Iris Garden: Whose Fence Is It Anyway?

We were surprised to see an anonymous ad on page two of last week’s Montclair Times – urging people to write to Montclair’s First Ward Councilor, Gerry Tobin, with this message: the fence around the Presby Iris Garden must come down.
Tobin says he’s only received a couple of emails, and doesn’t know who’s behind this. “I didn’t see the ad, but it’s not a new issue. I’m not in favor of the fence either. It’s a small park, and the fence really breaks it up. We’ve had numerous discussions about it with the town council and the mayor – there might be other ways to protect the gardens – cameras, alternative fencing. That fence was put up before we saw what it would look like. If people object they need to write to other members of the council as well,” Tobin says.


A long fence flanking Upper Mountain was installed last May to protect the world class rhizome collection. Safeguarding the property is also a requirement for the gardens to acquire museum status accreditation. There are plans to fence in the entire park over the next three years. We contacted Presby Iris Garden for a comment, and we have not yet received a response.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. A fence won’t deter drunken teenaged boys bent on destruction.
    Remove the fence.
    Install a security camera(s).

  2. “That fence was put up before we saw what it would look like.”
    Next time, put it up, look at it, and then put it up.

  3. I agree with MellonBrush. That fence is just plain fugly. Obviously designed by someone with no sense of aesthetics.

  4. The fence was put up months ago.
    The Iris Garden people gave the Council a presentation on what they were going to do.
    I believe the fence cost $20K, which was paid for by the Town Council.
    What was really wanted was a wrought iron fence in keeping with the design of the gardens, but the Council wouldn’t spring for that. It was going to cost $100K.
    Now, if it were a wrought iron fence around a baseball field, that would have been a different story!

  5. Many years ago someone in a 4WD drove over the beds damaging many bulbs. During the winter kids still sled through the garden, even though they are not supposed to use that side of the slope. While cameras might possibly identify those who would do damage they won’t stop those kinds of things from happening in the first place, but a fence would. Granted it is fugly and they could find a nicer looking fence, but I see the need for one.
    Fencing the whole park however, seems unnecessary, and a waste of money. What would be the purpose of that?

  6. I agree SSP, but instead of the fence, couldn’t they have explored the possibility of a “natural” border and planted trees or some other sort of tall, sturdy vegetation in keeping with the whole garden/park ambience?

  7. I suggest that just the top of the fence should be removed, then that the remaining spikes should be sharpened. Vandals can thus, as a warning to others, be quickly impaled there for their ravages to the park. Or at least dangled from the hoods of their sweatshirts for a few hours.

  8. You’re right Miss M, but if they wouldn’t fund a nice wrought iron fence then I doubt they would spring for that kind of landscaping. But that kind of natural barrier would certainly be more in keeping with the setting.
    And cathar, I think the whole Heart of Darkness theme might scare off the tourists. Or maybe it would attract more, who knows?

  9. The issue is the erosion of our public parks and spaces. What was once a public space, is slowly becomming exclusive. As fences are erected, our public spaces are eliminated – little by little, Presby is eliminating one of Montclair’s precious public spaces. Perhaps the fragile, historic bulbs are better protected now – and showing their protection may result in Presby receiving Museum Status – but at what cost? Not only is the fence a terrible eyesore, it sends a strong message that we, the people, are unwelcome there. An open gate at the north end might at least remedy ‘we don’t want you in our garden (unless you donate)’ message.

  10. “Now, if it were a wrought iron fence around a baseball field, that would have been a different story!”
    Yeah, you would be the board of Ed and you wouldnt need to get anyone’s permission, you’d just sign the check.

  11. State Street (that great street, of course), are there even tourists to Montclair these days? If so, where does the town put them? (I somehow even doubt that local motels are booked up in advance round the time of Montclair State’s Commencement ceremonies.) I thought that the whole issue of tourism has to wait until that hotel is built downtown.

  12. cathar, both of the tourists used to stay at the Marlboro.
    Seriously though, the Presby garden is world famous among iris lovers and other flower people. I met a woman in the UK who knew exactly where Montclair was because she had made a side visit to the garden during a business trip to NYC.
    But those Brits are unflappable so I imagine she’d come back despite any impalings, assuming we do have a hotel by then and the exchange rate stays favorable.

  13. Aren’t there a couple of gardens in the area with fences and open/close times already? It seems this crazy world and the previous damage would necessitate more damage control than a sign or a bush. The cameras would only document the damage, if the perpetrators couldn’t be identified, what good would that do, plus you’ll still have the destruction.

  14. Van Vleck is fenced in, and nobody complains. It is a nice, Victorian, wrought iron fence.
    You know, in the scheme of things $100K for a wrought iron fence isn’t a big expenditure. Think for a minute — the garden is a “treasure” and yes, indeed people do travel to Montclair to see it.
    A wrought iron fence would be still standing after 50 years!
    The town was going to spend $1MM for Wayfinding signs, plus who knows how much for the consultants!
    The town has poorly supported the Iris Gardens. I think over the years they’ve received next to nothing.
    Look around at the other parks. See all the baseball diamonds. See the soccer fields. Why does the town turn it’s nose up at the Iris Gardens?

  15. The problem is not the fence. The problem is that the fence is ugly.
    A proper fence didn’t have to cost $100,000. The Gardens could have obtained used wrought iron fencing to match the mansard roof 19th century structure for less, or a reproduction that was still ok, but not that expensive. More than 20k, but not 100k.
    Decent salvage old fencing can be obtained for $50 a linier foot — maybe less if the length is significant which it is. Alternatively, a decent reproduction — while not as good a look as as old, original wrought iron — would still be better than the antiseptic playground thing that’s there now.
    Seek and yee shall find. Ask and it shall be answered.
    Martin Schwarz
    Textured Home
    Restoration Contractors & Builders

  16. Is that all it costs for a self serving ad viewed by twelve people? Waiter, I’ll take two and here’s two bits.

  17. It seemed to me that Martin Schwartz posted his credentials at the end of his comment so as to demonstrate that he knows what he’s talking about above.
    The fence was, and still is, ugly and most of all CHEAP. A teenaged boy could vault it one-handed without even thinking: the only security feature would be that it would be likely to come crashing down the moment he applied his weight to it, sending him sprawling with pounds and pounds of cheap, hollow metal clanging in hot pursuit. His only injury a bruised pride.

  18. Mine was simply a gentle poke at good Mr. Schwartz. No malice intended.
    However, if the intent was simply to establish credibility, that could have been done with a sentence like, “I’ve been in the business for X number of years”, or something along those lines.
    But again, no slam directed towards the poster. I have enough enemies, and need no new ones.

  19. I thought so, Pete. What the heck is the point of the fence if it’s only on the Upper Moutain side? How can that possibly deter the kids that have been drinking & smoking up at Mill’s?

  20. state st- I beg to differ. The fence is only open at one end – there are gates at both ends but the northernmost gate is never open.
    So, if you bring an elderly relative and park way down the line they will have to walk a looooong way to get in to the garden.
    It sucks!

  21. I like the fence…it gives the space some character for a change.
    It’s visually quite dull.
    The Gardens could also use an outdoor sculpture or two…but that would probably be too “progressive” for them to deal with.

Comments are closed.