Camellia japonica 'Cleopatra'
Vaucluse House has a significant collection of historic camellia cultivars, some of them dating back to the mid-1800s. Their origins can be traced to the great early Sydney nurseries, which both imported and bred camellias for sale: Michael Guilfoyle’s Exotic Nursery at Double Bay, Thomas Shepherd’s Darling Nursery (in today’s Darlington), and the nursery that William Macarthur established at the family estate, Camden Park, south-west of Sydney.
Camellias were extremely fashionable ornamental plantings in 19th-century Sydney, and were evidently a favourite of the Wentworth family: in 1873 William Charles was laid to rest in the family mausoleum with a wreath of white camellias. While ‘Cleopatra’ is not present at Vaucluse House today, another Macarthur-bred camellia variety, ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, is planted in the horseshoe-shaped bed that borders the fountain lawn – a typically gardenesque treatment of alternating pinks and creams.