The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: Roman Gardens (500BC-500AD)

Augustan Garden Design

Previous - Next

48.Of the gardens of the Augustan age of Virgil and Horace, generally thought to be that in which taste and elegance were most eminently conspicuous, we know but little, In a garden described by the former poet in his Georgics (lib. iv. ver. 121.), he places only succory, cucumbers, ivy, acanthus, myrtle, narcissus, and roses. Both Virgil and Propertius mention the pine tree as beloved by Pan, the tutelar deity of gardens; and that the shade of the plane, from the thickness of its foliage, was particularly agreeable, and well adapted for convivial meetings. The myrtle, and the bay, they describe as in high esteem for their odour; and to such a degree of nicety had the Romans arrived in this particular, that the composition or mixture of odoriferous trees became a point of study; and those trees were planted adjoining each other, whose odours assimilated best together. Open groves in hot countries are particularly desirable for their shade, and they seem to have been the only sort of plantation of forest trees then in use. From Cicero, and the elder Pliny, we learn that the quincunx manner of planting them was very generally adopted; and from Martial, that the manner of clipping trees was first introduced by Cneus Matius, a friend of Augustus, about the commencement of the Christian era. Statues and fountains, according to Propertius, came into vogue about the same time, some of them casting out water in the way of jets d'eau, to occasion surprise, as was afterwards much practised in Italy in the dawn of gardening in the sixteenth century. Horace and Juvenal appear to have had a good taste in gardening and laying out grounds; the latter more especially, for he censures the attempt to ornament water by substituting marble for the natural herbage � �quanto pr�stantius esset Numen aqu�, viridi si margine clauderet undas Herba, nec ingenuum violarent marmora tophum.� � Sat. iii. 18. �How much more beauteous had the fountain been Embellish'd with her first created green, Where crystal streams, through living turf had run Contented with an urn of native stone!� � Dryden. Augustus died A. D. 14.