History

Wilmot Botanical Gardens is named for Royal James “Roy” Wilmot who in the 1940s was a horticulturist with the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Florida. 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 Garden 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 on the University of Florida campus in 1946. He edited the society’s yearbook through 1949 and died in 1950 at the age of 52. In his memory, friends and colleagues from the United States and abroad donated over 300 rare varieties of camellias to establish the gardens bearing his name. A monument to Wilmot Botanical Gardens was unveiled in the center of the gardens in 1954.

Timeline

Royal James Wilmot

1946

Royal James “Roy” Wilmot, a UF horticulturalist and national authority on camellias, serves as a founding member of the American Camellia Society, which is established on the campus of the University of Florida.


Historical Wilmot Gardens

1950

Wilmot dies and friends and colleagues from the United States and abroad donate 300 rare varieties of camellias in his honor to create Wilmot Botanical Gardens at the University of Florida.


Wilmot Gardens in neglect

2006

After devastation from decades of neglect and a serious southern pine beetle infestation, a small group of volunteers led by C. Craig Tisher, MD, then dean of the College of Medicine, and Linda and Bill Luecking, initiate efforts to restore the gardens rather than allow the area to be replaced by another building within the growing academic health science center.


Pergola at Wilmot Botanical Gardens Conference Center

2007

A former office and laboratory building is remodeled to create the Conference Center at Wilmot Botanical Gardens.


Wilmot Gardens sign

2011

The Wilmot Botanical Gardens Consortium is established at the University of Florida, at which time the mission of Wilmot Botanical Gardens is expanded to include patient care, research and education.


Therapeutic Horticulture participant

2012

The Therapeutic Horticulture Program at Wilmot Botanical Gardens is launched in greenhouse space provided by the Department of Environmental Horticulture.


Greenhouse construction

2013

Construction of the Greenhouse at Wilmot Botanical Gardens begins thanks to generous gifts from multiple donors.


The Greenhouse at Wilmot Botanical Gardens

2014

Construction of the Greenhouse at Wilmot Botanical Gardens is completed, and the Therapeutic Horticulture Program relocates to the facility and expands.


Japanese maple

2015

The Japanese Maple Tree Garden, which features a collection of more than 30 rare Japanese maple trees, is created, courtesy of a donation from Dr. and Mrs. Johannes Vieweg.


Chapman Healing Garden construction

2016

Construction of the Chapman Healing Garden is underway, which, when completed, will provide a new outdoor venue for additional therapeutic horticulture activities.


Chapman Healing Garden

2017

The Chapman Healing Garden is complete, boasting the only water feature within Wilmot Botanical Gardens.


Tractor trailer with camellias

2018

Initiation of the Camellia Relocation Project involving the transportation from Ocala, Florida, of over 300 camellias from the private collection of Drs. Clarence and Lillian Gordy to the Wilmot Botanical Gardens.


Mendenhall Family Camellia Walk

2020

Completion of the Mendenhall Family Camellia Walk, located in the southeast section of the gardens. This fine feature was made possible by a generous gift from Drs. William and Nancy Mendenhall in July 2020.


Dr. Tisher holding American Camellia Trail sign

2020

Wilmot Botanical Gardens accepted to American Camellia Trail Gardens, a project of the American Camellia Society.