The old and new Brolo

Written by  Ada V. Segre
The Verginese garden restoration has been completed
It is a pleasure to write again on the Verginese, a delightful site near Ferrara, on its landscape an article was published in the present magazine in December 2002. On that occasion, a historical evaluation of its landscape was suggested, the research undertaken was the starting point for the restoration plan of the garden. Enough time went by, and the 'brolo',an orchard garden,was opened in May 2006, following construction works over three seasons.
 The first part involved primarily preparation of the ground, technical fittings, and modeling of the garden surface, as well as planting of a large number of fruit trees (2003-4); the second part was partly a completion of the first, the making of the lawn and flowering meadow, the planting of herbaceaous perennials and bulbs (2004-6).
This has been a great adventure, with all parties involved working enthusiastically to bring the results together: the commissioning body, the Town of Portomaggiore together with the Province of Ferrara; the planners, including the author of these notes, Giampaolo Guerzoni, Giovanni Morelli and Stefania Gasperini, as well as the contractors, La Giada Franchi. The intervention was made possible, amongst other contributions, by the financial support provided by the Ferrara Cassa di Risparmio Foundation. It is to be hoped that all these efforts will provide the public with
old-new garden to be enjoyed, and that the Verginese landscape will be reinforced and better preserved thanks to its presence.
The term 'brolo' (also 'broilo', 'brollo', 'broletto') is typical of Northern Italy, particularly of Lombardy, the Veneto, Trentino and Friuli, whereas in Emilia Romagna it is common only in the province of Ferrara. It indicates an ornamental orchard planted on a lawn or meadow. In medieval gardens the trees would be planted around the lawn, whereas in renaissance ones the space would be subdivided into square or rectangular compartments, with fruit trees planted in them, according to a precise geometric array. Documentary evidence in the Verginese area indicates they were planted on the perimeter of the compartments and at times in the center according to a cross-shaped configuration.
The existence of a 'broilo' at the Verginese is testified ever since the end ot the 16th century, and it survived through time. The script Orto Padronale (Master's garden) in 1821 Bertoni map refers to such an orchard , a typical kind of countryside garden, where productive activity merged with pleasure and delight. Aesthetic appreciation of flowers was enhanced by the promise of yielding fruit, and could dwell in admiration of the flowering meadow as well.

The restoration plan of the garden aims at enhancing the historical buildings present in the area, the castle and the dovecot tower, and create a cultural and aesthetic expercience for the visiting public. This is a 'historically based new design', not a conservation intervention as there was no garden to preserve.
The best documented period is comprised between the second half of the 18th and the first decades of the 19th centuries, under the ownership of the Bevilacqua (1764-1821). The access to the castle at that time was a long avenue on the western side, appearing in historical maps under the name 'Prato detto della Vedetta' (Watching Meadow), a lawn with seven rows of trees on its sides (elm and fruit trees), about 1 km. long. This was a spectacular access to the castle, almost totally lost today, since as a modern fruit plantation hides the open view, located outside the premises of the castle. This axis was considered important, and two avenues connecting with it were introduced in the restoration plan, both on the western and eastern gardens, though they are shorter than what would have been desirable. The 'brolo' garden is a space that connect s the eastern front of the castle with the dovecot tower, particularly in its central part, which is the heart of the garden and its main axis leads from the castle to the dovecot entrance. The garden is subdivided into three parts: the central and most precious one with two large avenues on both sides (A), and two lateral ones (B and C): the plan is geometric and symmetric, a traditional formal garden made of raised beds with perimetral planting. Fruit trees are planted on the outer part of the compartments and underplanted with flowering herbaceous plants in borders. A row of trees supports grape plants to form a 'strena', a typical configuration of local vineyards, which runs all around the garden, near the canal and the dovecot, whereas along the public road it transforms into a wilde rose hedge (Rosa x gallica 'complicata').
The design is sympathetic with renaissance practice, and so is the choice of plants. Various forms borrowed from the agricultural landscape were reproposed, particularly where the garden meets the countryside, including the planting of mulberry trees, the insertion of vinegrapes 'married' to living trees. The garden is also an ornamental one, its backbone formed of fruit trees, including apple, quince, pear, pomegranate, medlars and plum, trained as an open vase, as well as bushy forms of heaslenuts and pomegranate.
The planting in the central part, particularly in compartments A01 and A02, but also in the remaining beds A03-A10 is the most elaborate in the garden, as it contains numerous flowering herbaceous, herbs and bulbs. The borders presenting the most varied planting are located in the central footpath, two rows of strawberry incorporating a varied sequence of perennials and some bulbs, including white lily (Lilium candidum) and various narcissi (Narcissus L. spp.), wallflowers (Matthiola incana and Cheiranthus cheirii), lychnis (Lychnis coronaria and L. viscaria), columbine (Aquilegia flabellata and vulgaris), hollyhock (Althea rosea), false valerian (Centranthus ruber), numerous kind of achillea (Achillea ptarmifolia, Achillea filipendulina, Achillea millefolium), poppy (Papaver orientalis), different kinds of carnation (Dianthus plumarius and Dianthus deltoides) alternating with absinthe(Artemisia absinthium L.), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), hissopus (Hyssopus officinalis), clary (Salvia sclarea) and tanacetum (Tanacetum vulgaris).
The labyrinths A01 and A02 are lined with yew hedges and contain old kinds of rose chosen amongst the gallicas, albas, centifolias and damescenas, with small lavender borders dotted with oriental poppies, campanulas and foxglove.


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