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:
- Ambiguous Situation: Tony makes a run for it after being accused as an accomplice in a burglary. A newspaper headline shows that he's been cleared of that, but he's briefly shown at the end with a beard and sunglasses, leaving it ambiguous if he's served out the rest of his sentence or if he's still on the lam.
- Desires Prison Life: Colin has been in prison for 15 years, since he was 17, and comes to enjoy the gardening group there. He quickly pulls a Get into Jail Free after he's paroled because he's Not Used to Freedom and wants to help with the prison's entry to the garden competition.
- Forbidden Romance:
- Tony strikes up a romance with Holly that becomes complicated due to an Accidental Pregnancy.
- Colin and Primrose fall for each other. She even forgives him for breaking her heart.
- Get into Jail Free: After being paroled, Colin breaks into his own 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.
- Luxury Prison Suite: HMP Edgefield gives inmates nearly free run of the place as long as they behave and don't try to escape. Inmates sleep in large cells with doors that aren't locked at night. They have ready access to education, occupational training, and plenty of recreational activities. Some even get to leave during the day for work release. Of course, there are crummy jobs that some inmates gets saddled with, but it's because they need to be done and not as punishment.
- 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?
- Real Men Wear Pink: Central to the plot is a group of male prisoners becoming avid gardeners and learning how to raise and arrange delicate flowers.
- 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.