Presby Memorial Iris Gardens: Upper Montclair’s Rainbow On The Hill


Irises are known to bloom for only a brief time in spring and are not known to headline their own garden, often part of other gardens and nature centers. But at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair, that’s certainly not the case. Known as one of “The Best Public Gardens In America” in 2023, this unique garden comes to life from mid-May to the first week of June, Mountainside Park transforms into a rainbow of colors with over 14,000 irises in about 3,000 varieties.  If you are looking for more gardens, we found more of the best gardens and nature centers in the Garden State. (featured photo credit: NJ MOM)

Presby Gardens house

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair is a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

See a rainbow of color

From May 12 to June 2, 2024, there are over 10,000 blooms that can be seen over the course of the season at the Presby Iris Memorial Gardens. The garden was originally established in 1927 as a memorial to horticulturist, founder of the American Iris Society, and Montclair resident Frank H. Presby. Today, the blooms include specialty varieties named for Frank Presby, including Presby’s Crown Jewel Iris and the Presby Honors 9/11 Iris at this living museum. And you won’t see just purple—the varieties include a spectrum of colors like yellow, burgundy, white, and orange. Inspired to plant your own? Visit the gift shop or the website to get the details for creating your own Iris garden

Presby Gardens point

The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens can be enjoyed by all ages, Photo Credit: NJ MOM

Easy to access and walk through

The garden features a variety of walking paths, a gazebo, a reflecting pool, a museum and a gift shop. The paths are all filled with grass and they are beautifully maintained. There are some hilly areas and the area near Highland Avenue has the highest elevation. It is a very well-maintained and colorful way to spend an afternoon and it’s a kid-friendly spot for kids to wander around, just don’t let them touch the flowers. In addition, there is a PresBee Sanctuary on site which currently supports 7 active hives with well over 100,000 Italian honeybees. 

Presby Gardens map

The Iris bed Index makes it very easy to find the names of the variety of irises. Photo Credit: NJ MOM

What to know before you go

The paths are all made of grass, so it is not as easy to push a stroller through the area, a baby carrier would be much easier. During the annual spring Bloom Season the garden is open for visiting and viewing on weekdays, weekends and Memorial Day. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person. There is a Bloom Room Gift Shop which is in the 1851 Historic Walther House adjacent to the gardens. It is a little difficult to access the gift shop since the entrance has a seven step wooden staircase with a wooden handrail, so if you are planning to visit you would need to leave a stroller to the side. The Walther House is open 11am-3pm, Tuesday-Sunday’s & closed on Mondays and the gift shop remains open until June 1, 2024. Picnic tables are available above the gardens, so you can bring your own lunch and there is not a restaurant on site. Street parking is available on Upper Mountain Avenue (parking is prohibited past Presby’s driveway), the garden is also accessible from Highland Avenue at the top of the hill, but it is a difficult way to access the gardens if you are traveling with someone with limited mobility. We parked on Upper Mountain Avenue and we found that people came and went so parking seemed to open up easily as long as you don’t visit during peak times. 

Visit the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens on their website, Instagram or Facebook.

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.