A seven-acre private gardens specializing in lilacs, daylilies, and Siberian and Japanese irises, is open today to the public in Palmerton.

Visitors are invited for free self-guided tours of the Glenara Gardens at the home of George and Carol Boyce. It will be open for visitation daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Although Glenara is only three years old, it contains plants up to one hundred years old that have been selected, bred and relocated to Palmerton by the Boyces.

George and Carol breed roses, lilacs, daylilies, and Siberian and Japanese irises and have developed varieties. Glenara, which is home to over 500 varieties of iris, will host a judges' training for the Delaware Iris Society on Memorial weekend. George is the regional vice president for the American Iris Society.

Although the open gardens program begins on April 2, because of the extended cold weather, most of the plants remain dormant. Due to the times of the season that various plants bloom, Boyce has set aside certain days for special programs.

These dates are: Saturday, April 30 - Lilac Day, May 28 Iris Saturday - official event of the Delaware Valley Iris Society, June 18 - Siberian Iris & Japanese Iris Saturday, and July 10 - Daylily Sunday. On each of these dates, hundreds of varieties of flowers are expected to be in bloom.

George is most proud of his iris garden. His 500 varieties of iris begin blooming around May21 and continue through August, with each variety blooming for about three weeks.

"The Japanese iris was the ancient flower that only the emperor could have," he explained.

George's interest in plants began as a farm boy growing up in the Adirondack Mountains in New York.

"My mother was the thirteenth child of a dairy farmer," he said. "I spent my summers bringing in the hay. I get kind of a scratchy back just thinking of it."

While living in 1960s Maine, a neighbor who gardened Japanese and Siberian Irises introduced George and Carol to Dr. Currier McEwen.

"He was the man who literally wrote the book on the Japanese and Siberian Iris," George said. "From there, it just mushroomed along."

When Carol decided to return closer to her Pennsylvania roots four years ago, she took a job as superintendent at the Palmerton School District and they found property suitable for relocating their garden. Over several trips with their Suburban, they relocated over 1,000 plants in pots and plastic bags to their new home, which they named Glenara Gardens.

"Glenara, we made up the name in the 1960s," George said, "only to find there is such a name in Scotland. I didn't know it at the time."

Glenara was the name given to their business at the time, a dog kennel.

"The name has followed us through six or seven states, and several businesses because we already had the name incorporated, and just ran with it," George explained.

While on the far east coast, the Boyces became associated with the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire horticultural colleges.

"They have been producing winter hardy plants for years," George said. "We were fortunately able to link on with both those universities."

"We had an old apple orchard in Maine. They would take cuttings off the old trees to match them and cross them with new trees and produce plants."

Eight years ago, George retired, deciding to focus his energies on gardening. He enjoys creating new varieties by cross pollinating different varieties and then patiently waiting for the seed germination, plant growth, and blossoming-which typically leads to hundreds of failures before discovering a successful hybrid.

"Glenara Gardens is my crowning achievement and it will get better every year," George noted. "Every year, we add to it. This should be the year it should show itself off."

"I'm a bit apprehensive about this first year with all these open house days," he noted.

Glenara Gardens is located at 520 Dairy Road in Palmerton. For information, see: www.glenara.net, email: info@glena.net, or call: (607) 857-8732.

Visitors are invited to access the grounds. There is no need to check into the house.

Directions: From Rt. 209, take Hemlock St. south 1.6 miles and bear left to Dairy Road. Go 0.3 miles to 520 Dairy Road-on the mailbox across the street from the property. The property is accessed from a common driveway and is by the home to the left.

From Fireline Road, take Dairy Road 1.7 miles to 520 Dairy Road-on the mailbox across the street from the property. The property is accessed from a common driveway and is by the home to the left.