Passionate About Plants: Gardening in Miss Marple

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Later that evening Miss Marple could be seen as usual in her garden, but for once her activities were more concentrated on the depredations of weeds than on the activities of her neighbours.
Agatha Christie, Sleeping Murder

The botanical world is a marvel to many - not only do flowers and plants provide a therapeutic relief with their visual and olfactory delights, but some species can enlist a rather more ominous purpose if touched or ingested and it can take the hands of an expert to differentiate the toxic from the tame.

Gardening is a common theme throughout Christie's books, in particular the Miss Marple mysteries, with gardening being one of Jane Marple's favourite pursuits. She takes great pride in her garden in the village of St Mary Mead and can often be found with her secateurs or tending to her roses, that is, when she’s not solving the latest mystery. Whilst she might keep her cards close to her chest when uncovering the truth, her green-fingered nature does not go unnoticed:

The only other thing he knew about Miss Marple was that she was devoted to gardens.
Agatha Christie, Nemesis

Much like when Miss Marple digs up the truth about her neighbours and suspects, she has quite a knack for identifying and removing unwanted, pesky weeds which threaten other plants from thriving. Whilst on a tour of a neglected, Victorian garden in Nemesis, Jane finds herself fighting the urge to have a little tug of war with one particular weed:

Ground elder had taken over most of the flower beds and Miss Marple’s hands could hardly restrain themselves from pulling up the vagrant bindweed asserting its superiority.
Agatha Christie, Nemesis

But a passion for gardening does not begin and end with Miss Marple. Friends of Miss Marple’s share this contemplative pastime encouraging many horticultural conversations throughout the novels. Mrs Dolly Bantry is quite the gardening enthusiast herself:

Mrs Bantry was almost always to be found in the garden. Gardening was her passion. Her favourite literature was bulb catalogues and her conversation dealt with primulas, bulbs, flowering shrubs and alpine novelties.
Agatha Christie, Sleeping Murder

As with many things in Christie's novels, gardening comes with its complexities. As opposed to it being merely a hobby, gardening is considered a form of art or a way of expressing oneself. According to Mrs Bantry, the idea of combining particular flowers together is ludicrous:

‘Well, it is absurd,’ protested Mrs Bantry. ‘To have bluebells and daffodils and lupins and hollyhocks and Michaelmas daisies all grouped together.'
Agatha Christie, The Thirteen Problems

Additionally, as well as being particularly skilled in understanding human nature, Miss Marple has a remarkable aptitude for the rather unconventional language of flowers:

She taught us the language of flowers—a forgotten study nowadays, but most charming. A yellow tulip, for instance, means Hopeless Love, whilst a China Aster means I die of Jealousy at your feet.
Agatha Christie, The Thirteen Problems

There is clearly more than meets the eye when it comes to gardening with some species of flora having a rather menacing nature and it often takes an expert (enter Miss Marple) to identify the potential dangers of certain flowers and plants.

It is in a way a rather frightening plant.
Agatha Christie, Nemesis

One of the most sinister mentions of a plant has to be from 'The Blue Geranium', one of the short stories in The Thirteen Problems. Flowers are used in an almost ‘other-worldly’ fashion when a psychic’s message warns of death:

’I have seen the future. Be warned before it is too late. Beware of the Full Moon. The Blue Primrose means Warning; the Blue Hollyhock means Danger; the Blue Geranium means Death…’
Agatha Christie, The Thirteen Problems

Whether carrying an ominous omen or simply acting as a means of entertainment, the botanical world crops up in many Miss Marple adventures. Share your favourite gardening quotes with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

'Blue flowers are fatal to you - remember that.'
Agatha Christie - The Thirteen Problems
The Body In The Library

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