Thursday, May 19, 2011

Irises in Essex County

Essex County's Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is a living museum that displays a rich variety of irises that bloom from mid-May to early June.Their activities and plant sale begins today. It was a Mother's Day tradition of mine for many years to take my mom there to wak through the blooms.

In 1927, the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens were established in the name of Frank Presby—a local resident known for his stewardship of the American Iris Society. These gardens were tended by curator Barbara Walther for more than five decades and are now maintained by a volunteer society, the Essex County Presby Memorial Citizens Committee.

Peak bloom season occurs from May 15 through June 6.

Seeing the non-profit organization that maintained the gardens struggling to survive, and in danger of having to sell the Walther House, the County of Essex formed an extraordinary partnership in 2009 with the Citizens Committee's Board of Trustees and the Township of Montclair. With $1.1 million in grants from the NJ Green Acres Program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, Essex County purchased more than seven acres of land that make up the House and Garden complex; the adjacent 3 acres of Township land will be sold to the County for $1.

Friday, May 20"The Sound of Music" Screening8pm 
Sunday, May 22Brunch on the Hill1-3pm 
Saturday, May 28Annual  Family Garden Party10am to 3pm 
Friday, July 15 & Saturday, July 16Iris Rhizome Days / Bloom Room Open10am to 4pm
Friday, August 19 & Saturday, August 20Iris Rhizome Days / Bloom Room Open10am to 4pm

The County now maintains the House and grounds, and the Citizens Committee, maintaining ownership of the iris bulbs, continues to preserve the Gardens and records, build an endowment and expand their educational programming.

The property, consisting of the Walther House and Iris Gardens, is designated as a historic site by the National and State Registers of Historic Places and attracts thousands of people from around the world each year. The gardens contain approximately 8,000 irises in 3,200 varieties and produce nearly 75,000 flowers at peak season.

DIRECTIONS: The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is located at 474 Upper Mountain Avenue in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Street parking is available on Upper Mountain Avenue (garden side) and Highland Avenue. Handicap parking is available on the Walther House driveway. Entrance to the gardens is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk daily all year round.

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