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Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is an Essex County Park in New Jersey maintained by the nonprofit Citizens Committee. The gardens were established in 1927 in honor of Frank Presby. Presby was a horticulturalist who helped found the American Iris Society in 1920.
Presby Memorial is the largest non-commercial garden dedicated to irises in the world, with approximately 10,000 individual plants. It has over 3,000 different varieties. Some of its vintage rhizomes were stolen in 2008, but were later recovered.
The Victorian house on the grounds is the Walther House and is the headquarters for the Citizens Committee and also houses a museum store. Barbara Walther lived there and was the garden’s curator for over 50 years. In 1977, she passed away and the Citizens Committee was formed to maintain the collection.
The Citizens Committee had financial troubles in 2008 so Essex County purchased the Walther House and property and designated it a County Park. The County maintains the structure and leases the land back to the non-profit organization which continues to oversee the gardens, completely through private donations and volunteerism.
Presby has over 10,000 visitors, mostly during the blooming season each year, from Mid May to early June. The gates open pretty early…I got there as soon as it opened and had no trouble finding parking or taking photos without mobs of people.
To see my other Essex County Park posts click Branch Brook Park.
Location: 474 Upper Mountain Ave, Montclair, NJ 07043
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, County Park
Date designation declared: September 17, 1980
Date of my visit: 5/28/2016