Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
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Frocester Court Villa

By the late third century, the stone-built villa at Frocester Court had a portico looking out onto a courtyard garden. Walls surrounded the garden on two sides, and a fence bounded its southeastern edge. The courtyard was nearly an acre in size, divided in half by a cobbled roadway that entered through a 10' wide gate in the fence.

The subsoil of the courtyard was stony, so planting beds were excavated and then filled with as much as 8" of dark soil. This soil had been enriched with household waste, as evidenced by such debris as bone fragments and broken pottery.

Two long beds paralleled the roadway on either side. Another pair of beds ran along the front of the portico, at right angles to the road, and separated from it by grass borders.

The beds near the house started out being symmetrical, but reinforcement of a wall meant that the path had to be relocated, and this made one bed narrower. An area directly southeast of the house was graveled, allowing dry access to flower beds on that side of the road, as well as to two gates in the western wall. A wide gravel path surrounded the entire courtyard, running along the front of the portico, the side walls of the courtyard, and the south fence.

Other holes and trenches in the courtyard were probably planting holes or beds. One long trench ran along the wall to the east, suggesting a hedge. Other, shorter trenches may have been planting holes for trees or shrubs. A line of regularly spaced postholes running across the southern third of the courtyard suggests a fence or trellis for vines or espaliered trees. An orchard may have been planted in southwestern area of the courtyard. Archaeologists found the plant remains of a wide range of plants at Frocester Court Villa.

We know, from the work of archaeologists and from contemporary art and literature, that Romans enjoyed art in their gardens. In the southeast quadrant, a 10" square post had been firmly set into the ground, and it may have supported some sort of garden art. Another, rectangular pit with mortared stones on the bottom may have been the foundation for a statue, basin, or other garden ornament.

Resources

 

Frocester, a Romano-British Settlement, Its Antecedents and Successors, by Eddie Price
Volume I: the Site
Volume II: the Finds

 

 

 

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt

 

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