Presby Memorial Iris Gardens Welcome Spring

Take a trip to the beautiful Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and celebrate the first day of spring with a walk in the gorgeous fields.

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens offer beautiful flowers.

The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens are not only a breathtaking sight to see, but are also a very large part of the history of Montclair. Ever since the garden began in the 1920’s, it has been drawing in visitors and helping educate people from all over the globe on the care and history of the iris plant.

Natural landscaping in home garden
© Scaliger | Dreamstime Stock Photos

In 1927, Katherine Inness proposed to the Montclair government the idea of the garden as a memorial to Frank H. Presby. Presby, a founder of the American Iris Society and a citizen of Montclair, passed away three years prior before being able to fulfill his wish of giving a collection of his favorite flower, the iris, to Montclair’s new Mountainside Park. Inness believed that creating this garden would be not only a great way for the people of his town to honor Presby, but also a way to educate and inform visitors on the history, care and hybridization of the specific flower.

With the help of the town council, the Parks Commission, the Garden Club of Montclair and the American Iris Society, the idea of Inness and the Montclair Art Museum Board came to fruition. A Citizens Committee was formed to oversee the creation of this garden, led by Barbara Walther. Walther graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in botony and resided in the property next to Mountainside Park until her death in 1977.

A meeting was held to plant the very first iris flowers in the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, many of which were donated by admirers of Montclair from all around the world. There were hundreds of supporters at this first meeting, all of whom brought their own iris plants to help begin the vast collection. The Citizens Committee worked with the Garden Club of Montclair to ensure that there would be a significant amount of new irises every year, ensuring that the garden would be the best it possibly could.

Thanks to one of the earliest supporters of the garden, Jennie Bonsal, there is now a card catalogue collection that organizes the entire collection of over 14,000 irises. Every iris has an indicator that states its name, the hybridizer, and the year the iris was registered with the Iris Society. This catalogue system is now the source for the database that contains information about the varieties and locations of all of the irises.

In 2009, Essex County purchased the Walther House and Presby Grounds to secure the future of the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and ensure the garden would continue operating. Now, the garden has over 3,000 varities of irises. Be sure to check out the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens during this years bloom season, which begins on May 9.

Be sure to take a look at their website as well at Here, you can donate to the garden or even watch a live webcam of the beautiful flowers. You can also access the calendar of their offered events, as well as take a look at the flowers or items they sell in their shop.

Celebrate the first day of spring with a trip to the beautiful Presby Memorial Iris Gardens!

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