting mix of reasonably priced garden and iris-related items as well as iris plants and rhizomes. The Walther House will be home to an art exhibition showcasing photographs by Montclair artist Frances Pelzman Liscio. All in all, a variety of exciting events are planned.
Friday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
National Public Gardens Day. Kelly D. Norris will be on-site signing copies of his horticulture books, including the just released Timber Press publication “A Guide to Bearded Irises.” Norris is the youngest person to receive the Iowa State Horticultural Society’s Presidential Citation, Award of Merit and Honor Award in the organization’s 150-year history. In 2011, he was also honored by the Perennial Plant Association with the Young Professional Award, recognizing early contributions to the advancement of herbaceous perennials in American horticulture.
Friday, May 11 & Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Plant Sale. This popular annual event, organized by the Garden Club of Montclair, features a wide variety of deer resistant plants, including potted irises from Presby’s collection.
Sunday, May 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mother’s Day. Spend the day with your family in the Gardens. Tickets to a 1 p.m. special live musical performance and boxed lunch are available for purchase. Please call ahead for registration information.
Saturday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Family Garden Party. This free mini-festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs with live music, an art sale tent, crafts, and more. A Student Art Show will be displayed along the Gardens’ fence.
The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is located at 474 Upper Montain Avenue in Upper Montclair. Admission is a suggested $5 donation; the Gardens are open daily from dawn until dusk; outside of events, the Bloom Room gift shop and Walther House are generally open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information about the 2012 bloom season, May events, the 85th Anniversary fundraising campaign, or volunteer opportunities: call (973) 783-5974.
About the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens: The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is the largest public iris garden in the United States. Located at the base of Mountainside Park in Upper Montclair, the Gardens contain nearly 14,000 irises of around 3,000 varieties and produce over 100,000 blooms each May. It is a LIVING MUSEUM of botanical preservation with some varieties dating back to the 1500’s and is lovingly referred to by locals as the Rainbow on the Hill. Adjacent to the Gardens is the historic Walther House, a circa 1865 building which acts as headquarters for Citizens Committee offices and houses the Bloom Room gift shop. The overall site is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Sites and is also a facility of the historic Essex County Park System. The Citizens Committee maintains the everyday operations of the gardens.