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Today I walked in an enchanted garden. A large lawn with trees, flowers and roses. Wild roses with only five petals and hybrid roses with an infinite number of petals, fragrant and perfumed roses, white, red, yellow, pink, mottled and solid. An endless palette of shades of colors.

A spontaneous garden like the one, as I saw, was not born by chance; it takes study, knowledge of the environment and the ability to wait.

 

Which grow wild!

This wonder was created by Mrs. Helga Brichet, who, in a short space, collected the whole world. Mrs. Helga comes from South Africa, she lives in Umbria in the area of Torri, where she grows Chinese roses and roses from other parts of the world.
Do not expect the usual rose garden with neat bushes and romantic passages covered by climbing roses. Mrs. Helga lets the rose bushes to maintain a spontaneous form, the shape that nature gave them. To enhance its beauty, it has accompanied them with other flowers, such as poppies, periwinkles and blue bells.
In the garden there are two types of roses, the wild ones and the hybrid Chinese ones, which are ancient, but arrived in Europe at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the following century.
Since then on, Europe had known red roses, and had fallen in love with them. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, wanted to set up a rose garden at the Castle of Malmaison, which surprised by the great variety of flowers, and because the Chinese roses bloomed again, unlike those already present on the old continent.

 

The garden of the antitheses

Entering the garden, I found myself facing the gigantic Rose of the Himalayas. Large flowers and large leaves, has no stem but a trunk and climbs up a tree. Then we move to its opposite, a bush of white Chinese wild roses, very small, with very small leaves. It’s called Rosa Sericea Pteracantha, but it’s an absolutely new feature for me: it has giant, reddish, winged and transparent thorns. In contrast, they look like a precious stone.
Perfume? A little. Chinese roses are not recommended for perfumery, but if you approach them, you will feel a gentle and intoxicating smell.
Mrs. Helga is an excellent guide, accustomed to show visitors her wonders with a great knowledge of the subject, also for her role as former president of the World Federation of National Rose Societies. To see the garden, just call and make an appointment.

 

Helga Brichet

 


For information: Helga Brichet – 0742/99288

This huge garden, nowadays property of the Province of Perugia, has behind its realization the name and the story of an English woman: Sarah Matilda Hobhouse for whom the love of his husband, the count Francesco Ranghiasci Brancaleoni from Gubbio, lead to the progressive and masterly acquisition of the lands and the vegetable gardens for the realization of the park according to her desires.

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

A Keen Courtship

Sarah Matilda Hobhouse was the daughter of Sir Benjamin, and sister of John Cam, baron of Broughton, minister of the United Kingdom. She grew up in the Duke’s House within the beautiful setting of Whitton Park in Richmond, where she attended his brother’s close friend, Byron, and where she had been courted by Foscolo. Ugo Foscolo had also sent her a tome of Petrarch’s Rhymes with a dedication to the «Gentile giovine», the kind young; he asked for her hand in 1824, but he received a sharp and bitter refuse from her brother because the poet, exiled, penniless and sick, at the age of fourty-six dared to propose to «one of the prettiest girl in England».

Pic via

The Arrival in Gubbio

Sarah Matilda will marry, three years later, in Rome, the 27-years-old Francesco Ranghiasci Brancaleoni, young, rich and moreover noble. In the same year she was lead in Gubbio by her husband, during the Feast of the Ceri, the city’s most festive time, so she could see the Umbrian town under the best light. Her arrival arose curiosity in the town because the beautiful English girl brought, as a dowry, the huge sum of sixty-thousand ecus.

Wineyards, houses and orchards

Sarah Matilda should have felt immediately the lack of her beloved gardens, of the colours and the scents of the plants of the English park where she grew; so her husband, since December 1831, began to acquire vineyards, houses, orchards and, within twelve years ,he became the owner of the lands and the tenements stationed along the huge elliptical floors situated in the declining plot of land.

The creation of the park starts between September and October 1841. As it can be read in the memoirs of the Armanni Acreage «it was demolished San Luca’s Church at the ground floor of Rosetti’s house that was the ancient San Luca’s monastery, it was demolished from top to bottom all but the tower that remain standing, although isolated». The testimony is important to understand the modus operandi of the Count that, faithful in his job of realising the so desired park for Sarah Matilda, did not even spare the historical buildings where they cannot be integrated in the comprehensive plan.

The works for the fitting-out of the English garden continued until 1848: neoclassical buildings were built between limes, horse chestnuts and oaks and medieval ruins were positioned there.

A Pleasant Grove

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

Entering the park from the main entrance, overlooking the actual Via Gabrielli, it is possible, even today, to see two columns that should have been placed near the terracotta statue of a Roman deity, now lost. Through the covered bridge on the creek Camignano, from whose windows can be seen the landscape on the medieval city, we come to the big avenues that walk up the slope creating an ellipsoidal hairpins game. Looking at the city from the boundary wall deliberately not covered by vegetation, Gubbio shows all its undeniable charm. Walking on the hairpins, delimited by different plants that create a yellow and red pattern in autumn, we come up a cottage paved with bricks on example of the scheme of Palazzo Ranghiasci in town. Over there, a fountain, once graced by marble columns, collects water from tanks on the top and channels them towards the inferior hairpin that leads to the most hidden and privileged place of the park; from there it can be seen, in an elevated area, a classical small temple. In the middle of the tympanum there is the coat of arms of the Ranghiasci with their motto «Virtus omnia vincit».

Ranghiasci Garden, pic kindly provided by Gubbio City

Beyond the temple there is, in a place hidden by trees, the tower of San Luca. There were also greenhouses in the park, where plants and exotic flower were cultivated. A contemporary, Stefano Rossi, decribes the just finished park: «a pleasant grove […] that nowadays is really liked by the touching literature lovers, or by those who love dramatic sensations».

This great tribute of love was not enough to let Sarah Matilda enjoy Italy and she did not have a pleasant life in Gubbio: her two children, Edoardo Latino and Federico Latino, died at an early age, she felt melancholic about England and the echoes of her far motherland. She died in England after her comeback together with the daughter, Anne Amelia Latina, in 2 Eaton Square County, Middlesex, a few days after December 9th, 1853, date of her testament.

 

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This article previously appeared in «Piano.Forte», n. 1 (2008), pp. 54-55.