Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Edmund Blake - Gardener

Edmund Blake is important in the history of Camden Park gardens, where he was employed as a gardener from 1837 until probably at least 1867.  William Macarthur named three hybrid plants in his honour, Passiflora  ‘Blakei’, Gladiolus ‘Blakei’ and Erythrina ‘Blakei', testament to the high regard in which he was held.  Erythrina ‘Blakei’ has survived to this day. It is a magnificent shrub worthy of a place in any large garden. See the plant profile for Erythrina x bidwillii 'Blakei'.

Edmund Blake came from Lynn in Norfolk, on the east coast of England.  On the 6th of January 1834 he was brought before the Circuit Judge at Kings Lynn Quarter Sessions on a charge of maliciously destroying his employer’s plants.  Found guilty he was sentenced to 7 years transportation to New South Wales where he disembarked from the ‘Bengal Merchant’ on the 30th of January, 1835. Aged 24 when convicted, his convict record describes him as a ‘gardener perfect’, Protestant and able to read and write.  He was 5 feet 4 ¼ inches tall, of sallow complexion with black hair and dark hazel eyes.

He arrived at the Macarthur estate of Camden sometime in 1837.  There are frequent references to him in letters from Macarthur family members and in the diary kept by Emily Macarthur (nee Stone), wife of James Macarthur.  His name or initials are also found in garden records, for example recording descriptions of new Camellia cultivars.

It seems likely that Edmund suffered from Bipolar Disease or similar, which may explain his conviction.  A number of letters refer to the state of his health and temper and his relations with the then Head Gardener, Francis Ferguson.  More research is needed here.  Despite his undoubted problems he was obviously well thought of by the family.

‘Edmund Blake, gardener’ is recorded as a benefactor to St Johns Church, Camden, in 1853, and Edward Blake is recorded as a gardener at Camden Park in 1867. Although there is a slight discrepancy in dates the records of Edmund and Edward make it highly likely that they are one and the same.

Edmund Blake was provided with a cottage on the estate, possibly the one shown here, ‘Garden Cottage’, situated in the part of the gardens today called the Edmund Blake Garden. One plant in the Hortus, Salpiglossis sinuata, is recorded as growing in his private garden.