Ahh, springtime. When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and other people’s fancies turn to thoughts of murder. At least, that’s how it is in this case.
We start off with a good closeup of the Soviet flag, flying over the Soviet embassy in London, presumably. A woman in a totally covetable gray coat strides purposefully inside and meets one of the officials, whose office is primarily decorated by a HUGE portrait of Stalin. She doesn’t get to admire the décor, because he comes downstairs to meet her in the hall, where they have an exchange in Russian that, unhelpfully, is not subtitled, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re talking about. He sounds annoyed (though I’ll admit, Russian always sounds annoyed or angry to me), and she seems to be pleading. That’s all I’ve got. At the end, they exchange smiles, and she hands him an envelope. As he heads back to his office, he opens it and pulls out a ticket to the Chelsea Flower show that, for some reason, has WTF stamped across it in big, red letters. I know it didn’t meant the same thing back then as it does now, but I still laughed when I saw that.
Poirot leaves his hairdresser’s with a bag of something that must have been expensive, because his hairdresser asks if he’s got a special occasion coming up. Poirot does: he’s about to become a pink rose. How adorably appropriate. And he’s so excited by it, it’s cute.
There’s a brief close-up of a picture of the rose in an ad for the Chelsea Flower Show that’s sitting on the table of an elderly woman who’s being attended by her doctor, who doesn’t seem all that concerned with her. She thinks she had food poisoning, but he says it’s just indigestion and she should really lay off the chocolate, shellfish, and fried foods. Ugh, kill me whenever someone tells me that. What’s life without chocolate, oysters, and the occasional fry-up? Elderly lady glances out the window and sees a woman in a floppy hat greet the postman outside, so she starts frantically ringing an obnoxiously little silver handbell she clearly always keeps nearby to make her relatives hate her. A red-faced, doughy man with a totally tolerant smile comes in a second later, asking, pleasantly enough, what she needs. She sneers that she doesn’t want him, she wants Katrina. Luckily, Katrina—the same woman who was just at the embassy—comes in just then, and the woman demands the post. Geez, lady, you just saw her getting it. Give her a second to get into the house before you start ringing!
Katrina goes to fetch the post, which apparently wasn’t being collected by her but by another elderly (though not as elderly as the first) woman, who rips open one of the envelopes and doesn’t seem happy with what she sees. She spots Katrina approaching, greets her dismissively, and hands over the letters for her aunt, warning Katrina to keep her eyes to herself. So, to recap: Floppy Hat’s a bitch.
Poirot is getting ready for his Rose Presentation, carefully applying the aftershave or whatever it is he bought. I think it’s some sort of perfume, but he dabs it on both cheeks. Is that how men wear it? Hastings calls through the bathroom door that he needs to get a move on, and Poirot says he’ll be out in a minute. Outside, in the hall of the flat, Miss Lemon wonders if Poirot’s in there dying his hair, because he’s been a while. Before that fascinating conversation can continue, Poirot emerges and he and Hastings make their way to the flower show. The banner there reveals it’s 1935, in case you’re curious.
Also at the flower show are Old Lady, her niece (whose name is Mary), Katrina, and Doughy Man. Old Lady’s in a wheelchair, and Doughy’s curious as to why Old Lady wanted to come to the show at all, since Mary takes care of the garden. OL meanly says that the garden belongs to her. What a bunch these people are. OL also brings up a bill she received for booze, and Mary reassures her aunt (Amelia—thank you!) that she’s already spoken to her husband (Henry—thanks again!) on that subject. Mary tries to be all perky, but Amelia will have none of it and asks to go see the roses.
In the rose room, Poirot gives a little speech, thanking everyone for his pretty little rose. The newspapermen descend like paparazzi, and when they depart Japp rolls up and comments that he thought Poirot would be a more scented rose than the one he got (a hybrid tea). Poirot loves his rose, though. Unfortunately, Hastings doesn’t share the love—he’s allergic to all the flowers.
Henry and Mary have shaken off her aunt, but Henry frets about leaving her. Not because he cares, mind. That much, at least, is clear. He leaves to find a bar.
In one of the exhibits, Amelia spots Poirot and pretends to be feeling unwell so she can dispatch Katrina for water. Once Katrina’s gone, Amelia grabs some seed packets from a nearby display and purposely wheels right into Poirot. Well, that’s one way to effect a meeting. She apologizes, recognizes him, chats about flowers a bit, and then notices Katrina coming back, so she hands Poirot one of the seed packets she stole and introduces herself as Amelia Barraby. Poirot thanks her and excuses herself. Katrina, meanwhile, pauses to receive something from her Soviet Embassy buddy, which she tucks into her purse. She hurries over to Amelia and gets bitched at for taking so long, and then Mary joins them and bitches at her too. What a great life this girl has.
Poirot, Hastings, and Japp have ice cream and champagne while Hastings tries to overcome his allergies. Poirot hands over a handkerchief, and Amelia’s seed packet comes with it. Hastings asks about it and Poirot tells them the story. Japp picks up the packet and tells Poirot he might be disappointed, because there aren’t any seeds in the packet. Poirot frowns at the packet—it’s for Catherine the Great Stocks—and you can practically hear the little gray cells at work.
Amelia and her family return home sans Katrina, who had to run an errand. That errand took her to the doctor, who wraps up some pills or something for her and hands them over, ominously telling her they should do the business. She thanks him and leaves.
Poirot returns home to Whitehaven Mansions with Hastings in tow, still sneezing like crazy, even though they’re not around the flowers anymore. Hastings can’t imagine what the trouble is, since he’s never had this trouble before. Poirot ignores him and opens the post, finding—what do you know?—a letter from Amelia in there. He kindly reads it aloud for Hastings and Miss Lemon (and us). Amelia tells him she’s worried about her living situation, in part because Henry drinks, stupidly hiding his booze in a bottle labeled “Weed Killer,” which he keeps out in the garden shed. She goes on to say that she engaged Katrina’s services about a year ago. As he reads the letter, we see what’s going on at Amelia’s: Henry’s drinking, Mary’s getting dinner ready (and removing a pot of something from a sideboard), Katrina’s removing one of the doctor’s pills from their box and delivering it to Ameila, who takes one before they all sit down to dinner. In the letter, Amelia keeps ominously referring to “her suspicions” but doesn’t actually say what she suspects. Instead, she just asks Poirot to call on her. Lady, come on. You’re asking him to haul all the way out to wherever you live out in the countryside to even hear what you’re suspicious of? Just put it in the damn letter! Hastings, like me, thinks this is all a bit dotty, and he wonders why she didn’t say something when she met Poirot earlier. Poirot surmises she was afraid of being interrupted or overhead. He asks Miss Lemon where the address is, and Miss Lemon turns into a human Google Maps on him and tells him just where to go. She must be handy to have along on a road trip. Clearly Poirot thinks so too, because he asks her to come along with him to Amelia’s the following day.
That night, Mary gets in a little moonlight gardening—because that’s not strange at all—while Katrina clears up after dinner and Amelia listens to the radio. Katrina retires to her room to pray to a little Russian Orthodox shrine/altar she has set up. In the sitting room, Amelia suddenly begins to convulse. She reaches for the dreaded bell, but it’s not in its usual place. Katrina hears a crash from the sitting room and comes running, shrieking when she sees Amelia on the floor. Mary runs in and yells at Katrina to get away from her aunt. The commotion finally gets Henry out of the garden shed, and Mary sends him for the doctor. He’s barely even out of the room before Amelia dies.
Poirot has, inexplicably, left Hastings in command of the office while he goes on his jaunt with Miss Lemon, calling into question just what Hastings’s position is in this little cotarie. He’s not a secretary, he’s just a rather charming layabout with a nice car that comes in handy once in a while (and too often gets trashed), so why are they making him act like the office boy?
Anyway, he’s on the phone with someone, explaining that Poirot and Miss Lemon aren’t there. The person on the other end is looking for payment for some bill, so Hastings puts him on hold to try and dig up the bill. Unfortunately, you’d have to be some sort of savant to figure out Miss Lemon’s filing system, especially on the fly, and Hastings, though charming, as I said, is no savant. He looks around helplessly.
Poirot and Miss Lemon, meanwhile, arrive at Amelia’s by cab and ask the cabbie to wait. As they walk through the front garden towards the door, Poirot pauses, sensing something’s amiss, but not quite sure what it is. Miss Lemon notes some unfinished shell edging, and Poirot takes a moment to examine it. Half of it’s scallop shells and the rest is oyster shells. And planted in there with the flowers is Amelia’s silver bell. Poirot unearths it, observed by Katrina from an upstairs window. Poirot brings the bell to the front door, where he’s met by the housekeeper, who breaks the news of Amelia’s death.
Poirot and Miss Lemon are shown inside and left to wait in the hall for Mary. Katrina looks down from the upstairs landing and asks him if he’s a lawyer. She goes on to say that she’s sure he’s there to say Amelia wasn’t in her right mind, and that’s totally wrong. She stomps back to her room just as Mary and Henry come out to meet him. They take Poirot out to the back garden and ask him, innocently enough, what brings him there. Poirot tells them Amelia asked him there to consult on a private matter, which he can’t discuss. Henry asks if it involved Russians and the Red Menace, but Poirot shakes his head. Mary presses for more information, but Poirot’s lips stay zipped and he beats a hasty retreat.
Out front, he tells Miss Lemon there’s something afoot. They get back in the cab, which is now inexplicably being driven by Japp, who’s in the area with his men, watching the house. Poirot had noticed them earlier. Japp says the family doctor tipped him off so he came down to see what’s what, while Amelia’s body is examined by the coroner.
Ok, this is, honestly, something that’s bugged me for a while. Japp is a detective with the Metropolitan Police Service of London, which means his jurisdiction, as far as I understand it, is London. And not even all of London, either—the City of London has its own police force. So why is Japp able to run all over the country in all these different novels and stories, getting involved in Poirot’s cases outside London? They’re in some small town in Surrey right now, isn’t that out of his jurisdiction? He’s not MI-5. That’s like the NYPD investigating a case in Princeton, New Jersey. Makes no sense. Was it different in the 30’s?
All right, I’m done now. The coroner reports that Amelia died from strychnine poisoning, which would have been given to her shortly before death. Japp muses that they’ll have to find out what was served for dinner, but Miss Lemon’s one step ahead of him. And it sounds like everything came from communal bowls and such, so no luck there. Japp figures they must have slipped it to her separately, but Poirot doubts it, because strychnine’s really bitter and you could taste it, even if it was really diluted. So, couldn’t they have slipped it to her in coffee or something? Isn’t that what happened in Peril at End House? Ahh, that’s Japp’s next suggestion, but Miss Lemon says Amelia never drank it. So they’re all stumped.
The next stop for our threesome is the family doctor, Dr. Sims. Sims sighs that he was afraid something like this would happen, because it often does when a rich relative takes in the penniless relations. Sims reveals that Mary and Henry dabbled in stocks and the crash wiped them out, leaving them high and dry. As Amelia’s only living relatives, they’re sure to inherit. Poirot asks if she was taking any meds, and the doctor says she just had a pill before meals to aid the digestion, but the poison couldn’t have been in them, because Katrina guarded those closely. Japp wonders if she’s the one who poisoned Amelia, but Sims points out that it wouldn’t make sense for her to do so, because with Amelia dead, Katrina’s out of a job. But not an inheritance, I’m guessing, judging from what she said to Poirot earlier. Japp leaves to go tell Mary and Henry this is now a murder investigation, and Poirot asks Sims if he knows who Amelia’s lawyer is.
The lawyer is apparently a part-time pony club judge, because Poirot finds him at a show, examining the polished and braided kids and ponies. Ahh, this takes me back to my childhood. As he examines the lineup, the lawyer, Harrison, tells Poirot he can’t reveal the will’s contents until it’s read the following Saturday. Poirot tells him the contents of the will could help him with a murder investigation and Harrison seems to take that to heart. He uses the top three ponies to illustrate the point that Katrina’s a young foreignor in a close-knit town where everyone knows everyone, but she’s the one who takes away the prize. Poirot reads his code and thanks him for his help.
Back at the house, Japp’s laying into his two officers when Poirot arrives and tells him Katrina’s set to inherit Amelia’s money. Unfortunately, Japp’s officers failed to observe the house closely enough to keep Katrina from slipping away.
Inside, Mary’s horrified to learn her aunt was murdered. She almost faints and everything. Mary, there’s such a thing as overselling a point. Dr. Sims attends to her while Poirot and Japp examine Katrina’s room. Poirot finds a picture of a saint and asks Japp which one it is. Japp, of course, doesn’t know, because he’s not exactly famed for his in-depth knowledge of Russian Orthodox saints. It’s probably important to note that the picture of the saint appears to be a photograph, so either that’s a really recent saint, or not one at all.
He and Poirot make their way downstairs, where Henry’s seeing the doctor out. Henry sneers that he never liked Katrina and always suspected she was sneaky. Just then, one of the policemen searching Katrina’s things comes running downstairs with a bottle of something he found in Katrina’s trunk. So, we can rule her out as a suspect now. The poisoner never keeps the poison on them—that’s just stupid. It’s the first thing you get rid of. But Japp’s never read these stories, I guess, and he looks into the vial at the fairly nondescript powder inside and declares that it looks like strychnine to him. As if he’s some sort of expert all of a sudden—he didn’t even know that strychnine’s impossibly bitter earlier. Henry immediately launches into an anti-Bolshevik tirade that even Japp finds to be a bit much. But Poirot thinks Henry might be on to something.
Japp and Poirot make their way back to London, to the Soviet Embassy, where Katrina’s buddy tells them there’s no such person as Katrina registered in England. Before they leave, Poirot lays down a trivia question: What was it Marx called ‘the opiate of the masses’? Katrina’s friend tells him it was popular fiction. Wrong. Religion. Though, I guess there are some out there who would call the Bible and other religious works a form of popular fiction, so maybe that’s his excuse. I doubt it, though. Poirot deosn’t correct him, although I’m sure he knows the guy’s wrong.
Outside, Japp says he’s come around to Poirot’s thinking that Katrina’s a communist agitator, and he figures she’s back in Russia already. Poirot doubts it, because she’s not a communist at all. The photograph of the late tsar in her room proved that much. Poirot suggests they track down some Russian churches, because, as I mentioned, religion is the opiate of the masses, as Katrina’s buddy fully knows. I’m a little confused now—if he knows the right answer, why did he lie? Poirot sends Japp to look for churches while he goes out for his daily tisane.
At Whitehaven Mansions, Hastings has totally trashed Miss Lemon’s office, trying to find the account that needs to be paid. He’s on the phone with the lady herself now, suggesting he send around some cash to settle the account. She tells him not to do any such thing, just ignore the man demanding payment and she’ll deal with him. Oh, and don’t disturb the files on any account.
She joins Poirot in a café, where he’s indulging in his tisane and a little game of make believe. He asks her to imagine she’s in Katrina’s place, suddenly finding out some old lady has left you all her money, which is great, except that you haven’t been all that honest about your background. And then you hear this lady’s called in a famous detective, so you promptly freak out, kill the old lady, and make all your problems go away. Except the inevitable problem of covering up a murder, I guess. Miss Lemon sighs that the story does sound plausible and Poirot sadly agrees. He bemoans the fact that they have so few clues to go on as to what Amelia was suspicious of. Miss Lemon wonders if Amelia might have slipped something into the seed packet, so Poirot retrieves it and looks inside. Nothing there. But when he looks at the front again, a lightbulb seems to go off right away. Yay, gray cells! Japp comes in and hands over the address of a Russian church nearby, which Poirot commends him for before asking Miss Lemon for some change for the phone. She promptly hands it over.
Katrina’s praying hard in a church. Poirot joins her and reassures her she’s safe there, he just wants to know why she ran away. She sniffs that she knows how these things work, because she saw how bad it got in Russia. Once someone decides you’re guilty, that’s it. Poirot muses that it must have been tough for her to fetch and carry, when she once had servants of her own. In a hard voice, she tells him she’s not afraid of work. He asks if she’s afraid of the noose?
Outside the church, Japp struts and tells Miss Lemon it was so obvious: Catherine the Great, right there on the seed packet. Or in Russian: Katrina. Oh, yes, how could all we mere mortals have failed to see it? Poirot emerges from the church and waits expectantly for Katrina to come out, which she does a moment later. She tells Japp she’ll go quietly and he sends her off with some officers. Japp, no doubt anticipating a fine afternoon of congratulatory tea and biscuits, smiles that that’s a tidy end to the whole business. Poirot says it’s no such thing, and he collects Miss Lemon and departs.
As Katrina’s driven away, her embassy buddy watches, turning away to hide his face when he spots the policemen.
Poirot, Japp, and Lemon return to Whitehaven Mansions, where poor Miss Lemon damn near has a full-on coronary when she sees the state of her office. Hastings, you may want to have your coffee tested for strychnine for the foreseeable future. Hastings, still sneezing away, tells Poirot a package of old letters arrived for him. Poirot starts sorting through them, telling Hastings and Japp that they’re the letters Amelia wrote to her accountant, which he’s comparing with the letter she wrote to him. Wow, the accountant just sent them to Poirot? A random person that nobody hired? Poirot notes a difference in the handwriting, and Japp immediately guesses Katrina swapped out the letter Amelia wrote to Poirot with one she wrote herself. Before that discussion can go further, Miss Lemon comes bursting in with a bill stamped “Paid” and demands to know what it means. Hastings whimpers that the man was very persistent, and she scolds him, informing him that you never pay tradesmen in cash, because then they’ll think your checks are no good. Once again, Poirot has a lightbulb moment and collects Japp and Miss Lemon for another trip out to Surrey, where Miss Lemon’s going to have to pay a visit to the fishmonger.
She does, indeed, do so, and appears to have quite the conversation with him. News of Katrina’s arrest has already hit the papers (wow, they got that up fast, didn’t they?) as Poirot pays a visit to Amelia’s house, where Mary’s relaxing in the garden with Dr. Sims, reassuring him she’s over the shock now. Ok, let’s keep in mind that this has all taken place over the course of a single day. Either Poirot and Miss Lemon got an insanely early start, or they’ve got an unbelievably fast car to get them from London to this place and back, or this has been the longest day in history. It’s not even dusk yet! And Mary’s already over the shock? In a day? Not suspicious at all!
Poirot joins them and Mary thanks him for everything they’ve done. Henry offers him a chair and Poirot notes the story in the paper about Katrina’s arrest. Mary presses Poirot to take them into his confidence, now the case is closed, so Poirot goes into storytelling mode. He tells them about the letter, which was written in a purposely obscure manner in case it was intercepted. But then, luckily, Amelia ran into Poirot at the flower show and, thinking he’d already read the letter, passed him a further clue. And the clue on the seed packet was not Katrina’s name, but the type of flower: Stocks. Good thing there just so happened to be some stocks packets right there, then. What would Amelia had done if it was just a display of Bachelor’s Buttons or something? See, the letters to Amelia’s accountant reveal that she’d been moving into some high-risk ventures lately. But those letters weren’t written by Amelia, they were forged. Henry immediately blames Katrina, but Poirot’s no idiot and tells Henry that he’s aware that Henry and Mary are the ones to blame for the forged letters and the lousy investments. And the murder. Poirot notes the oyster shells used to line the flower beds, and the oysters contained therein were paid for in cash, so of course the fishmonger remembers them. Henry, like a moron, sighs that they’ve been caught, but Mary’s not going without a fight. She tries to flee the garden, but she’s surrounded on all sides by Japp’s men, so she resorts to hysterics, screaming about how Katrina was going to get everything, including Mary’s garden. Well, that’s a great reason to kill someone. Lord knows, you can’t plant a garden somewhere else, ever. So, she framed Katrina by planting the poison in her room.
Mary grabs a pitchfork to hold everyone at bay while she idiotically monologues and reveals her whole plot: how she put strychnine in the oysters and served them to her aunt, who gobbled them right up. Uh, ok, I’ve had oysters before, and the brine, though briney, is not bitter. If it was bitter, especially really, really bitter the way strychnine is, I wouldn’t eat it. No sane person would. You might eat one and then spit it out, because it tastes awful, but you sure wouldn’t have another. I don’t buy this. But, whatever, she poisoned her aunt with oysters, then hid the shells by edging the flowerbed with them. And she buried the bell there too, because it had apparently driven her insane.
Mary flees to the garden shed and tries to poison herself with the weed killer there, but it’s full of booze, so she’s just admitted to murder for no reason. She’s dragged off by Japp and his men. Soon after, Katrina is released, and her friend from the embassy is there to meet her with an embrace. More than a friend, then. He thanks Poirot for helping them out, then helps Katrina into the car, where she melodramatically asks the driver to take them to Biarritz. I think you’re going to need more than a car to get there.
Poirot returns home, which has been decked with his roses, which mysteriously aren’t bothering Hastings in the least. Because it wasn’t a pollen allergy at all, it was a perfume allergy. Poirot tells Miss Lemon not to wear perfume to the office and she indignantly tells him she would never, because that’s just inappropriate. Japp notes that someone in the room is wearing perfume, because he can smell it. Everyone starts sniffing around, and of course, it’s the perfume Poirot bought at the beginning of the episode. Poirot tells them he’s not wearing perfume, but a fine, manly scent, and he’ll hear no more about it. He sends them all away so he can groom his moustache and enjoy his fine perfume in peace.
5 thoughts on “Poirot: How Does Your Garden Grow?”
Very entertaining – thank you! By the way, I think Katrina told the taxi to take them to the Ritz… 🙂
I was wondering about the entire Japp running around the country as well! Apparently, Scotland Yard, while London’s police force (outside of the City of London) have legal jurisdiction throughout England. Soooooooo…when rinky dink police forces have crimes they’ve never seen before, they can legally call in Scotland Yard, the presumption being that being a large city police force, they’ll have experience with these kinds of cases. 😀
Excellent article. What does WTF on the envelope meant back then?
I honestly have no idea. Was it part of the address?
WTF stood for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (the days of the flower show)