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Archives for November 19, 2014

End of season gardening tips

Getting ready for winter also means putting your garden to rest. Consider planting a cover crop and learn tips for winterizing your garden tools.

As the days become cooler, your days of weeding, harvesting and preserving are done and it’s time to sit back and enjoy some rest and relaxation. But before you curl up with your peach chutney on toast, your favorite beverage and your pile of seed catalogs for next spring, remember to put your garden to rest and take care of your garden tools.

While cleaning up your garden, be sure to remove any insect or diseased plant material. Do not compost these in your compost pile as many insects and diseases will over winter. After you’ve done this, consider planting a cover crop, which is a great way to revitalize the soil in your garden. Cover crops increases the number of microorganisms in the soil and the amount of nitrogen fixing, which frees up nitrogen to be used by your garden plants during the next growing season. Planting a cover crop is often referred to as green manure, which dates back to Ancient Greece where it was first recognized that these cover crops provided needed nutrients for the soil.

When selecting a cover crop, chose one that grows fast but can be easily discouraged next year. Oats or annual rye are easy to find and will not persist next spring. Michigan State University and the Midwest Cover Crops Council both have great resources if you’re interested in learning more about cover crops.

After you have planted your cover crop, it is time to clean and store your garden tools. Here are a few easy tips from Michigan State University Extension that will help you keep your tools in tip-top shape:

  • Rinse off dirt and dry thoroughly.
  • Wipe down wooden handles with linseed oil.
  • Hang tools indoors. Do not lean them against the garage wall touching the floor as moisture from the floor is the enemy.

If you have pruning shears, here are some special maintenance tips for those tools:

  • Use a scrub brush to remove sap and other residues. If necessary, use mineral spirits.
  • Dry shears well.
  • Lubricate the pivot point with a drop or two of three-in-one oil.
  • Sharpen shears with a whetstone or carbide sharpener.

With a little tender love and care for your tools, you can help them last longer and serve you better for many gardening seasons to come. Both Better Homes and Gardens and Oregon State University Extension provide great resources for those looking for additional tool care tips.

Now that your garden is covered and tools cleaned and stored, it is time to a-wait spring. Have fun dreaming of new varieties, fabulous flowers and tasty treats in your next gardening season!

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London’s garden bridge: the public park where groups and cyclists aren’t welcome

“It will set hearts racing and calm troubled minds,” according to the garden bridge’s chief promoter, Joanna Lumley. “It will enchant everyone who uses it.” But not, it turns out, if you’re in a group of eight or more, or if you want to ride a bicycle, or visit Thomas Heatherwick’s bridge by night – and certainly not if you’re planning a protest.

Having received planning permission from Lambeth council last week – the first hurdle in a process that will be followed by Westminster’s decision next month, before swooshing across the mayor’s lubricated planning desk then passing under the nose of Eric Pickles – a series of conditions has emerged that make the project look rather less public than first imagined.

“All groups of eight or more visitors would be required to contact the Garden Bridge Trust to request a formal visit to the bridge,” states Lambeth council’s planning report to its committee, which recommends conditional planning. “This policy would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge.”

Such a measure suggests that the garden bridge, as its critics have suspected, is not in fact a bridge – in the sense of being a public right of way across the river – but another privately managed tourist attraction, on which £60m of public money is to be lavished. A limit on group sizes suggests a ticketing system will have to be put in place.

As Building Design magazine reports, further details about the bridge have emerged, including expected visitor numbers of 7.1m a year, with peak crowds of 30,000 on a Saturday – for a bridge that has a capacity of 2,500 people. It will also be closed once a month for fundraising events, and shut between midnight and 6am, somewhat scuppering Lumley’s vision of late-night trysts.

Anyone hoping to nip across on a bike will be foiled, too. “Cyclists would be able to push bikes over but not ride,” states the report. “If cyclists were allowed to ride, to provide a safe pedestrian environment it would be necessary to incorporate segregated cycle lanes or wider shared paths. This would result in a much reduced planted area and erode the benefits of the bridge as a green space.”

Many doubt the claimed bounty of green space in the first place. The area of the bridge is around 6,000 sq m, but the plans show about 2,700 sq m as planted area – less than half the size of a football pitch. Thames Central Open Space campaign group also points out that 30 trees are to be cut down on the south bank to make way for the bridge’s hefty landing podium, a substantial building “designed as a flexible structure to accommodate a number of uses,” which will most likely end up housing retail.

Critics are calling for a public inquiry into this grand mayoral project of most opaque origins, which appears to have been fast-tracked through the system, and planned for a site where there are already four bridges within just over a mile of each other – when crossings are desperately needed further east.

But rest assured, if Heatherwick’s magic mushrooms don’t sprout in London, you can always go and see his forest of fungi in New York.

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Art & Design|Frick’s Plan for Expansion Faces Fight Over Loss of Garden

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Complex planning issues call for sustainable solutions

Historically, we have always strived to organize our surroundings, control our environment, tame the wilderness; or in other words, create a sense of place. Native Americans planned communities and cultivated food for the betterment of their clans, and even manipulated the earth to accommodate their dwellings, bury their dead, and align themselves with celestial bodies.

Following them, colonization focused on land adjacent to areas most conducive to accessible ports and trading establishments.

Then moving west, towns and cities organically grew, mostly at important crossroads or junctions of trails. These ports, crossroads, and other important natural features lent themselves to become our first gathering spaces. They were to become our first churches, schools, market greens, and public taverns where citizens began to come together as a community and plan for future growth.

Back then, town planning was based on the horse and carriage as transportation, and more importantly the pedestrian. As a result, our most historic and often described charming areas found throughout our country have many elements in common: a well-defined, pedestrian-scaled streetscape, a common green or open-air marketplace, institutional or public uses that anchor the town, and a density defined cross-section or transect that can be clearly seen when taken through the town’s center.

This transect can be broken down into categories based on density with a tightly compact, mixed-use core at the center fading into less dense suburbs as you move away from downtown.

Agricultural “green belts” surrounded the towns where food was grown and raised and then transported into the cities. The area between the green belt and the more-dense core is considered the Edge zone and it is here where most of our single-family residential development occurs, and is most often associated with suburban sprawl.

Smart Growth initiatives have been trending for quite some time to combat sprawl. But what is Smart Growth? Leading principles of smart growth include preservation of land, protection of environmental features, and directing development into existing communities. However, some feel that smart growth initiatives also inhibit progress, restrict property rights, and reduce economical opportunities. This debate creates an environment where little gets done and frustrations run deep.  We are bombarded with tag lines and campaign slogans from every direction. These arguments do little to solve problems, and many times leave both sides angry and resentful for when the next development comes along.

What we need are innovative and sustainable solutions that bring a balance between our built and natural environments. This, however, involves new ideas and new ways of viewing our landscape, all the while respecting traditional design elements that help create our sense of place.

As a landscape architect, I view our surroundings with an observant eye, and I encourage you to do the same. When you find yourself in an especially pleasing or comfortable place, ask why? What makes this place special? Why do I feel at home here? How does this spot compare to another that I don’t necessarily enjoy? Your lists may surprise you. Could it be arching street trees providing shade, the benches providing areas of respite, the street lights providing security at night, on-street parking that helps to slow traffic and provide a safety measure between vehicular and pedestrian circulation, the generous sidewalks, outdoor dining areas, the width of the streetscape (too narrow and it feels confined – too wide and it feels exposed), the scale of the buildings, colorful banners and hanging baskets? Perhaps it’s a combination, or all of these things that help create that sense of place and the rhythm of the space. These design fundamentals, used throughout the country, reflect Traditional Neighborhood Design.

On the innovative side, technological advances and understanding of ecosystem services have come to the forefront of sustainable design. Green roofs, water recycling, naturalistic storm water measures, solar cells, and urban farming, just to name a few have all made substantial gains in the last decade. It will be the blending of these innovative tools and traditional neighborhood design elements that will foster a sustainable path forward for proper planning in Sussex County. We must also remind ourselves what sustainability really means…meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Our Common Future, Bruntland Commission 1987)

Instead of viewing development in our county as a necessary but negative impact, we need to start looking at in a different light: if done correctly, it has the potential to be a model of sustainable growth not just for our region, but for communities nationwide. Ideas like co-housing, new public transportation models, universal design, community gardens, low-impact design among others are quickly taking center-stage and are reminiscent of when our communities were based on the pedestrian and not on the car. In order for these things to occur, our journey must start now, and all it takes is a question…Can this be done a better way? How can we approach this differently? Can we incorporate sustainable elements here? What if we did it this way? Indeed, what if?

Our success will not be measured by the end result, but rather how we respond to questions along our journey.

Eric W. Wahl, RLA, is a landscape architect at Element Design Group in Lewes, president of the Delaware Native Plant Society, and adjunct professor at Delaware Technical Community College where he helps teach the Sustainable Landscaping Certificate Program, Landscape Design, and assisted in formulating a Certified Delaware Sustainability Professional course.

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Scottsboro, Jackson Co., incorporating public’s input in downtown revitalization

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) — Scottsboro and Jackson County leaders are using the public’s input to design a one million dollar project to revitalize the downtown square.

The city and the county held a joint meeting late last week to update the public on the project, but in addition, the meeting was also to get input on what the public would like to see for the downtown area. This week as engineers work on the design process, they are taking those suggestions into consideration.

The downtown square is historic, but engineers say it has design updates that are outdated. Officials are hearing from the public that preserving the historical integrity is a top priority.

The project is in the early design stages. City engineer Josh Little says they are working to incorporate the public’s ideas into their own. “We want to keep the historical look of the downtown area, but we want to modernize it with updates to the sidewalks, the brick crosswalks, and landscaping,” Little says.

County Commission Chair Matthew Hodges says using the public’s input is creating a project residents can be proud of. “I think it’s going to be a great and positive thing for us. It’s something we’ll be able to build on once we get that going.”

City leaders say they plan to hold other meetings like they held last week as the project progresses.

The money for the project stems from two grants the county and the city both applied for, and received, totaling one million dollars. Little says all the plans for the project have to be approved as a result.

Little says they expect crews to start construction in the spring of 2016.

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Scottsdale’s Museum of the West prepares to open

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and council members got their first look at the new Museum of the West this month and heard how its mission stretches beyond art and even Scottsdale.

Sidestepping scaffolding and yellow tape, the group took a hard-hat tour of the under-construction building at First Street and Marshall Way on Nov. 12. Amid the clang of construction, museum President Mike Fox shared the features of the landscaping, building, and the works and artists it would exhibit.

The galleries will house the work of well-known artists such as Charles M. Russell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Fritz Scholder and Allen Houser, in addition to showcasing artifacts such as John Wayne’s signed business card, Navajo chiefs’ blankets and objects associated with the legendary man of the West, Kit Carson.

“The whole idea is that this is not only a museum of fine art but a study of the West,” Fox said. “We are not a museum of objects, but a museum of ideas.”

The $11.4 million Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, will open to the public Jan. 15. The museum building is owned by the city of Scottsdale and run by the non-profit Scottsdale Museum of the West board.

In January, the Scottsdale City Council agreed to award a contract to Core/LGE to construct the museum, at a maximum price of $11.4 million. In addition, a management agreement includes the city’s commitment to provide matching payments of up to $400,000 a year for five years. City officials said the money is the city’s match toward donations that the museum’s operators are able to raise. Revenue from Scottsdale’s hotel-bed tax, which goes toward tourism-related projects or programs, will pay off debt to construct the museum and the matching funds, city officials have said.

Only two months ago, the museum was a shell of steel beams. The copper exterior council members saw had not yet oxidized and was still a shiny silver color. The concrete walls were textured to reflect the spindly lines of Saguaro cactus.

Other features council members saw or were asked to envision on the exterior tour of the “green,” or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building:

Three bioswales or landscaping designed to capture street, roof and surface runoff water.

An outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate hundreds of people and serve as a place for events.

A plaza with a native plant cactus garden, prime for photo opportunities.

An open-air courtyard, which architect Christiana Moss of Studio MA called the “heart” of the museum, that the gallery spaces downstairs and upstairs rotate around, letting in light. The courtyard will feature a sculpture garden with seven works that will change.

Numerous highlights

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Fine Arts Gallery will feature art showcasing the people and places of the West by artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Scholder and Russell.

The Scottsdale Charros Gateway Foyer will lead to a large map of 19 western states that the museum embodies with interactive components. The Charros made the single-largest donation of $250,000 and agreed to work in security and as security planners.

The 135-seat Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Theater/Auditorium will offer telescopic fabric seating with arm rests that can be stored in a wall when not in use. “The whole building has been designed with flexibility in mind,” Fox said.

The Great Hall on the second floor will feature the story of Captains Merriwether Lewis and William Clark with paintings and sculptures.

The A.P. Hays Spirit of the West Collection on the second floor will showcase saddles, spurs and other Western items including a signed Wayne business card and a selection of Texas Rangers badges from the 1890s.

Featured artists

Cowboy artist John Coleman, an Arizona sculptor known for his bronze works, will have his entire collection on display in a downstairs gallery.

Old West painter Maynard Dixon’s dramatic 1935 mural “Kit Carson with Mountain Men” a 9- by 16-foot work, will be on display in the main entry foyer.

Montana artist Charles Fritz, will have his 100 paintings that chronicle the 19th century expedition of Lewis and Clark on display.

Artists O’Keeffe, Russell, W. Herbert Dunton, Scholder, William R. Leigh, Ed Mell, Allan Houser, Kate T. Cory, and Marjorie Thomas will have worked displayed in the Nina Mason Pullium Charitable Trust Fine Arts Gallery.

At the tour’s conclusion, Fox said the museum will be “a point of pride for this community” that will attract interest beyond Scottsdale.

Mayor Jim Lane called the tour and museum vision “inspiring.”

“But truly, and I think I speak for the council members who are here, that we thank you for all you’ve done and for working with the city as you have,” he said. “We know there have been some ups and downs but sometimes those variations bring out the very best.”

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The Making of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

In the landscape of Los Angeles architecture, the minimalism of the midcentury modernists looms large. In the 1950s and ’60s, architects like Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Pierre Koenig made the city—from Beverly Hills to Laurel Canyon—a canvas for their experiments in glass, steel, and light. But modernism actually arrived here in 1921 when Frank Lloyd Wright built Hollyhock House, the Los Feliz residence for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall that paved the way for decades’ worth of groundbreaking California architecture. Now open to the public after a three-year, $4.3 million restoration, it’s back in the spotlight, with a story fit for a Hollywood screenplay.

A feminist, bohemian, and single mother by choice (a scandal back then), Barnsdall was way ahead of her time. In 1919 she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for avant-garde theater and art, which she had cultivated during her visits to Europe. She bought a 36-acre tract with ambitions to turn it into an artists’ colony with a theater, studios, apartments, and a house for herself. In 1915, she met Wright in Chicago, where he’d already risen to prominence as the leader of the Prairie School movement, and four years later she commissioned him for the project. They clashed instantly. Barnsdall worried about the budget (the house reportedly wound up costing $150,000—three times the original budget), and Wright demanded near-total creative control. Adding to the friction was the fact that Wright was simultaneously overseeing the design of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and correspondence between the two often took weeks. But the delays were fortuitous in hindsight: To speed the project along, Wright brought in the then relatively unknown architect Rudolph Schindler, who in turn coaxed his friend Richard Neutra over from Vienna to work on the gardens and landscaping. The two would eventually go on to design some of the twentieth century’s most iconic houses in Southern California.

Wright’s design blurs the line between indoors and out.

Despite the help from Schindler and Neutra, there’s no doubt that Hollyhock House is a Frank Lloyd Wright creation through and through. It was a radical departure from convention and from Wright’s own style at the time, with blocky proportions, a stucco exterior that melds American Southwest and ancient Mayan designs, and the incorporation of a hollyhock motif (Barnsdall’s favorite flower) into the house, from the roofline to the furniture (some of which, like a set of dining room chairs, Wright designed himself). The geometric interior layout was a precursor of the open-plan designs of later modernists, with every space bringing the gardens in, and the decorative details—particularly the bas-relief of a modernist landscape above the living room fireplace—are considered among Wright’s most inventive. Every detail of the house, down to the exact shade of taupe on the walls, has been brought back according to the architect’s original design.

Incredibly, although Hollyhock House is widely considered a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece (it’s up for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, which would make it one of only two buildings in California to earn the distinction), Aline Barnsdall wasn’t satisfied with the final result and never lived there. She donated the property to the city of Los Angeles in 1927, and it was used as the headquarters of the California Art Club before falling into disrepair. Today, in a bit of poetic justice, Hollyhock House is part of the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, home to art classes, working studios, a gallery, and a theater for the performing arts—exactly the kind of creative incubator that its original owner had imagined.

The modernist bas-relief above the fireplace.

More L.A. Modernism

Neutra VDL Research House 2300 Silver Lake Blvd.;

Schindler House 835 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood; 323-651-1510;

Stahl House 1635 Woods Dr.; 323-744-1635;

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Garden water fixtures can be as attractive in winter as they are in summer

For many people with backyard ponds, fountains and other water-garden fixtures, the arrival of cold weather means draining the pipes and pulling the plug.

But water gardens can be attractive winter gardens, too, with the right preparation and landscaping.

Turning off a garden’s water fixtures may not be necessary, depending on where you live, said Keith Folsom, president of Springdale Water Gardens in Greenville, Virginia. “Their wintertime effect is always different and attractive with the use of landscape lighting and the right plants.”

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“We had an extremely cold winter here last year but it wasn’t a problem,” he said. “Pay attention and know how much water you’re using below the ice. You have to keep that flow topped off.”

Ensure that water lines and fixtures are drained if you do decide to turn them off so they won’t expand with freezing and break, Folsom said. “Running water, on the other hand, prevents icing. That’s one of the reasons I tell people to keep them running.”

Landscaping around water fixtures can mean simply adding a few evergreens for contrast against snow, or stringing some lights around the ice.

“People who live in the South will most likely keep their ponds going, and use cold and frost-tolerant landscaping for visual interest,” said Tavia Tawney, technical services manager for Aquascape Inc. in Chicago.

Tips for preparing your pond for the winter freeze-up:

Remove debris before it can decompose. That prevents organic rot, loss of oxygen and an accumulation of toxic gases. “But the bigger problem comes if you stir it up,” Folsom said. “That can turn up bacteria that will be harmful to fish in winter.”

Use netting. Cover the water with a screen, sweep the surface with a long-handled net or install skimmers like those used to vacuum swimming pools.

Prune. Pinch off aquatic plants as they die back. Reposition your hardy potted water lilies into deeper water. “Tropical plants will die after a hard frost and should be removed then, or you can bring the tropicals inside the house for winter,” Tawney said.

Stop feeding the fish. “It is very important to stop feeding the fish once water temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as they go into a deep slumber and do not digest the food they may eat,” Tawney said.

Use a bubbler or tank heater if you have fish. “We use an aerator bubbler to add oxygen to the pond if the falls are turned off,” Tawney said. “Once we are continuously below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we use a supplemental heater to help the bubbler keep a dinner-plate-size hole in the ice.”

It’s best to maintain water gardens throughout the year rather than scramble to get things done before winter sets in, she said.

“It is not advisable to do any major cleaning once the fish are ‘hibernating’ because that is very stressful for them,” she said.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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Beautiful Gardens winner: Dan and Nancy Engebretson create a path to tranquility



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    Gardeners Dan and Nancy Engebretson regarded an unfinished, weed-infested walking path as an opportunity, not an eyesore.

    “We could look at a weed patch forever,” said Dan, “or do something about it.”

    The builder of their Elysian, Minn., townhome development had gone bankrupt during the housing meltdown and never installed the promised landscaping — assorted spirea and arborvitae and a walking path for residents.

    So, armed with shovels, wheelbarrows and piles of mulch, the Engebretsons cleared out buckthorn and grapevines, and planted what has become a mini-arboretum that draws people from the neighborhood.

    Dan’s casual, country garden design is a fusion of color, texture, shape and form with lots of repetition, as the beds flow across the spacious common grounds and down to the shore of Lake Tustin.

    The couple are also environmentally conscious, thoughtfully choosing deep-rooted plants and shrubs that filter out pollutants before rainwater reaches the lake.

    “They are very giving people of their time and resources,” said Barb Judd, an appreciative neighbor who lives in the development and nominated the Engebretsons for the Beautiful Gardens contest. “It’s gorgeous, full of life,” Judd said of the gardens the Engebretsons created, “and there’s always something blooming.”

    Dream come true

    The Engbretsons never expected to take on the role of garden saviors. In 2006, they bought a townhome in the complex to be closer to Nancy’s job in St. Peter, Minn.

    Their unit had a screened porch and walkout lower level, but the couple were the most excited about the large yard, which had room for front and back gardens.

    “It was the fulfillment of a dream,” said Dan, who said if he had a career do-over, he would have become a landscape designer instead of working in the wholesale distributing business. “We’ve had gardens before, but never this much land.”

    Right after moving in, they enhanced the “builder basic” front yard by planting maple and birch trees, surrounded by pink shrub roses, purple salvia and a variety of annuals.

    Next, the couple tackled the grass-only back yard by building a berm to elevate the garden beds and “give plants another dimension,” said Dan. They anchored the berm with a mugo pine and an aspen, then created a maroon-and-gold color scheme (to honor Dan’s alma mater) by planting Tiger Eyes sumac in contrast to wine-hued barberry and ninebark bushes. For highlights, they wove in some Limelight hydrangeas, coneflowers and other cottage-style perennials.

    To create borders, they lined their garden beds with stones, which they helped haul from a retired neighbor’s farm fields. “The stones’ texture and color contrast nicely with the evergreens and the landscaping for a casual country-type look,” said Dan. “And the big boulders are a place to sit down.”

    The Engebretsons were perfectly content with the lush landscape they had created until some of their water garden-loving friends insisted that they add a water feature. So Dan, who had by then retired, decided to take advantage of the natural slope on the side of the house. His design includes a waterfall that flows into a 35-foot-long stream that spills into a sizable pond.

    Ron Greenwald from Greenwald’s Nursery in Elysian helped him install the rubber liner and pump. Dan planted white birch and eastern pine at the top of the waterfall “for a North Woods twist,” and terraced clumps of coreopsis, coneflowers and tall grasses to soften the edge of the koi-stocked pond.

    “The pond is my crowning success,” Dan admitted. “I fought against it because I knew it would be a lot of work — especially laying the rocks. We’re not spring chickens anymore.”

    Gardens for all

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      Tuesday November 18, 2014

      • When designing a garden area, view it from different directions and take notes of the light, shade and elevation….

    • Project: Beautiful Gardens

      Tuesday November 18, 2014

      We discover several spectacular private gardens each year in our Beautiful Gardens contest. From October to April, we’ll bring you into one Twin Cities garden a month.

    • A woodchip path, which winds through gardenscapes to Lake Tustin, was designed by Dan and Nancy Engebretson in the common area of their townhome development in Elysian.

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