Wassand Hall

It’s been a good while since I wrote a blog but this week I finished my last RHS exams. Hopefully, I passed and won’t need to resit. The first exam covered fruit and veg which isn’t my strongest knowledge area but it didn’t feel too bad. The second is on protected environments. They had changed the exam from any of the previous past papers. You usually have a good few questions where you write profiles of particular houseplants. There weren’t any of these questions but a lot more of growing veg in protected structures. A bit disappointed as I know houseplants better but so it goes. Now I’ve got the exams out the way I can get back to actually focussing on my own garden so expect a few updates.

Yesterday I made it out with Alice to Wassand Hall. It’s our closest country house and garden open to the public and we’ve visited it plenty of times before so I’m not going to go into lots of detail about the gardens in this blog. Check the previous blogs for more information. After a few weekends of revision, it was good to get out and to get Alice outside into nature.

Meadows

We began with a walk around the meadow land that surrounds the house. The grassland was filled with butterflies and damselflies. Countless speckled browns and meadow browns and a few more colourful butterflies on the wing. I’ve spotted the deer quite a few times while I’ve been out on my own but no sign today. We did see a good few orchids though.

Alice walked much further than I thought she would, enjoying everything we saw. This area is such a valuable habitat for so much wildlife I’m glad we have it on our doorstep. I’m glad it’s managed as it is creating a variety of niches for different wildlife.

Walled garden

After a snack refuel we headed into the walled gardens. The walled garden is roughly split into four beds with a tropical corner, a more cottage garden feel, a shaded corner and a more mixed one. Alice loves a water feature. Whenever we visit the garden centre she loves spending her time on the water fountain aisle. She spent a good while watching the fish in the central pond.

The tropical corner is probably my favourite area. The large foliage plants mixed with spectacular lilies and dahlias are just so lush to be irresistible.

With the heat, an ice cream break was needed.

Hot house

After cooling off with ice cream we headed into the hot house. Every time we visit I am very envious of the hothouse. They have a fabulous collection of plants growing in there at sizes I could never achieve without the heat and humidity they can create in here. As the last exam was on protected environments it was good to see it all in action.

Alice loved walking through the mist of the humidifier which with the heat outside was quite refreshing. I don’t think Amy will allow me to do this with the summer room though sadly.

Fabulous gloriosa.

Mandevilla growing from a large pot.

The carnivorous pitcher, sarracenia guards the door against insects.

And a few more carnivorous nepenthes protecting the greenhouse from pests.

Back to the outside world Alice was attracted to the rill. As I said she is fascinated by the water features.

Woodland Walk

I thought Alice would have had enough of walking by this point but she was determined to do the woodland walk. It takes you in a circle around the woodland surrounding the walled garden. Along the way you look for animals doors and record the colour on a sheet.

It takes you to the stumpery, which any long term readers will know I like a lot. The mix of ferns and gunnery and wonderful foliage plants makes for a wonderfully calm environment.

I’m glad Alice still enjoys doing activities as basic as these trails. It’s valuable time together and she still found such pleasure in finding each door. At the end, we returned the clipboard to the cafe for a reward of a bag of sweets.

Cactus house

To the side of the cafe is a long thin glass-ceilinged room with the cactus and succulents collection. A stark contrast to the hot house. From warm and humid to super dry. Cactus and succulents are fascinating if strange-looking things. My A-level biology teacher had a love of them and had them dotted around the lab. At least I assume she loved them from the quantity. I also have a suspicion that they were out so the more annoying students would end up touching when they decided to give the furry-looking ones a stroke. She did have a bit of a sadistic sense of humour, though a very good teacher. For adaptations, there are few plants as interesting botanically.

While I’m sure most readers understand the cactus and succulent distinction a few might not. Succulents are defined as plants with water-storing adaptations such as fleshy leaves or fleshy trunks. While cacti are succulents with leaves that have adapted to become spines or scales to suit desert conditions.

While it is only the one stretch of plants there is an amazing variety of plants that have adapted differently for dry conditions. The spines forming micro climates to conserve water and protect the plant from anything that might eat it.

While the succulents have fleshy leaves for water storage in all manners of configurations.

I think this little one was one of my favourites, Mammillaria gracillis. I like how the spines are adapted to flatten over the cactus stems to make a web.

Plant sales

OK, I’ll be honest this was one of the main reasons we came out. I was looking to take Alice out for a nice day but no reason that couldn’t cross over with me seeing some interesting plant stalls. There were a few local nurseries there with a mix of perennials and bedding plants. Long Riston plants are very reasonably priced. The Hardy Plant Society were there with a good selection of perennials. But as we visited the local open gardens a few weeks back I already have a good pile of plants needing planting so I resisted these. I couldn’t resist the Hull branch of the British Cactus and Succulents society stand.

I think they have involvement with the display at Wassand and they had brought out a great selection for the display table.

Alice likes the ones which look like they are covered in wool as mum likes to needle felt and she felt it looked like the wool she uses.

Best of all, all of the pots were £1 each regardless of size and rarity value meaning we could pick many just based on what we liked. We both picked a good few. Then a picked up a not-so-mini tetrapanax. This is capable of becoming a large-leaved tropical-looking tree. In milder areas, they can remain evergreen. I expect mine to be deciduous dying to the ground in winter. Accounts online differ in how it copes with the wind. But I have seen a good few accounts saying it can manage with sea salt winds so I’m going to risk it. If it works out it will make for an impressive specimen within the front garden jungle.

Glad I managed to find my favourite cactus from the cactus house. I can see how people become obsessed with collecting and growing these wonderful plants. Their small nature means anyone can fit a good few. The great variety makes them very interesting. I’m tempted to join the society as they look to have a good number of online lectures each month making it easy for me to fit it around Alice. Then they meet once a month close enough for me to get to. If they ever have a press office job going I’d leap at that for the amount of bad puns that can be made. “They’re a bit of a prickly bunch with dry sense of humours.”

It was a great day out and wonderful seeing Alice taking such enjoyment from the wildlife in the meadow, to the plants in the garden, to the woodland trail, to simple pleasures such as watching the water. Despite dragging her around for over 16,000 steps, during the whole day out the only whine was when I said it was time to go.

Stumpery

It’s been a good while since I wrote my last blog but I now have the RHS coursework finished so I have a bit more time to write and record my gardening. I’ve still got two more exams to go before it’s all completed but I have a little less to do. I’ve got a project with a lot of plants so a blog seems like a good plan for making a record. At work, I decided to claim a corner of the outdoor area for a project. It was previously inhabited by chickens, but foxes put an end to them. It’s sat empty for two years with random prunings filling it up. I have spent part of the last week clearing it back to the bare ground. It’s fenced and I’m intending to leave the fence around it so it’s just an area accessed with an adult taking the children in. I’m aiming to make a stumpery with a few fairy elements to use with the kids. The log piles will provide lots of habitats for wildlife and the plants provide a few benefits alongside.

I have found a contact at the local town council for supplies of wood. We’ve had a good lorry load of various sizes dropped off. From the gate, I have used the thinner logs to mark a path going around a central clump of branches and logs. To the left of the gate, I have made a wider border and then the border is a bit thinner around the back edge. The corner holly is providing a good amount of shade. So between the evergreen canopy and the tree roots that corner will be hard to plant much. I may use this corner for a bug hotel or another log pile. Only the toughest plants adapted for dry shade will survive. Combined with the school holidays anything selected must be able to survive with minimal attention. At the moment I have just piled some of the well-rotted logs that were already in the area.

As well as the logs, I received a kind donation of plants from Stagview Nurseries. They have donated a mixture of ferns and hostas. These were really nice healthy plants that should suit the conditions well. In the main border to the left, I have planted a mixture of these with a few of my homegrown plants as well. The logpile at the back is covering a hole in the fence where the chickens used to enter that I’ll be filling. From left to right there are 2 ferns, Dryopteris affinis, that are reliable ferns. They grow to a good half a metre and require little care. In front of them is a Heuchara ‘greenfinch’ I grew a number of these from seed last year and I have them self seeded within every patio pot now. I’m trying a small patch of winter aconites. I don’t know if these will survive so for now I’m just trying a small patch and we’ll see if they spread. Carrying on along, we have 3 Hosta ‘Halycon’. These are medium-sized hostas with blue leaves. They have some resistance to slugs and will make a nice contrast in colour and foliage shape to the ferns either side. To the right of the Halycons is another small patch of Heuchera ‘goldfinch’. Another fern to the back and then another patch of Hostas. This time ‘wide brim’. This is a larger hosta than the halcyon with wider green leaves with a cream edge. Again, it’s adding a bit more variation to the foliage and shades of green.

Up close, the halcyon are coming up well. These are a popular cultivar with their supposed slug resistance. While it all looks a bit bare currently it will fill out to cover the space.

Heuchera ‘greenfinch’ is not necessarily the most exciting heuchera out there. But it has a key advantage that it self seeds lots. As I have suffered with vine weevil again and again this is a useful quality as it means I have a supply to continue to feed the vine weevil. It has small bright white flowers on long stems in summer which will stand out well in the shade. These and the hosta flowers are loved by bees bringing some wildlife benefit to the area.

Wide brim is not showing its cream margin yet, but we’ll see as it develops. It’s currently in good health with minimal slug damage. As each year goes on hostas seem to develop better resistance. I’ll have a look at what I can use as a mulch to deter them. Wool pellets have worked well, but I think we may have some grit kicking around I work I can make use of.

To the left of the birch tree, I have planted another fern, Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata the King’. These is another reliable fern that should survive once it’s established.

To the right of the gate, I’ve laid out logs to mark a small corner bed. I’ve got a Fatsia japonica and Hosta ‘albomarginata’ in so far. The Fatsia will bring some nice large foliage to the area. The hostas will provide a nice contrast in leaf shape and variegation. There is still a gap to the left of the Fatsia. I’m not sure what to use here. I could do with something with a thinner leaf. Maybe Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola gold’ if I can get hold of it. This will add a different colour and leaf shape and should complement each other well.

I have a few ferns left to place and some topsoil to mulch the ground. A good mulch will prove useful in keeping the moisture in the soil for the dryer shaded areas. I will probably divide off some of my Iris foetidissima to add some evergreen sword shapes to the mix and keep a bit more structure when the hostas die down. I have some Ajuga reptans elsewhere on site I can claim to use for a bit more groundcover.

And a quick video tour of the progress so far.

It may not look like much yet but I’m confident it will fill out nicely. The central logs still need to be arranged properly. I may try and make some planting pockets within this. I need to work out what to use along the back fence border which has some of the dryest areas. The robin was keen to get investigating while I had my cup of tea. There is still a good more work to go on this but I feel like I’ve made a good start and it’s an improvement on the dumping area that it had become.

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Six on Saturday: 20.11.21

Well, it looks like I captured last weeks Acer photo at the right time as it has now lost many of its leaves. I’m still failing to get bulbs planted but maybe some tomorrow.

Geranium Rozanne

It’s a very popular plant, though not my favourite geranium. I think a lot of people are a bit bored of it from how much it gets used in designs. But it’s almost December and it’s still flowering well after many months. That counts for something.

Hydrangea runaway bride

This was in the front garden where it was too shaded. It was suffering from yellowing leaves, chlorosis. Since moving it to the back garden where it has had more sun it has been happier. Hydrangeas are generally ok in shade but this one obviously wasn’t happy with it. It’s still a bit spindly but it’s finishing the year in better health than it was.

Climbing hydrangea

I have a large climbing hydrangea that is hidden behind the black cherry tree and lilac and it is beautiful. The flowers at the beginning of summer are always a treat and the leaves are one of my best autumn colours. But it isn’t very visible. So I planted several opposite on the other fence where they will be seen more. They take a few years to get going. I think this was its second year and it is picking up pace. The leaves are large and turn a vibrant yellow bringing some nice contrast to the holly nearby. As it claims the fence it adds to the cover for the birds as they hop through the fence gaps.

Azalea

The azalea was looking very leggy in spring. It had a lot of dead growth so I read up on pruning advice and it said to prune little and often to encourage the sideshoots. It has bushed out, though it isn’t quite the tight Japanese topiary I imagined.

Primula victorian lace

I dug these out of the ground as they were hidden in the border, divided them and put them in hanging pots on the log store to make a mini auricula theatre. They have flowered well since moving and gradually bushing out again.

Geranium lace time

This is one of my favourite hardy geraniums. The delicate veining is stunning and it reliably flowers over a long time with many pollinators making use of it.

And that’s it for this week. We’ve got a quiet weekend ahead hopefully. Should get through my planning for work today and have a bit of time tomorrow for the garden. I need to do a bit of weeding to prevent seeding for next year.

Six on Saturday: 6.11.21

After a busy few weeks, I made it out into the garden. Only to mow the lawn but it’s a start to the autumn tidying.

Fire log

We went out in the garden last night for Bonfires night. I bought a fire log as we had one last year and it did a good job of keeping us warm and cooking marshmallows. But this one was a bit poor. It never really got going.

Sparklers

We did enjoy some sparklers though.

Fireworks

And we enjoyed watching a few other peoples fireworks going off.

Geranium Brookside

I had a quick trip to the smaller garden centre while Alice was in ballet and picked up a few discount plants. This hardy geranium is a reliable blue spreader. I will probably use it for work. I don’t have a particular purpose for it but it was cheap and will be useful somewhere.

Crambe maritima

Sea kale was a favourite of Derek Jarman. It’s drought-tolerant and can stand sea winds. I tried it from seed before and a few germinated but didn’t make it to adulthood. This one looks a bit sorry for itself but it was cheap enough I’m willing to chance it and bring it back to life.

Senecio herrianus

Another cheap purchase. A little pot of string of beads houseplant. I’ve swapped it to a new pot as it’s a trailer. It needs something with a bit of weight so it doesn’t drop off. It’s a succulent that trails over the edge of the pot. It can be propagated easily either by rooting cuttings into soil or water.

I’m slightly more hopeful of starting the bulb planting this week but we’ll see. We have a wood delivery coming today for the log burner so going to have to have a tidy of the patio if nothing else. Hope you all enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 30.10.21 fruits and berries

Alice survived her Covid isolation fairly well. Two days of her being quite poorly and then a bit of cough. It hasn’t left much time for gardening but the weather has been pretty dreary anyway. I don’t really want to be walking on the wet lawn so best left alone anyway. It is feeling very autumnal in the garden with the leaves changing colour and some dropped already.

Acer

The Acers often have their leaves blown off before I get to enjoy their autumn colour but this year they have thrived.

Honeysuckle

I have honeysuckle in a few spots in the garden. It is a messy sprawling climber but I’ve tried to provide plants that will give the bird a natural source of food rather than me topping up feeders all the time.

Pyracantha

The pyracantha was planted last year and it has taken a while to settle. It was probably bigger than the rootball could support so it hasn’t put on much growth this year. But it has provided a decent quantity of berries for a small plant.

Holly Golden King

The golden king has a few clusters of berries this year. It is still relatively small, maybe just over a metre but it’s good to see the berries as it means there is a male plant near enough to pollinate it.

Salvia amistad

The salvia has gone mad the last few weeks spreading from a few stems to many and flowering profusely. Much appreciated as many other things shrivel down.

Pumpkin Patch

We went out for a trip to the local pick your own pumpkin. They have table after table and crate after crate of pumpkins and gourds on display.

Nice to see them all on display and the amazing variety. I think I’m going to try a few at work next year.

Our haul, back home.

And that’s it for this week. Back to work on Monday after half term. haven’t made a start on bulb planting like I wanted but it can wait. Enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: jungle garden

So this week is coming later than normal and will be a short one as Alice has tested positive with Covid. She has a bit of a snotty nose, but she said her sense of smell was funny so we got her tested. She came out negative on the lateral flow test before testing positive from the PCR so worth getting a proper test to avoid infecting others. We’ve also had an Ofsted inspection at work this week so been a pretty exhausting week all round with another one ahead looking after a bored child stuck at home.

This week saw the arrival of the garden jungle by Phillip Oostenbrink. I’d seen one of his lectures a few months back as well as following him through Twitter so had this on preorder. It looks to be a great addition to the garden literature around tropical/exotic gardening.

So to celebrate the release a quick look at six of the exotic plants in the garden still pulling their weight. The Bishop’s Children dahlias is still flowering well. It was grown from seed and has been in the ground 3 years now without lifting. Top corner we Podophyllum versipelle ‘spotty dotty’. This is an attractive foliage plant with nice broad leaves. It was a recommendation from Philip and a very good one. Below we have buckler fern, one of my favourites. Looks great in a pot for much of the year with little maintenance needed. In the bottom right corner Persicaria runcinata ‘purple fantasy’. This was a purchase from Stillingfleet Lodge a few months back. It’s in a pot currently. But as it grows I’ll divide it for use elsewhere. Bottom middle is Farfugium japonicum ‘wavy gravy’. It doesn’t photograph well but this has lovely curly foliage and is filling a shaded spot in the front garden. And last but by no means least are my Fatsias. I have both the plain and spider web type next to each other in pots. They sit near the front door and look good much of the year providing nice large palmate foliage.

Much shorter than normal this week. But hopefully, return to normal next week. Hope you are all keeping well and I may get some chance to catch up on other people’s blogs other the next week.

Six on Saturday: 9.10.21 bulbs

Well I sat my RHS exam on propagation. I was quite anxious beforehand but I think it went alright. I’m fairly confident I passed and we’ll have to see in December whether I managed the higher level of commendation. This week has been busy with the exam and then catching up on work after all my revision so this week’s is looking at the bulb purchases that have been building up.

Tulip grand perfection

Despite what this week’s blog contains I am not massively bothered by tulips. But they fill a gap between the early spring bulbs and the summer garden so I do usually plant a few. These tulips look like they should be a nice striking one paired with the existing queen of the nights. Though they inevitably won’t flower together throwing off the plan.

Queen of the nights

I already have queen of the night tulips in the ground but they gradually fade in our clay soil. Shrinking, rotting and getting dug up by mistake so it’s always good to top them up.

Giant allium

I’ve had a few taller alliums in the border this year with the Allium forelocks towering over the border and it has been quite good having alliums where I can shoot upwards when taking photos of the bees. They look a bit odd sticking out the border but the bees like them.

Tulips little beauty

These were Alice’s choice. She usually ends up picking red riding hood tulips with the striped foilage but she was taken by the colour of these. They are little short 10cm tulips so I’m not quite sure where we’ll put these so they show. They might need to be in a pot.

Iris danfordiae

I like irises in general but my early spring Iris reticulata pots are largely blue or purple. I saw these and thought it would make a bit of a change. Yellow is a welcome sight in spring standing out well in the darker months.

Tulip canasta

I usually pick a bag of tulips that are different from the more commonly cultivated ones. This has led to some beautiful forms and some fairly rubbish parrot tulips that didn’t hold their form well. These are a fringed tulip that I think will be quite striking.

Hopefully get back to featuring the garden properly next week. I’m working an extra shift at nursery next week so may not find anytime to plant these next week but it’s half term soon so should be able to get them in the ground soon.

Six on Saturday: root cuttings

It’s going to be a quick one this week as I am preparing for my next RHS exam on propogation. So for this week I am looking at root cuttings.

Plant health

When taking cuttings plants should be in good health as any disease is likely to be passed on through the cuttings. You want to avoid any already suffering with any issues such as chlorosis or other disorders linked to lacking correct feeding. This Acanthus I feature last week is an ideal candidate for root cuttings as they have a reputation for regrowing from the slightest bit of root left in the soil when people have tried to remove them. It is likely it will lose the varieagation when the root cuttings grow. But I would quite like the normal species variety as well. This is still in its pot so I can just take the cuttings by taking it from the pot. If it was in the ground it would need lifting or if it was too big you can scrape to expose the roots and do it in situ.

Cuttings

Ideal root cuttings should be about pencil thickness. This had several coming out the base of the pot which is what gave me the idea to take cuttings. You want to take the cuttings as close to the crown as possible. But as these were going to need cutting to get it out of the pot I thought I’d use these.

Root sections

Sections of root can be cut into sections about 7-10cm for vertical cuttings. These are going vertically into a pot so I went about 7cm for each one. If you are taking root cuttings from something with finer roots that can be laid out horizontally on the compost and these cuttings can be shorter.

I took a few from close to the crown as well. I’m chancing some of the smaller roots since this has a reputation for growing back well.

Compost

In an ideal world I’d use cuttings compost. But I don’t have any. I’ve gone with a seed compost with a bit of vermiculite mixed in. Then I filled the small 10cm pot.

The cuttings have gone around the edge of the pot. Just a little way in. I used a thin dibber to poke the hole and then placed them in but a pencil would do fine. Then I covered with a thin layer of about 0.5cm of compost. Then they’ve been placed in the unheated mini greenhouse. They should show signs of growth in spring when they can then be potted on into individual pots. Then by the next year they may be ready to plant out. So it is quite a slow method but they don’t take up much space and don’t need much attention. The label is probably one of the most significant parts so I actually know wheat I’ve got coming up in spring and give them the right care.

Hopefully the exam will go alright. Good luck to anyone else sitting their exams on Monday.

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Six on Saturday: 25.9.21

It’s been a busy week at work with lots to prepare so I haen’t managed much in the garden this week but a few jobs we’re achieved last Saturday. Then on Sunday we had a downpour in the afternoon that was flooding the roads. Luckily it didn’t rain Monday so it all had a chance to drain away so no damage done. Just a few floppy plants.

Potting on

One of the main jobs I achieved on the Saturday was potting on the foxgloves and the Primula candelabras. I will have more Primula vialii to do in a few weeks. But this was a good job off the list. They’ll be losses along the way but I’ve got a good few growing well currently.

Tesco rescue

This was a rescue plant from Tesco’s a month ago. It looked sorry for itself but I was confident it would recover fine and it has. Plenty of flowers over it.

Acanthus mollis ‘whitewater’

Alice wanted to go to The Works for craft supplies which happens to be in the garden centre. I spotted this Acanthus and I couldn’t resist the foliage. The flowers don’t look to be as nice as the contrasting flowers on the wild form. I need to think where to place it as once placed it will carry on regrowing from small root sections if I dig it up again.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘pink freckles’

And I also saw this. I’ve seen this plant on a few other six on Saturday blogs in previous years and I’ve always liked it. It’s a small delicate looking thing for deep shade.

Harvest moon

I haven’t made it in the garden much this week but did pop out at night to admire the harvest moon.

Aster

This aster is a tall leggy thing that suffers from powdery mildew. It needs plants infront of it to cover the fairly unnatractive stems. But for a couple of weeks each year it brings in the butterflies and provides colour as other plants fade. This year it hass attracted lots of comma butterflies which is an absolute joy as I hadn’t seen as many since a new housing estate was built destroying lots of nettles and brambles.

I’m going to be preparing for the next RHS exam so be busy this weekend reading up on propagation. Enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 18.9.21

It’s been a busy, but good week at work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening but there is still a lot looking good in my garden as we move into autumn. I’m hoping to get wood ordered for work this week to build some new raised beds. Then that project will keep me busy for a while.

  1. Geranium oxonianum lace time

This geranium is one of my favourites. It has flowered from spring to now and it will keep going. The delicate veining is lovely. They are tiny but worth pausing to admire. They spread but not as rapidly as wargrave pink.

2. Lupin

I grew these lupins from seed the year before last. They flowered earlier in the year but they suffered with aphids. I cut them back and the second flowering is coming through much stronger.

3. Heuchera planter

A local gardener has been selling plants to raise money for Marie Curie. She has made up lots of pots of mixed heuchera. With 4 or 5 heucheras in each pot, these were amazing bargains at £8.50. I hope she has managed to raise lots for charity as this is to make up for no local open gardens this year.

4 Primula germination

I have gone all out on primulas this year. I’ve started off lots of varieties from seed now and then they should be able to be potted on and be up to a decent stage next year. We have Primula candelabra, vialii, Miller’s Crimson, pulverulenta, and florindae. They have all germinated to some level. I got a lot of the seed from Furzey Gardens so it will be a nice souvenir if they make it full size.

5. Dragonfly close up

The dragonflies have been resting on the clematis and I managed to get out with the macro lens to get a few shots.

6. Dahlia tamburo

I’ve grown this dahlia for a few years. I love the flowers but the first few always seem to flower low down in between other stems.

The weather is hopefully going to be nice this weekend so with any luck I’ll get a few garden jobs done. I hope you all enjoy your weekends. I need to up my revision level for my next RHS exams but it’s propagation which isn’t too bad a topic.

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