Wilmot Botanical Gardens
Wilmot Botanical Gardens
|Contact Address||2023 Mowry Road
Gainesville, Florida 32610
|Hours of Operation||The gardens are open daily to the public between 7:00 a.m. and dusk. Free Admission.
The conference center is open for bathroom facilities from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, unless it is closed for a private event.
We do encourage you to visit the greenhouse while on site, but due to staffing we do not have scheduled hours for visitation to the building at this time. Signage on the greenhouse doors will indicate when the building is open for visitors, which is dependent on staffing, events, and programming.
About the Garden
The 4.8 acre Wilmot Botanical Gardens is located on the medical campus of the University of Florida (UF). The gardens were planted in the early 1950's to honor Royal James "Roy" Wilmot, a nationally and internationally recognized authority on the propagation and classification of camellias. Wilmot, a UF ornamental horticulturist, was a founding member, first secretary and Yearbook editor for the American Camellia Society, which resided on the UF campus in 1946.
Following his passing in May 1950, friends and colleagues from around the world donated over 300 rare and unusual camellias to create the gardens which were dedicated to his memory in 1954. At one time these public gardens contained more than 500 camellias. For over 30 years, the gardens thrived and served as a popular place on campus for plant enthusiasts and families to enjoy the floral and botanical beauty.
Regrettably, interest in maintaining the gardens waned and their very existence was threatened with expansion of facilities on the UF medical campus. In 2006, a major volunteer effort was initiated to restore the gardens to their previous beauty. Those efforts have been consistent with our stated mission to preserve and enhance these historic gardens as a verdant space and living laboratory dedicated to improving the quality of life of its visitors through plant interactions, education and research. To that end, paved walking paths have been installed to improve access, a classroom/administration building has been renovated. More recently, a modern completely accessible 2,700 square foot greenhouse constructed. Regrettably, of the 500 camellias that were present in the gardens at one time, just 80 were recovered during the restoration initiative. Subsequently, more than 330 camellias have been planted during the past 14 years.
Since 2010, several specialty gardens have been created within the Wilmot Botanical Gardens. These include a Japanese maple tree garden, a bromeliad garden, and the Hippocratic and Lifestyles gardens, the latter containing plant materials chosen to attract butterflies and pollinators. The Chapman Healing Garden with a central water feature was added in 2017. The latter contains a variety of plants and trees including azaleas, plum trees, a fringe tree, a swamp chestnut oak tree, Japanese maple trees, several camellias, and numerous water plants. Highly visible signage has been added throughout the gardens to make it possible for visitors to identify the vast majority of these plants and trees.
Today, the Wilmot Botanical Gardens is considered by many as the most beautiful greenspace on the entire UF campus. The camellia collection in the gardens has been replenished, in part, through the generosity of Mr. Larry Rahme, recently of Orange Springs, Florida, before his death in November 2018. Mr. Rahme donated more than 100 camellias from his extensive private collection that contained in excess of 3,000 camellias and approximately 800 cultivars. More recently, these gardens have benefitted greatly from the acquisition and successful relocation of approximately 169 camellias to date from the private camellia garden of the late Clarence and Lillian Gordy of Ocala, Florida. Two new specialty gardens have been created as a direct result of this latter acquisition. In 2019, the Gordy Camellia Garden, containing nine cultivars that the Gordys propagated and registered with the American Camellia Society, was created. This spring the seventh specialty garden, the Mendenhall Family Camellia Walk which contains 35 camellias relocated to the Wilmot Botanical Gardens from Ocala, was opened to the public. At present, a total of 410 camellias can be found in our gardens.
About the Camellia Collection
Total number of camellia plants: 410
Number of distinct camellia cultivars or species: 245
Wilmot Botanical Gardens was created in the memory of Royal James “Roy” Wilmot, a UF horticulturalist and national authority on camellias.