This site was constructed in 1893. During the 1900s the site moved to south campus, located near Smith Music Hall. A rock garden was added in 1916 and abandoned in 1951. A lily pond was created near the same area in 1923.
In 1980 the Campus Master Plan was crafted and in 1990 the University of Illinois approved a 160-acre Arboretum site bounded by Florida Avenue on the north, Lincoln Avenue on the west, Windsor Road on the south, and Orchard Downs on the east.
In 1991 Chancellor Weir entrusted the Miles C. Hartley bequest of $970,000 to establish the All-America Selection Trials Garden—the central point of Arboretum development.
In 1994 the Miles C. Hartley Garden was dedicated— the Arboretum was designated by the chancellor to be a campus-wide project and by 1996 the first of numerous private donors—Richard and Rosann Noel— stepped in to fund the construction of the Noel Welcome Garden.
The next development activity for the Arboretum occurred in 1997 as a gift-in-kind valued at nearly $600,000 from the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, whose members volunteered 72 working days to dig the three ponds. Donors included Birkey’s Construction Equipment, Capitol Machinery, Champaign Asphalt Co., Kuntz Equipment Co., Roland Machinery, Co., and GROWMARK.
The Sen Cherry Tree Alleé was made possible by gifts from Dr. Genshitsue Sen and Dr. and Mrs. Luting Liao in 2008. The idea to add a variety of cherry trees to the Japan House landscape evolved during a garden tour and conversation between Dr. Sen and former Japan House director. Kimiko Gunji. Dr. Sen was a former grandmaster of one of Japan's san-Senke (three schools) of Japanese tea ceremony—the Urasenke Tradition of Chado. Dr. Sen sent master landscape gardener Katsuo Kubo to design the project and oversee the installation.
The Frank W. Kari Walkway, given in Dr. Kari's memory by his family was built in 2011. The walkway provides a leisurely stroll of 1/3 mile around the Arboretum ponds. An alumnus of the University of Illinois, Dr. Kari received his Ph.D. in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. The Kari family gift was also used to enhance the ponds with nearly 30,000 native plants and trees and with benches and educational signs along the walkway, which will be cared for through an endowment. Restoration of the ponds involved removing invasive plants that had overtaken the banks and creating new planting beds.
The Hosta Garden developed in 2010 and planted in 2011 by the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society (IPHS) contains a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures known to hosta collectors. There are 61 species and 7,400 cultivars known today. While hostas are shade loving, many do best with 4 to 6 hours of morning sun, and flourish under trees where there is dappled shade. Many of the hostas you will find in our gardens were donated by IPHS from their originator stock collections.
In 2013 12 black metal benches lining the Linden allée were installed with a generous donation provided by the Romweber and Santogrossi families.