Field Trip–Upper Montclair

I have a soft spot for bearded Iris. I use them often in the gardens I design. They are reliably deer resistant and I like their sculptural blooms and their grey green spiky foliage.

Each May, when I was a teenager, my mother and I would go to a neighboring town during bloom time to visit Mr. Grey–an Iris expert who grew and sold hundreds of varieties in straight rows in his suburban yard. We would choose one or two to try in my mother’s garden. I still have a yellowed and much cherished typewritten sheet that I follow from Mr. Grey explaining his best practices for dividing, cleaning and planting the tubers. I learned from Mr. Grey that the easiest way to keep track of when to divide iris is to do so every presidential election year.


Yesterday was a glorious, perfect day. Off I went to Upper Montclair to the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.

 Field Trip  Upper MontclairOne of the long Iris borders at Presby and the crowd of admirers

vangogh+irises Field Trip  Upper MontclairVan Gogh’s Iris, 1889 (Getty Museum)

PresbyIris Field Trip  Upper MontclairIris at Presby Iris Gardens 2009

It’s close by–less than 30 minutes away, yet I’d never been at bloom time before. Consistent here, Iris start on May 15. Of the 3000 varieties in the garden dating back to the 1500′s, here are a few of my favorites.

 Field Trip  Upper MontclairThornbird (1988)

 Field Trip  Upper MontclairAuntie Em (2007)

 Field Trip  Upper MontclairQuaker Lady (1909)

 Field Trip  Upper MontclairGracchus (1884)

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About Susan aka Miss. R

Professional landscape designer, lover of the land and all things design.
LABELS: deer resistant, Garden Styles, iris

2 Responses to Field Trip–Upper Montclair

  1. Sarah says:

    Going to a specialty grower at bloom time is really the best way to see the different species of iris. I went to one a number of years ago north of Toronto and your post reminds me I should go back in the next couple of weeks.

    The way an iris grabs you in the flesh, as opposed to seeing a pic in a catalogue, is pretty amazing. I found myself walking over to several and thinking: I must have THIS one! (Great we have digital cameras now, so we don’t forget our faves.)

    Now if I could only remember where this grower was….those little torn pieces of paper we carry around aren’t always available when we want them!

    Off to Google!

  2. Susan aka Miss. R says:

    Sarah-You are right about iris and the need to see them up close and personal. My garden is full of bits and pieces of unidentified tubers from other gardens.

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