Horti Villa Ventorum
The Newt in Somerset has opened Villa Ventorum, an authentic reimagining of a 4th century Roman villa that once existed on the Hadspen estate. Seven years in the making, Villa Ventorum (‘Villa of the Winds’) has been brought back to life by an expert team of archaeologists, architects, engineers and skilled craftsmen to create the most ambitious reconstruction of a Roman Villa ever undertaken in Britain. Our studio was appointed to recreate the gardens for the Villa. These are now open to the public.
The garden schemes include: a pergola Moon Garden dedicated to the Goddess Luna; a pond for stocking fish; a Roman-style planted flower meadow; an orchard of ancient variety fruit trees, under which are sown herb meadows for bees; a medicinal garden; a kitchen garden; a topiary avenue, a rose border underplanted with violas & saffron; and a lavender, yew and myrtle topiary garden.
‘‘Although there is very little hard evidence of Roman plant varieties, art and literature of the time form a relatively reliable picture of how gardens were formed.’ says Maggie
Campbell-Culver, who wrote the seminal book The Origin of Plants, ‘We do know that Roman garden design was utilitarian, with plants grown for practical purposes, rather than their beauty. As well as edible and medicinal plants, scented flowers were grown to create aromatherapy oils, while violets and roses were cultivated as shrine offerings.’’
Working with an incredible specialist team and bringing together all the plants that would have been either introduced from the continent for the first time, or grown at that period in Britain has been an incredible experience and education. The estate holds a historic importance for British horticulture and plantsmanship / plantswomanship and this garden no less, as it will forever be an accurate historical reference for plants in Roman Britain.
Plant historian: Maggie Campbell-Culvert
Historical research: South West Heritage Trust