In 1986, Susan Campbell made the chance discovery of a hitherto unknown garden diary. She spent the next 35 years researching its background before writing this book. The diary was written between 1838 and 1865 by the father of Charles Darwin, Doctor Robert Darwin and after his death in 1848 it was continued by his sister, Susan. It describes the horticultural and domestic activities at The Mount, a large house with extensive, beautiful gardens and pastures on the banks of the River Severn, in Shrewsbury. It was the home of the Darwin family from 1800 until Susan's death in 1866 and, in 1809, it was Charles's birthplace. Apart from revealing that Doctor Darwin made his garden available for several of Charles's early horticultural experiments (1838-1841) the diary describes all the plants that grew in this garden, whether ornamental and exotic, utilitarian or edible, as well as the keeping of cows and pigs, the exchanges of plants with neighbours and family, and occasional events of local importance.
Susan Campbell studied at the Slade School of Art (1950-53). She then became a food writer and illustrator. Her interest in food led to curiosity about the history of kitchen gardens. She has since become a leading authority on the history of walled kitchen gardens. She has assembled a written, illustrated and photographic archive of over 700 walled kitchen gardens in the UK and Europe and written several books on the subject (including the definitive History of Walled Kitchen Gardens). She is a Vice-President of the Gardens Trust and Chair of the only website team which is devoted to walled kitchen gardens, the Walled Kitchen Garden Network. She holds a Diploma (1987) for the History of Parks, Gardens and Landscape from the Architectural Association.