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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 Fresco from the  Villa Livia, Wikimedia Commons
Garden view, from a fresco in the Villa Livia 

 

Roman Villa Plants

 

Because plant materials are not always preserved in a way that provides a good picture of plant populations on or near a site. As was the case at Fishbourne, knowledge of plants grown in Romano-British gardens is incomplete.

 

More information, from a variety of sources, is available on Roman gardens in Italy. Archaeologists have successfully explored ancient gardens throughout the Mediterranean region for such evidence as root casts, postholes, garden beds, planting pits, and trenches, as well as pollen and other preserved plant materials.

 

In addition to what we can learn from archaeology, Classical art and literature contain useful information about the plants cultivated in Roman gardens -- and British gardens were likely to be home to many of these plants as well.

 

Villa wall paintings (for example, the fresco above, from the Villa Livia) often portray contemporary, if idealized, gardens.

 

Classical literature is also helpful, particularly the work of Cato, Columella, Dioscorides, Palladius, the two Plinys (Elder and Younger), and Varro. These sources tell us that we could expect to find the following plants in Roman villa gardens:

 

Trees

Evergreen, Villa Livia fresco, from Wikimedia Commons

Evergreen from a fresco in the Villa Livia

 

 

Arbutus

Box, European

Laurel, bay

Laurustinus 
   (Vibernum tinus)

 

 

Myrtle, common

Oleander

Plane tree, oriental

Fruit Trees

Apple

Apricot

Carob

Cherry

Citron

Cornel

Crabapple

Date

Fig

Jujube

Medlar

Mulberry

Oranges

Peach

Plums - damson, golden, purple

Pomegranate

Quince

Serviceberry

Nut trees

Almond

Chestnut

Stone pine

Walnut

Flowers and herbs

Flowers from Villa Livia Fresco, Wikimedia Commons

Roses, from a fresco in the Villa Livia 

Acanthus

Alliium

Aster

Chickweed

Chrysanthemum, wild

Corn poppy

Crocus

Cynoglossum

Daisy, common

Dianthus

Forget-me-not

Gladiolus

Hart's tongue fern

Hyacinth

Iris

Lily, madonna and martagon

Lychnis

Maidenhair fern

Mallow
Campanulas

Narcissus

Periwinkle

Plantain

Rose, damask and ?cabbage

Rosemary

Scoparius, Butcher's broom

Squill

Vervain, common

Violet

Vegetables

Fruit from Boscoreale fresco, Wikimedia Commons

Fruit bowl  from a fresco in the Villa Boscoreale

Asparagus

Brassicas

Coriander

Cucumber

Dill

Garlic

Gourd

Mint

Mustard

Onion

Orache

Parsley

Parsnip

Radish

Thyme

Turnip

Small fruit

Fruit in Villa Livia fresco, from Wikimedia Commons

Fruit tree, from a fresco in the Villa Livia

Blackberry

Raspberry

Strawberry

 

Vines

Grapes from fresco in the villa of Julia Felix, Wikimedia Commons

Bowl of fruit, and grapes, from a fresco in the Villa of Julia Felix 

Grape

Ivy, common

Morning glory

Smilax aspera (rough bindweed, sarsaparilla)


 

Romano-British gardens

Bancroft Villa

Camulodunum

Darenth Villa

Fishbourne Roman Palace

Frocester Court Villa and its plants

Gorhambury Villa

Latimer Villa

Vindolanda and its foods

 

Villa gardens
Art

Components of Romano-British villa gardens


 

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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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