Wilmot Gardens is named for Royal James “Roy” Wilmot who in the 1940s was a horticulturist with the Agricultural Experiment Station at UF. Wilmot was an authority on camellias and classified many of the 3,000 known varieties of this flowering shrub sometimes called “the empress of winter.” Wilmot Gardens was once the largest publicly owned collection of camellias in the country.
Wilmot was a founding member of the American Camellia Society, which was established at the UF campus in 1946. He edited its year book through 1949 and died in 1950 at the age of 52. In his memory, friends and colleagues from the United States and abroad donated 300 rare varieties of camellias to establish the gardens bearing his name. A monument to Wilmot was unveiled in the center of the gardens in 1954.