Six distinct areas constitute this complex, providing suitable conditions for plant collections with their respective environmental conditions.
Garrick House was named after Mr M. Garrick who donated a large collection of cacti and succulents to the Gardens in the late 1950s. It contains the most extensive publicly owned collection of cacti and succulents in New Zealand and also includes a diorama depicting a desert.
Garrick House is now open.
Cuningham House was opened in 1923 as a result of a bequest by Mr C.A.C. Cuningham. It is a large, stately structure of architectural importance and is listed with the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. A spacious staircase leads to a large peripheral gallery where an extensive collection of tropical plants are displayed. Both upper and lower Cuningham House share collections including Dieffenbachia, Peperomia, Hoya, Anthurium and Dracaena.
The Fern House was constructed in 1955 as a result of bequests from Mary Rothney Orr and James Foster. A narrow meandering path winds through collections of New Zealand ferns, the most significant of these being a New Zealand icon the silver fern (Cyathea dealbata). Beneath the path a gentle stream moves through the house creating a perfect environment for moisture-loving ferns such as Asplenium and Blechnum.
The present Townend House was erected in 1955 to 1956 on the site of the former house of the same name which was relocated to the Gardens from the grand Christchurch residence 'Hollylea'. The original Townend House was purchased and transferred to the site with funds from the estate of Annie Townend, a wealthy Christchurch heiress.
Townend House is essentially a flowering conservatory where a regular succession of popular greenhouse plants are grown. These include Calceolaria, Cyclamen, Gloxinia, and Primula. Many of the tuberous begonias are the result of hybridisation carried out by the Gardens staff.
Foweraker House was named for Jean Foweraker, a Christchurch alpine plant enthusiast and donor of many collections of alpine plants to the Gardens.
The displays of both indigenous and exotic alpine plants frequently change as do the seasons, flowers and foliage. In addition there is a permanent display of slow-growing conifers that create a neutral looking environment in which the alpine plants can be appreciated.
Built in the 1960s, Gilpin House is a modest sized conservatory featuring tropical collections of Orchids, Tillandsias, Bromeliads and carnivorous plants.
Gilpin House is currently closed.