Financial gift allows Ilam Gardens to bloom

22 September 2011

The University’s Ilam Gardens have been the envy of rhododendron and azalea enthusiasts throughout the world for decades and will continue to be so thanks to a $110,000 donation.

The generous donation from Roland Stead, the son of distinguished horticulturalist Edgar Stead (1881-1949) who established and developed the gardens, has seen the establishment of the Roland Stead Ilam Gardens Fund of $110,000.  

The Fund’s Chair, Registrar Jeff Field, said the money will ensure the gardens are maintained and enhanced as per the commitment the University made when it acquired the site in 1950. Specific projects selected by the Trustees will be undertaken, supplementing university expenditure on the grounds.

“These gardens are an important part of both our University and city’s heritage so we are delighted to have this financial support to ensure the legacy of Roland’s father lives on in our Garden City.”

Mr Stead also funded the purchase and installation of seven new garden seats so the University and surrounding community can better enjoy the idyllic spot.

Late last year Mr Stead joined the Prime Minister John Key in opening the University of Canterbury’s new Biological Sciences Research Building– Pūtaiao Koiora, with its central entrance-way named the Edgar Stead Atrium and bearing a plaque about the Canterbury alumnus for whom it was named.

Edgar Stead was a distinguished New Zealand ornithologist, horticulturalist and naturalist, who studied electrical engineering at Canterbury College. 

In 1914 he bought a 53 acre (21.4 ha) property on which he built the Ilam Homestead by the Avon River. Following his death the property was one of three bought to form the campus of the University of Canterbury. The homestead was used by the University initially as the residence of the Rector (nowadays Vice-Chancellor) of Canterbury College, but has been home to the University Staff Club since 1971.

It was Edgar Stead who introduced rhododendrons and azaleas to Ilam and successfully experimented with their propagation and hybridisation, which earned the garden and its blooms an international reputation still enjoyed today.

The homestead building has been closed since the 22 February earthquake as it suffered structural damage. The University’s earthquake remediation project team has been working with structural engineers and insurers to identify a repair and strengthening design solution for the heritage-listed building. Recovery Manager Peter Molony said it was hoped remedial work would commence in the new year and the building could be reopened by late 2012.

For more information please contact:
Maria De Cort
Communications Officer
Communications & External Relations
Mobile: +64 27 299 0741
maria.decort@canterbury.ac.nz