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A great way to enjoy springtime in the South Bay is a visit to Nola’s Iris Garden, perched in the hills above East San Jose. The five-acre working farm with more than 2,000 varieties of irises is nearing peak bloom in the next two weeks, and admission is free.

Wear hiking boots as you amble through the many gardens that Nola and Gary Prevost began cultivating in 2002. A variety of irises spill out over terraced hillsides, along paths and around a horse paddock.

While irises have been blooming for weeks in the lower levels of the Bay Area, cooler temperatures in the foothills lead to a later bloom of the perennials at Nola’s. The flowers are a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, coral and a spectacular display of purple hues.

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The names of the iris varieties at the farm are as much fun to ponder as the flowers themselves: Hippy Chick, Little Peaches, Fashion Passion, It Happens. A patch of the California golden poppies grow next to irises named Foxy Lady, Tootsie Roll and Earthsong.

Nola Prevost said she expects peak blooming of the irises to be in the last week of April into early May. While admission is free, donations are accepted.

The irises grow amidst palm and eucalyptus trees, and among whimsical animal sculptures. Visitors can take in the scene on chairs from a wooden deck, where coffee and tea are offered. On a clear day, looking down from the terraced hillside gardens, it’s possible to see the Newark salt ponds, the Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Francisco and Oakland skylines. Visitors are allowed to bring picnic lunches and water.

During the most visited days of the peak bloom, the parking lot overflows with cars, but on other days, the only sounds are a rooster crowing, songbirds chirping in the wind and the horses and cattle who graze nearby. 

Nola Prevost explained that the garden and its iris business came about gradually.

When a local grower retired, the Prevosts stepped in and began with 600 iris varieties. They became a display garden for a local iris grower.

“They moved, and we ended up going out on our own,” she said, “selling and shipping and growing on our own.” Iris root stems, called rhizomes, are sold online, in person or by mail.

Nola’s Iris Garden is located at 4195 Sierra Road, about two miles east of Piedmont Road. Buses and tours are welcome, by appointment, during the week. Nola’s is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during its season in April and May. More information is at info@walking-p.bar.com, or their website, https://www.walking-p-bar.com/.

On the way back down from the hill from Nola’s, plan a stop at another San Jose institution, the Olivera Egg Ranch, which has a store selling groceries and a wide variety of eggs, including double yolk, dirty (blemished), duck and quail. It is located at 3315 Sierra Road at Piedmont Road. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.