July 22, 2020 – Wilmot Botanical Gardens, the UF College of Medicine’s healing gardens and teaching laboratory, has been inducted into the American Camellia Trails Program, a national recognition held by only three gardens in the state of Florida.
The American Camellia Trails Program, which spans the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, recognizes and promotes public gardens containing significant collections of camellias, often referred to as winter roses for their blooms in fall and spring when temperatures are cool. There are currently 56 such gardens recognized across the country.
Craig Tisher, M.D., director of Wilmot Botanical Gardens, says it’s an important recognition for Wilmot to join the ranks of the American Camellia Trails Program, which also promotes the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando and the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
“We feel very honored to be placed in the same group as such well recognized botanical gardens as the Leu and the Bok Tower gardens,” he says. “We have more than 400 camellias on our 4.8-acre property. Many of the camellias, particularly those that we’ve added in the last two years, are rare, unusual and not easily acquired. We were able to secure camellias from a private garden in Ocala that were planted in the 1980s, so those camellias are very mature. Some are as tall as 15-18 feet.”
Tisher says Wilmot Botanical Gardens, which started mainly as a collection of azaleas and camellias, has blossomed into a true botanical garden with blooming flowers no matter the season. In addition to the gardens, a 2,700-square foot greenhouse functions as a classroom and teaching laboratory where therapeutic horticulture is taught as a tool to improve the well-being and quality of life for those facing physical and mental challenges.
Tisher says though the camellias at Wilmot won’t bloom again until temperatures begin their decline in autumn or early winter, a visit to the botanical gardens makes for an enjoyable and safe outing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its spread across the state.
“Since the pandemic began, in addition to patients, their families, staff and students visiting our gardens, we’ve noticed people from the neighboring community coming here to get some exercise,” Tisher says. “It’s a lovely place to come, and social distancing is quite easy here.”