Colin Briggs (Owen) is a man who has given up on life. Nearing the end of a long sentence for murder, Colin is transferred to Edgefield, a minimum-security prison in the Cotswolds. Once there, Colin meets Fergus Wilks (Kelly), an eccentric "lifer" who gives Colin an unwanted packet of seeds as a Christmas present. He begrudgingly plants the seeds in Edgefield's hard, infertile soil and, much to both men's surprise; the seeds flourish along with the two men's friendship. Impressed by the sight of the blooming flowers, the prison Governor (Clarke) commissions Colin, Fergus and three other inmates to cultivate Edgefield's first garden. When the prison garden attracts the attention of flamboyant gardening expert, Georgina Woodhouse (Mirren), she offers to sponsor the inmates in their first garden show. As a result of gardening, Colin gains a renewed lease on life, a newly found love for Georgina's daughter (Little) and a chance to compete at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show—the largest outdoor garden event in the world.
Tropes in Greenfingers:
- Get into Jail Free: After being paroled, Colin breaks into a flower shop to get his parole revoked so he is sent back to prison so he can help with the prison's entry to the flower show.
- Not Used to Freedom: Colin has been in prison for 15 years, since he was 17. After he is paroled, he pulls a Get into Jail Free in order to get sent back to prison:Fergus Wilks: [Waking up and seeing the flower on the nightstand, then seeing Colin] What's that old thing doing back here?
Colin: It wasn't ready for the outside world.
- The Old Convict: Colin's wise, elderly roommate Fergus, imprisoned for life for killing three wives,] introduces him to gardening.
- One-Word Title
- Raging Stiffie: Happens to Tony while he and Holly are dancing:Holly: [They are slow dancing and he is holding her close] Tony, you've got a stiffie.
Tony: [He looks down] So?
Holly: It's against regulations.
- Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...:
violets are blue ...
I'm about to fuck up.
So what else is new?
- Sibling Murder: Colin is in prison for killing his brother in an argument over a girl they both liked.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Is loosely based on the true story about the award-winning prisoners of HMP Leyhill, a minimum-security prison in the Cotswolds, England, a story published in The New York Times in 1998.