The walls of the garden and the trees in it are all covered in trailing roses, and the forgotten rosebushes look almost like trees. Mary doesn't know if anything is dead or alive, as everything is brown and still. Mary remarks at how still everything is and notices that even the robin, sitting in a tree, is silent. She quietly walks around the garden following the robin and wishes that she knew if the garden is alive.
The silence of the garden seems to mirror the silence of Mary's inner monologue when she was in India. This implies that the garden will mimic Mary as it blooms in the spring and comes into its own. Her desire to know if the garden is dead or alive speaks to the growing curiosity she's feeling about herself and the natural world around her.
Mary picks up her jump rope and decides to skip around the whole garden. At an alcove, she notices pale green points sticking out of the dirt and remembers what Ben Weatherstaff said about crocuses, snowdrops, and daffodils starting to poke up. She grows increasingly excited as she walks slowly around the garden, noticing other plant starts all around. In some places the grass seems to be choking the shoots, so Mary finds a piece of wood and clears some of the grass from around them. She grows warmer and happier. The robin is thrilled that someone is caring for his garden.
Clearing the choking grass away from the shoots mirrors the way in which, in coming to Misselthwaite, Mary has been freed from both the stifling Indian climate as well as the caregivers that, by spoiling her, stunted her growth. Her excitement at seeing signs of life in the garden also shows that Mary is continuing to come alive; she's still in the early stages and will continue to blossom.
Mary realizes that she's late for dinner, so she runs back to the manor and eats the biggest dinner she's ever eaten. Martha is delighted and remarks that Mother will be pleased at the effect of the jump rope. As she eats, Mary asks Martha what the onion-like roots are. Martha explains that they're bulbs and lists some flowers that come from bulbs. She also mentions that Dickon grows bulbs and can make anything grow by whispering to it. Anxiously, Mary asks if bulbs can live without human help, and Martha says that they're very self-sufficient.
The way that Martha describes the bulbs as being self-sufficient situates them as a foil for the roses, which require human care and tending to truly flourish. Then, noting that Dickon whispers to plants to make them grow helps Mary understand that she needs to be friends with flowers and the natural world, just as she needs to be with people.
Settling herself by the fire, Mary says that she wishes she had a spade. Carefully, as to keep the secret garden a secret, she tells Martha that Misselthwaite Manor is lonely, so she wants to be like Ben Weatherstaff and grow a little garden. This delights Martha and she says that Mother actually had the same idea. Martha says that there's a shop in Thwaite village that sells gardening tools and seeds, and Mary remembers that she has a weekly allowance. Eagerly, Martha asks Mary if she can write: if Mary writes to Dickon and sends money, she can ask him to purchase tools and seeds on her behalf. Martha runs off to fetch her writing supplies. This takes a while, as Martha gets sidetracked, but the two eventually manage to draft a satisfactory letter.
Mary's interest in actively cultivating a garden shows that she's already grown enough to develop an interest in helping other things grow. This suggests that healing processes, like the one Mary is undergoing, don’t just take place only on an individual level; she needs Martha and Ben’s help to grow and heal, and now she feels compelled to pour out her newfound energy into returning the favor and helping other things grow.
Martha explains that Dickon will bring the purchases to Misselthwaite himself, which again excites Mary—she finds his love of animals intriguing and wants to meet him. Martha also says that Mother plans to ask Mrs. Medlock if Mary could come to the cottage sometime. Mary feels as though everything exciting is happening all at once. Martha stays with Mary for most of the afternoon. As she leaves to fetch Mary's tea, Mary asks if the scullery maid still has a toothache, as she heard the crying again. Restlessly, Martha insists that Mary heard nothing and runs off.
It's telling that all these things that excite Mary have to do with meeting other people. Mary increasingly understands that she's not the center of the universe, and if she allows herself to befriend others and show interest in them, her world can be richer and more fulfilling. Her question about the scullery maid reinforces this, as it shows that she truly cares about someone else—though perhaps she knows that the explanation of the scullery maid’s toothache is just a coverup for a more intriguing secret.