More Martin

If you like Doc Martin, a British series set in a picturesque seaside town, it’s likely because you have fallen for the peculiar charm of its star, Martin Clunes.

He’s in another series, Reggie Perrin, about a corporate executive undergoing a prolonged existential crisis (available on Netflix). This is more broadly funny than Doc Martin. Some of the best moments happen when Clunes indulges his fantasies about his co-workers and family (a wrecking ball knocks his mother off the couch after she says something especially cutting, or he fires a blow dart into the forehead of the chairman of the board). It’s similar to those moments in Ally McBeal when Ally’s thoughts would materialize for a moment before she snapped back into her normal, public self.

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The nip in the air recently prompted me to get out the camera and record the moment when the garden shifts into transition. I’m no botany expert, but I can almost feel the life processes of the plants contract and turn towards dormancy.

Grasses are wonderful in the fall. Here’s the new one that replaced the giant Pampas grass. It’s very delicate, and I think it shows up well against the purple basil.

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The end of [dog] days

August marks a time of exhaustion in my garden. No matter how well my perennials and annuals have done all spring and summer, by August most of them are looking pretty tired. The hot spell this year scorched a lot of plants, and the flowering annuals are pooped, after generously giving me tons of blooms and re-blooming obligingly when I remembered to deadhead them.

There are a couple of exceptions. The zinnias are fresh and happy, since they only got going in July. Ditto the Heavenly Blue morning glories, which started to bloom a couple of weeks ago. The butterfly weed has gone to seed, and the seed pods are handsome. The yellow daisies (the kind we used to call black-eyed Susan) are indefatigable.

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Environment matters

It’s amazing to me how plants adapt to varying conditions. I think of one little pink weed, a prairie native, that can grow like a tiny alpine flower or a good-sized bush. It would grow just a few inches tall with eensy-weensie magenta flowers if it was in the lawn where it got mowed, or where the soil was very poor and dry. In rich moist soil it became a five-foot tall monster covered in great masses of bloom. Alas, it died out from my yard a few years ago, and I miss it.

Here’s another example. In full sun, the leaves of this plant have a bluish cast and are quite stiff, almost leathery.

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Primroses and pussycat

Although I didn’t walk today, I spent it in the garden, carrying bags of mulch and digging holes, so I feel that is a decent substitute for a daily walk.

After a few days out of town, it feels good to get back into my garden and take care of a few little chores. One thing I do quite regularly is move plants around. In a 15 year old garden, that’s the main job in the perennial flower beds: moving and sometimes dividing plants that have started crowding each other so that their arrangment is no longer pleasing or even healthy for them.

I am very grateful that we have managed to create a tiny slice of paradise on a suburban plot of land just a few yards from a busy street.
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Reverse engineering Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch is awfully good as the latest incarnation of Sherlock, so naturally I’m interested in seeing him in other roles. Thanks to the internet, this is absurdly easy.

So far, I’ve seen him in two things besides Sherlock. In both, he plays a somewhat introverted, very intelligent person, which seems to be his specialty. The modern man, with more than a touch of nerd.
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Mossy, lichen-y love

New England is a great place for mossy rocks. So common here that we scarcely notice them, I am told they are sometimes imported at great expense to regions with a less fortunate geology, history, and climate. (Yes, I know that lots of other places are very nice, but I am an unapologetic lover of my home state. Massachusetts is simply the best place in the world, IMO.)

If you’ve ever been curious about the stone walls you see everywhere, including in the middle of the woods, I recommend this FAQ from the Stone Wall Initiative at UConn. is another good place to learn a little more about the stone walls of Massachusetts.
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