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Roman Garden Design Components
gardens would have had the villa itself as a backdrop on at least
one side, and sometimes on two, three, or four sides. The farmstead
often included a variety of other buildings, such as a bath house, barns, workshops,
shrines, housing for laborers, and paddocks for animals. The entire
farmstead was usually enclosed within a wall, ditch, or hedge.
use of the portico, a pillared or half-pillared porch that ran the
length of each wing of the villa, was very common in Roman Britain.
Under the sheltering roof of the portico, residents moved from room to
room and from wing to wing.
At right is a replica of the portico surrounding the
elaborate gardens of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. It was created
as part of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Porticos were often
floored with opus signinum, a type of concrete, or with mosaics.
The inside wall of the porticus might be covered with painted frescos. The porticos and the gardens
they surrounded sent a clear
message about the status of the villa's inhabitants.
Roman gardens were often
geometric and symmetrical, with a central path dividing the courtyard
garden into equal halves. Paths might be no more than packed dirt, or
could be graveled, cobbled, or paved.
A trace of what may have been a flower bed was found near a large,
ornamental pool at Bancroft villa. Cultivated beds, probably for
vegetables, were found just outside the walls of Roman
villa, two beds were found near the house, and another set
of two long
beds paralleled the drive. These beds had been excavated into stony
subsoil, and then filled with richer soil. Remains of boxwood suggest that
it may have been one of the plants growing here. At
outlined a parallel planting of alternating rectangular and
Plant remains of such fruits as
fig, elderberry, hazelnut, and pome fruit (apples, pears) have been
found by archaeologists in Romano-British gardens, and an orchard may
have been planted in courtyards at
and Latimer. This fresco from the Casa del Frutetto in Pompeii shows a serpent
-- considered to be a guardian of the home as well as the garden -- climbing a fig tree. Serpents
are often seen in the artwork of garden shrines and
gardens were also home to espaliered fruit trees, trained to graceful
shapes along fences or trellises.
What may have been a vineyard interplanted with asparagus was
found just outside the western wall of
Camulodunum, and posts for
training vines left imprints in the gardens at
Frocester Court villa may also be the remains of a vineyard.