Six on Saturday: 25.1.19

Today’s six on Saturday is a post of two halves. The first half coming from a family friend’s garden, the second half is from my own garden. Last weekend we went to visit one of Amy’s friends whose garden we had seen on open gardens last year (garden 4). I was interested to see it in winter as it has a lot of foliage I’d assumed was evergreen. But it was all still looking great. The mass carpets of cyclamen foliage covering lots of ground, alongside hellebores coming into flower looked great.

1. Alice and snowdrops

Alice was very taken with the snowdrops, though she is referring to them interchangeably as snowdrops and snowbells. I don’t think I have any coming up in my own garden anymore or they are lost in the foliage. I may have to see about adding a few in the front garden. Then Alice can enjoy snowbell hunting in our garden.

2. Pots

I’d seen this area of their garden in summer when the pots were filled with hostas and ferns. Even in winter without the hostas, the ferns still look great.

The semp pots and rock towers still looking good. All the found objects adding to the look nicely.

3. Pruning

Returning to my own garden I made the decision to give the Korean dwarf lilac a rather severe haircut. I’ve cut it each year but it has gradually been creeping up in size. The surrounding shrubs will be given a trim in spring. Though having cut the dwarf lilac and looking at the gap I think it may be better removing this completely and letting the hydrangea and choisya claim the space rather than having three shrubs fighting for space.

4. More driftwood

I’ve talked previously about my plans to use driftwood in the garden. I’ve managed to claim a few more pieces to start laying out in front of the pots just next to the Korean dwarf lilac. I’m loving the very knotted piece full of holes. A great find.

Then I’ve managed to get another big piece. I need to wash some of the sand and salt then I’ll probably look at putting it into the borders as I’ve done with the other large piece I found.

5. Iris reticulata

The iris are shooting up quickly with the mild weather. I think I may have an early show for many of these. I expanded my selection with a few different varieties Katherine Hodgkins, Katherine Hodgkin’s gold and harmony. Having seen some stunning purple ones in the last few weeks I’d like to add something like Pauline next year. They have stunning deep purple flowers.

6. Hydrangea buds

A number of the hydrangeas have foolishly put on growth beyond the old mopheads with the mild weather. I think they may regret this if the temperature drops as predicted. Rather strange looking things when you look closely.

I’m planning on carrying out my Big Garden Birdwatch so I’m looking to disturb the garden as little as possible this morning until that is done. Then the forecast is dry for today but rain for tomorrow so I’m going to be looking to tidy up the pruning work today. I’m cutting it down as much as I can and putting it down as a mulch under the hydrangeas. It will be slow to break down but it will provide for beetles and woodlice.

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Six on Saturday: 18.1.19

We come to the end of another week and the garden has survived the worst of the storms. Only the one pot that is getting blown over so not too bad in the grand schemes. The predicted cold weather over the next week isn’t meant to be as severe in my area though it may be wet.

Burgon & Ball winnings

A few weeks ago I posted about winning the Burgon & Ball photo competition and now my winnings have arrived. For those of you who don’t know Burgon & Ball are a Sheffield based company established in 1730 working with steel. They have an established history of making quality tools and they received the RHS endorsement in 2012. So, it’s very nice to win a collection of their tools. I opted for an allotment set, despite no allotment, as it had more tools I don’t own in. I got two long-handled weeders. The weed slice is for quick work on surface weeds. The express hoe has an oscillating blade. This apparently makes it easier to pull across the soil as it angles itself to cut.

I think these will work well in the front garden where I get a lot of surface weeds that can just be scraped off.

The razor hoe should be good for some of the cracks in the patio.

Then finally, a mug. While I don’t have an allotment still good to have a garden mug.

2. Beach finds

I’ve tied up a few of my beach finds. Alice helped thread, then directed me to place them for decoration around the trees.

3. Further bargain bulbs

Morrison’s bulbs were down to a pound and less. I opted for some pink hyacinths ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘candy prince’ tulips I thought Alice would like. I don’t massively like hyacinths, but they are supposedly good for bees. The tulips aren’t particularly good for wildlife but have to make some concessions to beauty. The naturalising mix should be of more benefit to wildlife. It contains Tulip Tarda, Chinodoxa and Muscari. I already have patches on Chinodoxa and Muscari, but I’m interested to see how the Tulip Tarda perform. These are closer to the original wild form. I’ve gone with quite a lot of bulbs that can naturalise so I don’t have to spend as much each year. I may regret going for so many that can spread, but be a few years till I have to worry about that. For now, I can enjoy the show.

These have all made it into the ground. As I haven’t marked any of my previous bulb plantings I’m going from memory of what is coming up where so I could have some strange combinations. I’ve tried marking bulbs but Alice likes moving labels and there are too many bulbs now.

4. Blackcap

I posted a few weeks saying I’d spotted a blackcap in my parents garden. I’ve now seen one in my garden. I’ve not wanted to disturb it so I haven’t got a great photo yet, but nice to have a newcomer to the garden. Not a rare bird, but apparently staying overwinter more frequently and moving further north. This was followed by several long-tailed tits, which are becoming another more common winter visitor up north.

5. Big garden birdwatch preparation

During winter and in preparation for the Big Garden Birdwatch I’ve increased the number of feeders dotted around the garden. I’ve also put a few closer to the house so we get to enjoy a few birds at close quarters. I’ve got a few of the jars of fat food from Wilco’s. These provide lots of energy during the winter months. I’ve put the nyjer feeders back up. I haven’t bothered with them in a while as the seed was rotting away, but as I’ve seen a number of finches recently I thought I’d give it another go. The stands are rusty ones I bought cheap when I first moved in. The outer layer has almost all cracked away. I don’t particularly like getting rid of things or creating waste so I’m considering giving them a lick of paint. Looking online though there are lots of choices beyond the original black, so it’s tempting to jazz them up. On the subject of feeders, it is worth moving them around every so often as this stops the build-up of leftover food underneath and helps stop the spread of disease.

6. Cineraria

Having found a new source of peat-free compost last week I wanted to try some seeds to see how it performed as seed compost. This is the main reason I need compost for so if the seeds can’t germinate it won’t be much use. Cineraria is a plant I’ve used around the borders as it contrasts well with darker plants like the dahlias. But after a while, it gets too big and woody and loses some of its charms. I’ve used the compost as is. I’ve not mixed anything additional in so I can see how it performs as it comes. I’ve used a large seed tray, this has been placed on a windowsill and should take about two weeks to germinate. The bag of the packs says germination guaranteed. So Wilcos can expect a letter asking for my pound refund if they don’t.

Well that’s your lot. I’ve not much planned for the garden this weekend. I’ve got a bit of pruning to do. I want to cut the height of the shrubs nearest the house so I’ve got a view down the garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch. We’re off out to visit one of my Amy’s friends. They have a stunning garden that we saw at open gardens last year (garden number 4). While it won’t have the abundance of summer I’m still looking forward to seeing it and how it holds up in winter. I hope you’ve all not been blown away and enjoy your weekends. Don’t forget to check the links on the Propagator’s blog to see other six on Saturday posts.

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Six on Saturday: 11.1.20

This week saw me return to work. One training day and then back working with the children. It’s always a shock to the system going back and I’ve found myself tired much of the week and adjusting to not having as much time outside or in natural light. But the weekend is here so some time to see outside. But I managed a few last gardening jobs last Sunday before I started again and managed to grab the odd minute of fading light in the evenings to get out in the garden.

1. Hellebores

I had posted about my disappointing hellebores a few months back. My newer ones are putting on a more satisfactory show. Good to see some flowers that haven’t been destroyed by slugs.

2. Christmas tree

Alice had a real Christmas tree for her bedroom. It survived the Christmas period largely intact without dropping all its spines. So it has now been moved outside. I’ll now look at potting it up with Alice maybe as another dinosaur garden. It’ll give us a display for a while until it gets too big.

3. Ivy kokedama

Following on from last week’s fern kokedama I dug out an ivy seedling from the wilderness behind the house and wrapped it. I still didn’t quite get the soil mix right so that it holds together but manage t wrap it all in tight. Still a bit of an ugly dumpy look, much like the last one, but I quite like it.

4. Driftwood

Following on from finding the big driftwood lump last week I went back with Alice to look for some smaller driftwood. I thought I could use it as a line marker for my pot displays on the patio to add another layer of structure. Then if I can add some more driftwood within the borders tie the patio and lower garden together. The larger branches I’ve used to make a path edge to the pots and then I’m piling beach finds of smaller wood behind. If I gradually build it up I think it will look quite nice. I’m keen to try and add more found objects from my locality to place my garden within the bigger picture.

The larger piece found last week has been dug in near the bench of happiness. I was aiming for a zen stone effect. Not sure that I’ve quite got that feel, but it’s a nice piece of wood giving the birds another perch. The surrounding area has geraniums, ferns, and heuchera that will gradually grow around it until it is just poking out.

5. Heuchera-raspberry

St Andrews B&Q in Hull is clearly plant hell from there discount tables. The plants are raised on benches with strong winds off the Humber drying them out. Then they probably don’t receive much water as it is generally cheaper to get rid of the plants or sell them cheap than pay someone to water them. The table had a mass of roses, shrubs, and heuchera. Even hardy ivy had fallen victim. But amongst the casualties, I found this heuchera ‘raspberry ‘ which I think has enough life still in it to save. I’ll clear the dead and dying leaves and I reckon it will come back strong next year.

6. Gro-sure peat-free compost

The main reason I wanted to go to B&Q was to check their peat-free compost. B&Q stock a range of peat-free options. Hull stocks Gro-Sure peat-free which at £4.50 is relatively cheap as peat-free goes. The importance of going peat-free has had lots of media time recently. Gardeners question time had a segment about it last week. Sara Venn wrote a blog earlier in the week briefly covering some of the issues in the horticultural industry.  I’ve heard quite a few positive reviews about the gro-sure mix though I’ve also heard that it has been discontinued in favor of their new horizons mix. New Horizons is Westlands main peat-free compost. I’ve found it fine for growing seedlings and plants in pots but it has poor seed germination. Hopefully, gro-sure will be better, though I’ll be annoyed if I then find it is no longer available. Dalefoot compost has been the most reliable peat-free I’ve tried but I largely have to get it through the post and it is 3 times the cost. I may buy a bag of their seed compost for the planned dahlias to ensure success.

Considering it is mid-winter I’m quite happy that I still have a good amount going on in the garden. I don’t have a mass amount in the way of flowers, but there is still plenty of strong foliage keeping the garden looking reasonable. It’s not the glory of summer but it isn’t too bleak stepping out.

On a side note from my six, I’m sure many of you will have noticed the moon last night or stepped out to see what was going on with the partial lunar eclipse. The moon was a particularly spectacular sight. I manage a decent photo without resorting to the tripod. I suffer from shaky hands making things like the moon awkward to photo. I’ve seen many better shots of last night, but this was satisfying for me. My winnings from last week have arrived so I’m going to be investigating new tools now and then the new Monty show to watch. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 4.1.20-Six for a New Year

Welcome to a new year of six on Saturday. I made it through the last year and  I think I managed to post each week giving me an amazing record I can look back through. I thoroughly recommend taking part. There is a great community through the blogs and Twitter and I’ve learnt so much. I am still off work currently so I’ve had a productive week tidying the garden and getting a few bits planted. I’ve still got my front garden bin tidy to do, but I’ve made lots of progress in other areas. I’ve also had a tidy of a few of the blog pages and started adding a gardening contents page as I’ve noticed lots of traffic to particular blogs. It needs more work but nice to have quick access to particular blogs I refer back to quite often.

1. Bargain tulips

We popped out a few days ago to the garden centre for a family trip out. The bargain bulb trolley is out now with bulbs reduced to £1 each. So each picked a bag. I thought Amy was going to go for the pheasant’s eye daffodils but she opted for the sealing wax daffodils. I’m not a fan of daffodils as they don’t offer much benefit to wildlife and I’m not a great fan of the colours. Most of the ones we have are wilco’s specials so these will be some of the few I know the names of. Alice went with the Red Riding Hood tulips. I’ve grown these before. They have nice stripy foliage and bright red flowers. The alliums were my choice. Three very tall summer drummers. I had said last week I was done with bulb planting, but what I obviously meant was done until I see a bargain.

Alice helped plant her tulips, then lost interest as the other bulbs aren’t her taste. The crowbar came in use again for making nice targetted holes in the border.

2. Muddy puddle

Then Alice got on with the more important work of making a muddy puddle. She used the rainwater from her mud kitchen to soak a section of the lawn.

The lawn is in a pretty bad condition after builders last year but Alice had fun jumping up and down in her puddle.

3. Homebrew nematodes

This week I had found the book outwitting squirrels was free through Kindle to borrow. The book tackles different ways to tackle different “pests”. On the whole, I let nature take its course and allow the wildlife to find an equilibrium. But I have planted several hostas I would like to protect. In the book, it talks about making your own nematodes. Nematodes are a microscopic worm that preys on slugs and snails. It’s a natural way to keep slug and snails down. It costs about £16 and needs applying about every 6 weeks.  So it is quite a pricey way to combat them. By collecting up slugs and snails in a confined area you can create conditions for nematodes to build. The water at the bottom can then be added to a watering can to add the nematodes into your soil. It is unlikely to be that effective in the cold weather during winter but it’s free for me to try so can’t do any harm. If nothing else I’ve got the kit ready to try again when the seasons change.

A washbasin has been filled with a layer of water, then an island of plant material has been placed on top for the slugs to sit on.

Slug collecting has commenced.

Then the washtub is covered with a tile.

4. Kokedama

Earlier in the week, I’d made a kokedama. It is still sitting looking dumpy but I found a grey saucer which I think suits it better. While I imagine this doesn’t look that amazing to any of you I could see the process of making these being quite addictive. If I had enough materials I could easily encase many more plants in this way. I have one more fern and may dig out some of the ivy seedlings to try wrapping.

5. Fairy house

Yesterday I made Alice another addition to her growing fairy garden. The house has had a chance to dry overnight and I found it a space near the mushrooms put in last week. I think it’s looking quite nice if a bit rustic. Alice wants me to make more so I’m going to need to get the saw back out. Before long we’ll have a whole happy village going on.

6. Burgon & Ball photo competition

And for my final six some exciting news. I won the Burgon & Ball garden photo of the year competition. I will be receiving a lovely bundle of gardening bundles worth a few quid. I had a choice between a garden pack or an allotment pack. The garden pack had some nice secateurs and forks, but as I already own Niwaki secateurs I’ve gone for the allotment options.

Avid Allotmenteer:

So I can add an award-winning photographer to my egotistical over-exaggerated CV along with being a published poet. The photo I entered was one of my favourite dahlia pictures of the year combined with one of my favourite garden insects. I could happily watch the dragonflies for hours. When one landed on the dahlia, my favourite dahlia I grew last year, I went a bit snap happy. But I did get some stunners. So, I’ll be waiting on the postman to deliver me my Burgon & Ball goodies. Then I’ll be itching to get the dahlias started again, but that’s a good few months off despite what Gardener’s World magazine was advising this month.

It’s been a good holiday off and I’ve enjoyed plenty of time with family. Still shaking off my stupid cough, but gradually getting better. I’ve got a little time left to try and get a few more garden jobs done and we’re planning to get out for my dad’s birthday today and another walk on the beach. Enjoy your weekends. I hope the start of the year has been gentle to those who have returned to work.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 6

Yesterday saw a beautiful sunset. My photos didn’t really manage to capture the magnificence of the colours, but you’ll have to take my word for it. It was stunning.

Today I have been very tired. Alice didn’t sleep well, so ended up sleeping in with her. She’s fine today, but I’ve been achy and tired all day to a point I needed a nap. She has still been determined to do lots. We’ve had a gingerbread house kit leftover from Halloween in the cupboard which we’ve been promising we’d make with her.

We had a trip out to the garden centre. Alice was excited as ever by the water feature display. She loves watching the fountains. Further round she pointed out her favourite fish.

The Christmas displays are starting to be dismantled, but there was still one of the snowy dioramas to watch.

Alice spent part of her Christmas money on more fairies adding a bee and caterpillar fairy to her fairy enclave.

I kept my purchases to just a couple more bulbs from the £1 trolley. I will show them off later in the week. The garden is a bit sparse for flowers now but there is still some beauty to be found in the dried flowerheads of the hydrangeas. The corvids have been dominating the garden today with jackdaws and crows putting many of the birds off visiting. The sun has been out and seen a few insects flying around today.

It’s going to be an early night for me I think and then just as I thought I was done with the bulb planting more to go. I’ll try to get them in the ground tomorrow.

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Six on Saturday: 28.12.19

So, it is time for the final six of the year. We have made it past the shortest day of the year so things will start picking up from this point on. I think I’ve managed a six every week without fail which is an achievement in itself. The garden has moved on massively since I started taking part in six on Saturday. Seeing everyone else’s gardens has shown me a mass number of seasonal options. As a result, my own garden has developed with a much greater spread of seasonal interest. So, thank you all for sharing your gardens.

1. Camellia

Earlier in the year, I’d removed the white camellia. While it had quite a nice shape the flowers were frost-damaged every year. On the white flowers, it showed too much. I was bought a red camellia ‘ Dr King’ for my birthday a couple of years back and it is getting to a nice point now. It is covered in buds ready for spring. These suffer from frost damage as well but the red flowers don’t show it as badly as the white. The leaves are evergreen so it provides a bit of greenery through the year but the foliage isn’t much to shout about.

2. Alliums

Back in November Sarah Raven was selling off the bulbs at bargain prices. SO for just over a tenner, I got over 100 alliums that I finally got round to planting just before Christmas. A rare bargain from a site that is usually one of the more expensive choices. I’ve got 15 allium nigrum. I grew this white variety this year and it was stunning. These will top up the couple I had in this year. I also bought 15 Allium ‘Caméléon’. This is a new variety to me, similar to the nigrums but with a little colour in the centre. Then I went for a mass 80 Allium sphaerocephalon. These are small-headed alliums. These will potentially self sow saving me having to bulk out with new additions each year. All three varieties should be popular with wildlife. Opening the box it had a wonderful garlic scent I’ve planted these along both borders. I’ve still got a few to go, but these should give a great display along both borders and then leave some good structural heads as they fade. Alice took a handful and has rammed them in pots so I may have a few surprises.

3. Cuttings

I’ve taken a few hardwood cuttings of the dogwood. I’d seen a few articles listing it as the time to do it. These can then be used for pots. Alice found a snapped off hydrangea and stuck it in the ground, so I filled a pot for her and cut her a few bits off. I’ve used some vermiculite in the compost mix and the cuttings were dipped in rooting powder. We’ll see if it makes any difference. I’ve left them soaking in Alice’s mud kitchen to get them moist before I take them out.

4. Heucherella

I’ve picked up two cheap heucherella. These were in the discount section. I’m a little dubious of why winter plants have been reduced in winter but I think it’s just because the leaves have been nibbled a bit. I’ve checked the roots for vine weevil and they look ok. The colours are fabulous. I’m thinking these will go in the front garden as I’ve got a good spread in the pots in the patio already. The purple is labelled as ‘cracked ice’. The green is just named as mixed.

5. Mushrooms and fairies

Amy and Alice bought me some ceramic clattering mushrooms which I’ve paired in the border with a fairy I’d bought Alice before Christmas. The way things are heading I’ll end up having to list my garden on open gardens as a fairy garden as they are continuously spreading.

6. Wheelbarrow

Our wheelbarrow came with the garden. It was falling apart when we moved in. Three years on there are more holes than barrow left, so I’d asked for a new wheelbarrow. Amy has treated me to to a Walsall wheelbarrow. I’ll be needing it to shift soil over the next week as got a good bit of digging to do in the front garden and I want to shift the soil to the back garden.

Alice helped with supervising the construction.

The old wheelbarrow

The new wheelbarrow.

It’s been a good year in the garden. There have been lots of successes with plants I’ve grown for the first time, many from seed, the front garden is coming on well and many of the plants in the back are getting to a reasonably established point after 3 years. Still more plans for next year. Enjoy your last weekend of the year and the decade!

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Six on Saturday: 21.12.19 The front garden in winter

As we reach the end of the year I thought I’d take one last look at my main garden project this year. I have been working on revamping the front garden. It was previously just pebbled with a bland pot of green in the middle. I have tried to plant so that there will be a nice mix of shade-loving foliage with a few different periods of seasonal interest. Between the ferns and the rocks, it has elements of both Japanese gardens and Victorian ferneries. Both influences I am happy with. Overall it is starting to come together. Almost all the plants have been bought at reduced prices or out of season. So I have opted for plants that weren’t always in the best of health but I was confident that they would recover. It’ll still be a few years until it all fills out properly but I’m already happy with the progress.

1. The view from above

The view from above shows I’ve kept a reasonable framework of evergreen plants for winter. I planned the planting to try to keep a reasonable level of interest through the seasons. The ilex crenata along the border edge has filled out a bit since planting. It should eventually form domes of green but at the moment it’s still a bit patchy. The patches of Asplenium ferns are holding out the best of the evergreen ferns. I was expecting these to be the toughest as they grow wild in my local area. A lot of the other species are still small but will look good next year as they fill out. The stepping stone path still needs finishing. I used a few temporary log cuts for the last stepping stones and haven’t got round to replacing them. There are quite a few gaps where the hostas have died down, so may look at filling next year with more cyclamen so there is something on the go through the year. I did consider white primulas to fill the gaps but they don’t have much to recommend them in terms of foliage. The rocks are settling into there positions and the moss is settling back over them. The builders came back to finish the pipe so it drains out the garden. The water butt hasn’t been needed much of late but is well filled for next year.

2. The bins

I have a job to do over the holidays adding some ground base grids under the bins and then gravel fills the gaps. This will make a more solid base for the bins to sit on. The materials have been sat there since the last holiday. So, so long as the ground isn’t too solid I’ll hopefully get this done. There are some lords and ladies growing underneath the bins currently. This has attractive foliage but poisonous berries. It spreads rapidly by seed. I’m in two minds about digging it up to remove or to place somewhere else.

3. The cyclamen

The cyclamen are looking good still. I got a few cheap trays from Tescos a few months back and they’ve added some nice winter flowers. Hopefully, they’ll self-seed. I forget which types are hardier so don’t know if they’ll return next year.

4. Window boxes

These boxes were intended as window boxes but they are too small so they ended up either side of the door. The hostas have died down now but Asplenium trichomanes are still on the go. I planted some white crocus in for spring as well. Hopefully, keep something on the go through the year. I’ve added a few Katherine Gold Irises for good measure. These were a purchase Alice made a few months back when I gave her the choice of whichever bulbs she wanted but I haven’t really had anywhere for them so they are getting rammed into these. Just poking its way in at the front of the photo are a few fuschia that are still holding on. I doubt those last few buds will open currently.

5. Heuchera

The heuchera have largely stayed looking good. The lime marmalade and forever purple combination is still one of the finest pairings of heuchera in the garden. The bright green combined with the veined leaves looks grand.

A few of the other varieties are looking a bit downcast by the wet weather but hopefully, they’ll pick up again. I’m going to have to look at taking cuttings next year to increase stock as they are quite pricey to fill decent sized areas. The moss is establishing well on the rocks. I’d be happy for it to continue spreading onto the ground to form a good mat.

6. Crocus planting

I’ve gone for filling gaps with mass crocus planting. I went with all white Joan of Arc from Gee-Tee bulbs. I was good about getting the bulbs into the lawn in the back garden but only just got these in. I am leaving it a bit late but hopefully, they’ll just come up a bit later. I’ve already planted some wild garlic, Allium Ursinum. Accounts differ of this spreading and running rampant, but as it is contained to the front garden with nowhere else it can self-seed easily I should be able to remove if I decide I’ve made a mistake. My theory is the scent of the garlic will drive the slugs away but I have little hopes of this actually working. There are lots of the deciduous ferns and hostas are shrivelled up now, so the crocus will have a chance to flower before these comeback.

We’ve seen lots of people stopping to check out my progress on the front garden even at this time of year when it’s looking a bit sparse. Hopefully, by next year the evergreens will have filled out nicely so there is still a lot of foliage through winter. We had a full day of rain yesterday so don’t think I’ll be doing many jobs today, but I’m off for Christmas now so hopefully get on with the remaining jobs.

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