Getty Villa Gardens

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If you were a vastly wealthy Roman Senator, the chances are excellent that your garden would look very much like the outer Peristyle–the outer garden–of the Getty Villa gardens.

getty villa gardensIt is a classic Roman garden:  enclosed by walls, a few palms and shrubs growing in neat patterns, art works placed along the walkways and a long, shallow reflecting pool at its center.  There is no lawn and few flowering plants.  The colonnade along all four sides offers shelter from hot Mediterranean–or in this case, California–sunlight. The interior walls of the colonnade around the garden are painted with murals.

bust of man getty villa

Sculpture such as this “Bust of a Man”, right, are part of Getty’s collection sited along the pool.  The man depicted is Scipio Africanus, a famous Roman general.

getty villa museum

Seen from the pool and garden, the Getty Villa Museum is a re-creation of a Roman villa, the Villa dei Papiri, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79A.D.

In those times it would have been a grand country home with many rooms surrounding a central courtyard.  The garden, called a Peristyle, would have been in front of the villa.  When John Paul Getty had the Villa and its gardens built, his goal was to have a place to house his extraordinary art collection.

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center court getty villa museum

Another garden is within the center of the Getty Villa Museum. Like the main garden it has sculpture lining a shallow pool.  

All the ground floor rooms in the villa can be entered directly from this Inner Peristyle.

Small garden at Getty Villa Malibu (

Yet another garden, still smaller, is off one side of the Getty Villa Museum.  It is walled, but has no shady colonnade and the pool is for lilies and other water-loving plants.  The fountain against the wall is covered with tiny tiles.

On the west side of the Getty Villa is a large kitchen garden.  There you will find date palms, fig trees, grapes, lavender and other edible herbs and plants which would have grown in a Roman Senator’s country garden. The produce from this garden would have been used to feed  family and household members during the Roman era.

John Paul Getty never saw the finished villa.  He passed away in England before it was entirely complete.  Today, it is home to his antiquities collection, and the other art works he owned can be found at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.  

To preview other Public Gardens in the West, go here

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