The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories

Melton Botanic Gardens

Melton Botanic Gardens

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories is a show developed by me and my wonderful collaborator, Sarah Depasquale.

‘When you bite into a pear and the juice dribbles down your chin, spread a picnic rug under a shady elm, or pop a fuschia bud, do you ever ask the question: how did these plants come to be in Australia? It is quite possible that the answer lies in a simple invention made of glass and wood. ‘

Who was Dr Ward?

In London, in the early 1800s, a doctor and enthusiastic amateur naturalist, accidentally discovered a plant growing inside a glass container. Aware of the difficulties of transporting live botanical specimens aboard ships, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward concluded that plants needed to be sealed in transparent cases, protected from salt spray, rats and clumsy sailors. The Wardian case (as it became known) revolutionized the transportation of plants and were in use up until 1962.

The show

Sarah and I begin with the ripping tale of how Dr Ward developed his idea, and we follow with two stories dedicated to specific trees (the golden elm and the weeping rosebud cherry) and a story dedicated to the gardeners.

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories is inspired by the Williamstown Botanic Gardens, designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman and opened in 1860.

For the full story of how this show was developed, see my blog post.


45 - 50 minutes


  • We travel with a small battery powered amp and mikes for small small gigs where sound is needed.

For audiences under 80 people:

  • 4 metre x 3 metre space – preferably raised if the seating is flat

  • No amplification required

For audiences over 80 people we need:

  • 4 metre x 3 metre space – preferably raised if the seating is flat

  • Digital projector for images

  • Radio mike for Jackie and a mike on a stand for Sarah


Available on enquiry

The show is suitable for an inter-generational audience and ideal for festivals.


See Photos page for hi-resolution photos.

Kamishibai images from the show

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward is a kamishibai story and the beautiful images were created by for us by Loraine Callow

The Wardian Case - the box that changed the world

Our story caught the ear of Sarah L’Estrange, radio producer at ABC RN and inspired an episode of History Listen. Sarah has made a terrific podcast that, as well as me and Sarah Depasquale, includes the voices and stories of Luke Keogh - Historian, Stuart McCook - Professor of History, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada, Mark Nesbitt - Economic botanist, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Tansy Curtin - Curator, Bendigo Art Gallery, Debra Tyler - President, Waroona Historical Society, WA, Kulkarni Choolburra and Christopher Jakobi - Indigenous guides at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

A wonderful and entertaining way to learn more about the history of plant transportation and the impacts.