92 Years of May Bloom


Events begin Friday, May 10

The Trustees of the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens invite the public to celebrate its 92nd anniversary this May. Come enjoy this living art known as “the Rainbow on the Hill.”

“The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens again welcomes spring with its landmark display of blooms,” said Nancy Skjei, Board President.

“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.

In addition to enjoying the iris bloom, visitors will be invited to peruse the Bloom Room gift shop which will be open with an exciting mix of affordable house, garden and iris-related items. Presby’s Iris Plant Sale will offer iris dug from its own gardens.

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.