Blending biography, nature writing, and memoir, The Ghost in the Garden offers a fresh perspective on Darwin’s legacy by exploring the history of his childhood garden in Shropshire and the men and women who tended it.
Darwin never stopped thinking about the garden at his childhood home, The Mount. It was here, under the tutelage of his green-fingered mother and sisters, that he first examined the reproductive cycle of flowers, collected birds’ eggs, and later, with assistance from the house’s gardeners, began the experiments that would lead to his theory of evolution.
Only two acres of the original site remain, now dominated by overgrown ashes, sycamores, and hollies; the carefully tended flowerbeds and circular flower garden are buried under suburban housing, the hothouses where the Darwins grew experimental pineapples long gone.
A century and a half later, with one small child in tow and another on the way, Jude Piesse finds herself living next door to the old kitchen garden where, as a boy, Darwin used to steal fruit. Walking the perimeter of the former garden with her newborn daughter almost daily, she wonders what impact the garden and the people who tended it had on Darwin’s work.
The Ghost in the Garden re-examines Darwin’s legacy, tracing the origins of his theory and uncovering the lost histories of those who inspired it. It is a ramble through the terrains of memory, legacy, family, and the interconnectedness of all things.