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.