The few times that the reader sees Mary playing while still in India, Mary is pretending to garden by pushing cut flowers into the ground as though she were planting them. This pretend garden symbolizes several things. First, it's understood that this garden, like Mary, won't grow; the flowers will die soon after being plucked and put in the soil without water, just as Mary cannot think, grow, or feel creative in India's hot climate. In this way, the garden comes to represent how stifling and inappropriate India is for a child like Mary. On the other hand, the fact that Mary is engaging in this kind of play foreshadows her interest in the secret garden once she arrives in England. With this, the play garden also comes to represent the potential for growth and curiosity, as well as the interest in the natural world, that the novel suggests exists within all children.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Mary's Pretend Garden appears in The Secret Garden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...are about Mary's age. They infuriate her, especially Basil. One afternoon, as Mary creates another pretend garden , Basil tries to make suggestions about landscaping elements. Mary shouts at him, but Basil... (full context)