Presby Memorial Iris Gardens Commemorate 90 Years

The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens celebrate 90 years of May Bloom through their living art known as “the Rainbow on the Hill.”

The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens invites all to their special events of May Bloom!

Photo courtesy of The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.

Montclair is home to the beautiful blooming plants of the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. They are inviting the public to come join their events beginning Fri. May 12 to celebrate its 90th anniversary. This living art will known as “the Rainbow on the Hill.

“The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens again welcomes spring with its landmark display of blooms,” said Nancy Skjei-Lawes, Board President. “This year the Walther House living room will host an art exhibition showcasing works by contemporary American impressionist Lisa Palombo. It will be a beautiful display of her colorful artwork. In addition, in honor of the 90th anniversary, we return to offering lemonade and cookies on the front porch weekend afternoons during bloom season.”

“The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is recognized internationally for its horticultural and historical significance. Our unique public-private partnership preserves and protects this New Jersey treasure. We look forward to sharing this wonder with iris enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. We invite the public to come out and enjoy the dazzling display of colors on the ‘Rainbow on the Hill’ and support the Citizens Committee’s work to maintain this valuable resource,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said.

The gardens were established in 1927 to honor Frank H. Presby, beloved Montclair resident. Mr. Presby was passionately involved in improving Montclair’s parks and recreation areas and was an early trustee of the Montclair Art Museum. An avid horticulturalist and founding member of the American Iris Society, Mr. Presby loved irises and so it was an iris garden chosen to memorialize his life.

From two 4-foot-wide beds, the garden grew to 25-plus beds of irises under the loving care of its volunteer curator, Barbara Walther, noted American landscape architect John Wister, the Garden Club of Montclair, the Township of Montclair and many dedicated members of the Montclair community and larger iris world. Today, we continue the tradition of stewardship with our partner, the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

The gardens contain nearly 14,000 irises, approximately 1,500 varieties, which produce over 100,000 blooms each May. It is the only public garden where the comprehensive planting of bearded iris evolution may be viewed. The continuum of iris, dating from the 1500s to today, delights the modernist as well as historic iris enthusiasts.

In addition to enjoying the iris bloom, visitors will be invited to peruse any of their special events in May. A complete schedule is listed below:

  • Bloom Room Gift Shop Opens & Iris Plant Sale
    Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    The Bloom Room Gift Shop features an exciting mix of affordable home and garden accents. Potted and bare root irises from our collection are available for purchase. Visitors also may reserve summer grab bags.
  • Mother’s Day
    Sunday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Enjoy the day with Mom at Presby. Treat her to a special iris or item from the Bloom Room Gift Shop. Enjoy a free music program. A special luncheon is planned; check the website for ticket information. Artist Lisa Palumbo will be available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to sign artwork.
  • Anticipated Bloom Season
    Friday, May 12 through Friday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Bloom season begins its annual display starting with the “minis” bearded collection, then to the famed tall bearded irises and ends with the non-bearded irises. The Bloom Room Gift Shop will be open. Visitors may purchase potted and bare-root irises from the collection.  Check the website for peak bloom status.
  • Family Garden Party
    Saturday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Essex County Family Garden Party is a free community event sponsored by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs with entertainment, crafts, face painting, booths from local organizations such as the Essex County Environmental Center and Master Gardeners, and various food trucks. A student art exhibit will also be featured. Rain date: Sunday, May 21.
  • Live Jazz Music
    Weekends during Bloom Season from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • TaikoZoku Japanese Drumming Show
    Sunday, May 21 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
    Hear the thrilling sounds of this Japanese style drum troupe from Glenn Weber’s New Jersey School of Percussion in West Orange.
  • Outdoor Movie Screening Disney’s Moana
    Saturday, June 3 at 9 p.m.
    Hosted by the Montclair Film Festival and Essex County Parks System.
presby 2017
Photo courtesy of The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.

The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is located at 474 Upper Mountain Avenue in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. During bloom season, admission is a suggested $8 donation to help fund garden costs. The Gardens are open daily from dawn until dusk. For more information about the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and the 2017 Bloom Season, please call (973) 783-5974, email, or visit their website Be sure to check out their social media outlets such as Facebook:The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Twitter: @PresbyIrises, Instagram: presbyirisgardens, Youtube: presbyiris, and Flickr: presbyirisgardens.

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