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Presby Memorial Iris Gardens Revisited»
As parks began to re-open for passive recreation during the Covid-19 crisis, I decided to revisit the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. I got there before 7 AM and pretty much had the park to myself. The park is open from dawn to dusk.The last time I’d been to the gardens was four years earlier, but ten days later in May. That was peak bloom that year. It looks like I may have been a week or so too early to see all of the irises in bloom, but it was still lovely. Scroll down for a link to my prior post to see what it looks like in full bloom.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.When you first enter the garden, there is a map of the beds that show where all of the different varieties are planted. There is one bed with rhizomes from the 1500s! I believe most of the ones in bloom on this particular visit were from the 1970’s “Hall of Fame.”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.
Essex County Park Posts:
- Branch Brook Park
- Essex County Presby Memorial Park
- Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
- Lenape Trail (Coming Soon)
Location: 474 Upper Mountain Ave, Montclair, NJ 07043
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, County Park
Date designated or established: September 17, 1980
Date of my visit: 5/19/2020