Episode 140: Darwin’s Garden with Dr Jude Piesse

This week’s guest is Dr Jude Piesse. Jude’s book ‘The Ghost in the Garden’ is essentially about Charles Darwin’s largely forgotten garden in Shrewsbury but the book turned out to be much more than a study of the garden, its history and the man himself. In fact, these aspects are almost incidental to the other characters in the book and this makes it an amazing narrative where many aspects are hung together on the framework of the garden. In the interview, Jude tells us about how the book developed, the characters that animated the garden and how it fed into Charles Darwin’s work and life. 

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What we cover

How Jude first came across Charles Darwin’s garden and what was it about the garden that interested her

Jude says the book is more a collective biography and memoir than just the story of Darwin and it incorporates a whole host of characters. She talks about whether this was intentional

When the garden was built and what the contemporary horticultural world was like 

How might the change from landscape gardens to the collectors’ gardens with their array of exotic species have contributed to scientific discoveries at that time?

Whilst he was on The Beagle, the correspondence between Darwin and his family seems to have been set against the backdrop of seasonal events in the garden. Was this merely a common topic of conversation or were these updates of a deeper significance?

Who were the Darwins’ gardeners and what role did they play in shaping the garden and Darwin’s work? 

How much did the garden feed into his work?

Did Darwin love the garden or was it a laboratory?

What is the condition of the garden now?

Whose ghost is it in the garden?

About Dr Jude Piesse

Jude Piesse is an academic and writer. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Exeter. She has published widely on nineteenth-century literature and culture, including her book about emigration literature, British Settler Emigration in Print, 1832–1877 (OUP, 2016). Though she grew up in Shropshire, she did not discover Darwin’s childhood garden until she moved to Shrewsbury with her young family to take up her first lectureship. She now works as a lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University. https://scribepublications.co.uk/books-authors/books/the-ghost-in-the-garden-9781913348052


The Ghost in the Garden by Jude Piesse – Scribe Publications, 2021

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