Located at the base of the 7 1/2 acre Mountainside Park, the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens contain over 14,000 irises of approximately 3,000 varieties and produce over 100,000 blooms over the course of the season. The annual spring Bloom Season is typically mid-May through the first week of June. Certain beds will bloom in October. Visitors can see by the arching slope of the garden beds why Presby is often referred to as the “rainbow on the hill”.
A recent addition is the PresBee Sanctuary which currently supports 10 active hives with well over 100,000 Italian honeybees.
This park contains a segment of the 36-mile Lenape Trail, a unique urban/suburban trail connecting 18 parks and 11 municipalities in Essex County. A guide to the trail, including comprehensive trail maps, has been written by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference in close collaboration with the Essex County Essex County Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs and can be found here.
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. 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. 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.