Another great gardener came to dinner this week from Milan, where he is head of all of the green areas....parks, gardens and lakes. Carlo Marinoni holds the original plans for the medieval grounds around the Castello, where Leonardo da Vinci worked for nine years, employed by the Duca di Sforza....450 years ago.
While he lived in Milan, half a kilometer from where I did, Leonardo painted the interior of the Castello, with one huge room as a tree with trunks winding up the circular walls toward the apex of the ceiling, leaves and birds all intertwined. I've seen his few, tiny and immaculate books which comprised his library there too, along with his own writings all in mirror plate, written from right to left.
He went on to fresco Il Cenacolo, The Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie, to design the war machines for the defence of the city and the vital canal system, I Navigli. His beautifully observed portrait of a musician is in the Ambrosiana, the great library created in 1607 by Archbishop Federico Borromeo and Leonardo's Codice, his original manuscripts, are (all but three) still there, currently being transferred to computer so that you can dismantle and rebuild all of the elements of his designs from catapults to helicopters, the bicycle and flying machine. I've done it, fascinated by the extraordinary genius which seemed to operate in any area that he chose.
My friend Carlo is entrusted with all of the beautiful gardening in Milan. He restored the English Garden with it's lake and swans and weeping willow, a magical place which you can only visit if taken by someone under twelve years old.
Carlo looked longingly at the edging and the ladies mowing this week in St. James's Park, and tells me that instead of deciding and organising planting, his time is now entirely taken up in looking for sponsors.