Les Cleveland, the engaging, songful, and extremely personable senior businessman and retired company director, experienced in the transport sector, a multimillionaire and philanthropist, long-serving Dunedin Opera Company president, Rotarian, former Otago Regional councillor, and former chairman of the Otago Conservation Board was not the sort of man to seek recognition for his efforts.
Sadly, the self-titled “Mr Daffodil” left us yesterday, after a short illness.
Named as the Otago Gardener of the Year in 2010, Les Cleveland was the man responsible for donating more than two million daffodil bulbs and 8000 rhododendrons that grace many of Dunedin’s public spaces.
In an interview by Debbie Porteous, Les said he inherited his father’s passion for the daffodil, but also confessed to a love of every plant on this good earth, even the gorse.
“When you look at plants and work with plants, it gives you a sense of joy.”
He grew plants because he wanted to make sure something that was slowly being lost from the world in other places – vegetation – would at least remain in his patch.
On their 100ha Saddle Hill property the Clevelands have an extensive garden around their home, as well as blocks of daffodils and smaller native plantings interspersed with blocks containing families of trees, including at least one of every type of New Zealand beech, eucalyptus, kauri, maple, rata and protea.
The blocks were registered under the QEII National Trust, so there was a covenant on them, meaning they would exist in perpetuity, even if the property was sold.
When they arrived there 26 years ago, the whole place was covered in gorse, Mr Cleveland said. He was driven by a desire to future-proof plants.
“I watch people slowly but surely raping and destroying the vegetation of the world and I realise that humans need to have a long-term vision of what we are doing to the planet.” ODT 27.9.10
. . . Snippets
(1967) The Dunedin Opera Company, led by Les Cleveland, purchased the (now Westpac) Mayfair Theatre at 100 King Edward St, South Dunedin. The opera company converted the original cinema, reducing the seating capacity from 862 to 413 by removing the ground floor stalls and advancing the proscenium into the auditorium to achieve a greater stage depth. It has since been operated as a live theatre, particularly for opera.
(August 2008) Operation Citrus. Trevor Croot, Peter Jackson, Les Green, Andrew McKinlay and Les Cleveland. Rotary Club of Dunedin delivered nine tonnes of fresh produce to foodbanks, charitable societies and pensioner accommodation around the city. ODT 18.8.08 Photo: Craig Baxter
(February 2010) Cleveland family siblings Les, Bernie, Ian, Sherwyn and Doug in Dunedin for the last of 57 family reunions, which started with a promise made to their dying mother Agnes. More than 100 members of the Cleveland family travelled from throughout the world – some from as far away as Egypt, England and Scotland – to attend a family gathering at the Saddle Hill home of Les Cleveland (79). ODT 8.2.10 Photo: Gerard O’Brien (re-imaged by What if?)
(May 2011) Gale-force winds hit parts of the forest canopy at Woodhaugh Gardens. The gardens received massive damage, but thanks to Les Cleveland and the Dunedin Amenities Society thousands of dollars worth of new native trees [more than 7000 trees] were planted to restore and enhance this section of the Town Belt reserve. ODT 6.7.11 Photo: Peter McIntosh
### ODT Online Thu, 16 May 2013
Les Cleveland dies at 82
Dunedin philanthropist and businessman Les Cleveland has died, aged 82. Mr Cleveland, an Otago Regional councillor and 1998 Dunedin Citizen of the Year, died at Ross Home yesterday morning after a short illness. His funeral will be held on Monday. An obituary will follow.
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr