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Stuff a Gardener’s Stocking

Stocking stuffers don’t have to be useless, jokey items that are quickly forgotten after the holidays. Instead, choose the appropriate stocking stuffers with a gardening twist, and even the smallest stocking will be filled with gardening fun for that special gardener in your life. No matter what type of gardener you want to buy for, we’ve got the right stocking stuffers for their green thumb!

All gardeners love:

  • Weather stations, rain gauges and hygrometers
  • Window thermometers or barometers
  • Hand tools such as bulb diggers, trowels, pruners, foldable saws and cultivators
  • Whetstone for sharpening blades
  • A soil pH reader
  • Velcro support tape
  • Holsters for pruners
  • Hand lotion to prevent chapping
  • Watering cans or wands
  • Kneeling pads
  • Subscriptions to their favorite gardening magazines
  • Garden-themed ornaments or trinkets

Seed sowers appreciate:

  • Seed packets, especially heirloom or unique varieties
  • Seed balls, pellets or garden “bon bons”
  • Soil thermometers
  • Dibble stick
  • Warming mats (just roll them up to put into the stocking)
  • Plant labels including metal with an embossing pen or write on styles
  • Small envelopes for storing seeds

Fashionista gardeners can feel glamorous with:

  • Stylish sun hats and sunglasses
  • Gardening aprons or belts
  • Garden clogs
  • Garden-themed jewelry
  • Gloves in chic colors or patterns

Flowerbed aficionados will appreciate:

  • Bulbs for spring blooms
  • A wildflower guide
  • Floral-themed garden accessories
  • Delicate bud vases for bringing flowers indoors
  • Spray bottle for pesticide or fungus care

Quirky gardeners will enjoy:

  • Whimsical wind chimes
  • Fairy garden accessories
  • Crazy types of plants and new cultivar seeds
  • Kitschy décor, like plastic pink flamingos
  • Garden gnomes and accessories
  • Themed stepping stones or create-your-own kits

Urban homesteaders can always use:

  • How-to guides for canning and preserving food
  • Filters for a kitchen compost bucket
  • Treats and toys for chickens, goats or other livestock
  • Indoor herb garden accessories
  • Microgreen kits

Wildlife-friendly gardeners will appreciate:

  • Bird feeders
  • Bird foods such as suet cakes or hummingbird nectar
  • A squirrel corn cob feeder
  • Local wildlife identification guides
  • Critter-resistant seeds and bulbs

No matter what type of gardener is on your shopping list this holiday season, there are plenty of stocking stuffer options to meet their gardening style. Stop in and finish off that shopping list today!

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Now For Something Completely Different… Poinsettias!

They have traditionally been the winter holiday’s most popular plant, the sure and steady standby, but have you seen poinsettias lately? These are not your mother’s poinsettias! Endless selections of bract colors and shapes combined with unique foliage offerings and a wide variety of forms and sizes make this year’s collection spectacular. Furthermore, to fit the most unusual of tastes, poinsettias may be painted just about any color to match your holiday decor and finished off with glitter to complete the festive look.

Poinsettias are now available in a tremendous range of colors, shapes and sizes, as illustrated by this table (any color may be found in any bract feature or plant form)…

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Cut Poinsettias

To use poinsettias as cut flowers, the stems must be treated right away. The milky sap must congeal inside the stems to prevent the plants from wilting. Immediately after cutting, dunk the cut ends of the stems into boiling water for about one minute and then immediately place them in cool water. Keep the flowers away from the steam to prevent them from being damaged. You may also singe the cut ends of the stems with a flame for a few seconds before placing them in cool water. Place vase of treated flowers in a cool place for at least 18-24 hours before they are used in arrangements.

 Poinsettia Fun Facts

Other than their use as stunning holiday decorations, how much do you really know about poinsettias?

  • Native to Mexico, the poinsettia was first introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett.
  • In its natural surroundings, the poinsettia is a perennial flowering shrub that grows up to 10 feet tall.
  • The showy part of the plant, the part that most of us call flowers, are actually colored bracts or modified leaves.
  • Poinsettias have been called ‘lobster flower’ or ‘flame leaf flower’ by many in the past.
  • Poinsettias are mildly poisonous. The milky sap can cause a skin irritation for some and an upset stomach if consumed in large quantities.
  • Poinsettias represent 85 percent of holiday season potted plant sales and are the best selling flowering potted plant in the U.S., even though most are sold in only a six week period before the holidays.
  • Dec 12th is National Poinsettia Day!

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Holiday Light Safety

Holiday lights are, by far, the most popular holiday decoration, adding sparkle and elegance to the season. Whether you use classic strings of lights, themed light displays or elaborate light dances, follow these important precautions when illuminating your home this year, both indoors and out, then sit back and enjoy the beauty of the season.

  • Use only UL approved light strands, extension cords and replacement bulbs, and purchase them from reputable dealers and retailers.
  • Use lights only in the manufacturer specified environment: indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside the home.
  • Examine previously used lights carefully. Repair or replace frayed wires and damaged sockets or discard worn lights and purchase new strands.
  • Identify and replace all burned out bulbs (note: 2 burned out bulbs can shorten the remaining life of a light set by 39 percent, four bulbs by 63 percent).
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords with no more than three strands of lights per cord.
  • Carefully place extension cords to avoid tripping. Running cords against a wall is preferred. Indoors, extension cords should never be run under rugs or caught directly under furniture legs.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • A warm plug or wire and fuses that repeatedly blow means the circuit may be overloaded. Reduce the number of light stands to the circuit.
  • Fasten strings of lights securely to tree trunks and branches, walls, posts, mailboxes and other structures. Outdoors, support and hang lights with plastic zip ties or insulated holders. Never use metal tacks, staples or nails. Do not string lights on metal structures or near standing water.
  • Do not use light strands in nurseries, children’s play rooms or children’s bedrooms.
  • Do not hang lights near main electrical and feeder lines.
  • Indoors, only hang lights on a fresh tree or an artificial tree labeled as fire-resistant.
  • String lights carefully so light strands and cords are not pinched in windows, doors or under furniture, which can damage the cord’s insulation and increase the risk of short circuits.
  • Keep holiday lights on only during the evening hours and turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Cover unused outlets on light strands and extension cords with electrical tape or plastic caps to minimize the risk of short circuits or pets or children contacting a live circuit.
  • Holiday lights are meant to be temporary. Take lights down when the season is over and store strands carefully for next year.

With careful attention to safety, you can enjoy stunning holiday light displays for many joyous seasons to come.

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Christmas Fairy Gardens

Let the magic of miniature fairy gardens give you the Christmas you’ve always wanted. You can create the garden and entry of your dreams without breaking the bank, redoing your landscaping or remodeling your home!

Are you feeling nostalgic for a Victorian Christmas? Create your own Christmas outdoor scene. Start with a shallow container and choose a Victorian house. Then, from our exciting assortment of diminutive plants, miniature pots and small-but-realistic lawn ornaments, create your own holiday front yard, walkway, porch and entrance. Use tiny containers to flank the doors, a decorated dwarf conifer as an outdoor Christmas tree, ribbons over the windows and colored sand or mini-pavers along the pathway. You can even add a decorated doghouse, shed, or teensy wrought iron table under a gazebo.

Maybe a white picketed seashore cottage is your dream. Create it in miniature! Add a rustic mailbox, vine twig furniture and a tiny surfboard in the sandy surface and you can almost hear the ocean. Twinkling LED lights add a festive touch, or opt for a tiny palm tree strung with holiday ornaments.

Perhaps you’re an apartment dweller, dreaming of having your own veggie garden. Assemble a miniature garden with realistic tiny vegetables, tool shed and tools. Add a wishing well, a wheelbarrow and scarecrow. Put in a chicken coop with tiny chickens. Your friends will be looking for Peter Rabbit! For a winter touch, add a fun snowman to the scene.

Maybe you’re not looking for something for yourself. Are you seeking a unique hostess gift? Consider planting a tiny Japanese garden with a moon bridge arching over a pond stocked with koi. A simple miniature garden with a few personalized items your host will love such as a lawn swing, bicycle, or fairy hiding in a small bush is sure to bring a smile to their face.

Give the gift of time by constructing a miniature garden with a child or shut-in. A shared miniature garden is an ongoing fun project, and you can rearrange the garden and create new scenes with very visit or for every season. Create a wonderful opportunity to share stories and imaginative fun while fostering a love of gardening.

Stocked with a huge assortment of miniature and fairy garden accessories, our gift shop offers everything you need to make your Christmas miniature garden. If you need visual ideas, our bookshelves are stocked with beautifully illustrated books chock full of mini-decorating and gardening ideas. Come on in and get ideas, choose your items and make your Christmas dreams come true.

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Living Christmas Wreath

For a unique holiday wreath, consider a living wreath you can enjoy throughout the year. These make beautiful gifts and are a fun project for the entire family to enjoy.

Materials Needed:

  • Wire wreath form (these come in a variety of shapes and sizes – a larger form will require less frequent watering)
  • Sphagnum moss (long-fiber is best)
  • Potting mix (soil mix for containers)
  • Plants (plants should have similar soil, sunlight and watering requirements)
  • Thin wire or “florist’s wire”

Procedure:

  1. Soak the sphagnum moss in water for 1-2 hours.
  2. Gently squeeze the moss to remove excess water. Pack and pat the moss into the bottom and sides of the form, covering the bottom and side wire to create space for the soil.
  3. Add slightly moistened soil between the moss walls, leaving the surface approximately one inch below the top of the form.
  4. Remove the plants from their pots and arrange them on the form. Try several arrangements to find the one you like best, taking care to balance plant sizes and shapes around the wreath.
  5. Using a spoon, dig holes and plant. Cover roots completely while planting.
  6. Cover the exposed soil with additional moss and tuck moss around the plants to retain the soil. This can also help cover any root tops that may still be exposed.
  7. If needed, wrap the form with floral wire to help hold the plants in place or add additional stability to the arrangement.
  8. Water the wreath and keep flat for two weeks to establish the plants and allow their roots to gain purchase.
  9. Until spring temperatures are in upper 40s, hang indoors in a bright or sunny location. During the holidays, use as a flat centerpiece surrounding candles with evergreen cuttings and pinecones. Hang it on the wall as a “picture frame” around prior holiday pictures or a small mirror. You could even frame an advent calendar or picture of Santa Claus!
  10. Between the holidays and spring, water weekly by misting. (You may need to move to a sink for watering). Fertilize every other month by mixing half-dilution of liquid fertilizer into the watering mist.
  11. In spring, move outdoors and hang in a bright but shaded location to prevent burning. Higher temperatures require more frequent watering. Continue to fertilize every other month.

Options: 

  • Consider using shells, pinecones or other items to add depth and interest.
  • For holidays, wrap a portion with colorful ribbon or insert short thin rods with ornaments or seasonal figures into the soil.
  • Succulents with low watering requirements are popular for wreaths. Available in a variety of colors and textures, plant the wreath with just one variety or use an assortment for a completely different look.
  • Use Epiphytic (“air plants”), bits of driftwood and shells for an ocean appearance.

Our garden center has many sizes and styles of forms, plants and other materials to meet your needs. Come on in to see us and get your decorating on!

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Pruners for the Lefties

Have you wondered why left-handed gardeners have difficulty using “regular” pruners? It’s because of the way the thumb and index finger have to push together to make the cut. It’s hard to control it for detailed work plus incorrect pruners often cause bruises and painful calluses to form.

Fortunately, there is a solution – pruners specially designed for left-handed use. The correct pruners, with the left blade on top, allow the leftie to see what they’re cutting and enjoy pruning. Come on in to check out which of these wonder-tools fits the best.

FELCO

Felco hand tools originated more than 70 years ago when Felix Flisch patented his first hand pruner, the Felco 1. The company’s three core values, ergonomics, interchangeability and durability, haven’t changed and even today, all their products incorporate these values. We carry two left-handed styles of Felco pruners.

  • Felco 9: This is the left-handed version of Felco 8, one of the most popular hand pruners ever. Recommended for up to 1″ cutting capacity, these bypass pruners have forged aluminum handles and hardened steel blades with a screw-mounted anvil blade. They include a lifetime guarantee. The efficient design includes a blade with a wire-cutting notch and a sap groove. The blades have removable dowel pins to allow easy maintenance and replacement. The micrometric adjustment system, using the included adjustment key, promises precision cuts and maximized user comfort.
  • Felco 10: This bypass pruner is the top of the line left-handed version of the Felco 7. Designed for the professional gardener (but enjoyed by all), this pruner requires 30 percent less effort, thereby reducing hand fatigue, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome with its unique rotating handle. The narrow, pointed blade design facilitates close-in pruning. Like the Felco 9, an adjustment key is also included. Also recommended for 1″ diameter cuts.

Replacement parts are available for both styles along with holsters and blade sharpeners.

Bahco

This company, established in 1862, produces very fine gardening tools in addition to their industrial lineup. Although they look a little different, the workmanship and ergonomic design make them among the favorite of garden tools. This company uses the term “Secateurs” as hand pruners and designates the levels as professional or expert.

  • PX-M2-L: This is a left-handed version of the popular PX-M2 bypass model. The composite materials in the handle with an upper section of soft rubber act as a shock absorber. The ergonomic styling and vertical and lateral inclinations of the cutting head allow the wrist to remain straight when cutting. This reduces fatigue and increases comfort and performance. All parts are replaceable.
  • PXR-M2-L: This pruner is the left-handed version of the heavier bypass PXR model designed for frequent professional use. Home gardeners also love them! A rotating handle increases performance and comfort. All parts are replaceable.
  • PG-03-L: This tool is the left-handed version of the home gardener (expert) hand pruner. This model is available in two hand sizes, small and large, and in two pruning widths for 1/2″ or 3/4″ cuts. Fiberglass reinforces the plastic handles and Xylan® coats the blades to reduce friction and protect from rust. As a convenience, it has a one-hand locking mechanism.

Holsters and blade sharpeners are also available.

Corona and The Gardener’s Friend

The Corona BP6340 has aluminum handles and hook with replaceable blades and springs. The steel blades of high carbon steel and the ergonomically angled head result in close, clean and healthier cuts. With less stress to the wrist, it easily cuts up to 1″ branches.

The Gardener’s Friend Ratchet Hand Pruners are designed for gardeners with small hands, or hands weakened by arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. The unique ratcheting action easily cuts branches to 1″ thick with less hand strain.

Of course, we have an excellent selection of other specialized hand pruners in our tool department. Whether you are buying for a child, a delicate hand or a large-handed gardener, we have the proper sized tools to reduce strain and make gardening easier and more enjoyable for all. 

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Create a Beautiful Tree in 6 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how to create that beautiful Christmas tree, the kind featured in photo shoots and magazines? Whether you opt for a live potted tree, a fresh cut pine or an artificial tree you can reuse for several years, the steps to a stunning, artistic tree are the same, and you don’t have to be an interior designer to create a lovely Christmas tree. 

  1. Color
    Pick a theme color or color pair. This may be colors you simply like together, or you could mimic school colors, a favorite sports team or classic holiday pairings like burgundy and gold or blue and silver. Consider your tree theme and choose colors accordingly, such as blue and aqua for a tropical, undersea tree, or white and silver for a winter wonderland tree.
  2. Lights
    Use one strand of 70 to 100 lights for each foot of tree (7 strands for a 7-foot tree). This will be the approximate ratio on a pre-lit artificial tree, or you will need to add lights to a live tree. Spread the strands out evenly, and tuck wires into the tree so they are less visible. White lights or a single color are generally more elegant than multi-colored strands.
  3. Ribbon
    Plan on 40 to 60 yards of ribbon unless the tree is in a corner. The treetop will typically take 10-15 yards of this amount. You can also mix two ribbons for a nice effect, too. Wire-edged ribbon is easier to shape into graceful curves, and a broad ribbon will make a more dramatic impact, particularly on a larger tree. Drape the trailing edges of ribbon down the sides of the tree, either straight toward the ground or in a graceful spiral.
  4. Accents
    Add silk or dried flowers as your next step along with garland. Make sure flowers are placed at different depths within the tree so there is dimension. Holiday flowers such as poinsettias are most popular, but you can opt for different blooms to coordinate with your theme, such as roses for a Victorian tree or tropical flowers for a festive beach-themed tree.
  5. Balls
    Use 6-8 boxes of plain glass ball ornaments, either all the same color or 3-4 boxes each of two coordinating colors. Tuck some of these ornaments deeper within the tree to reflect more light and add depth to your decorating. A medium-size ornament is appropriate, or choose balls of different sizes but in the same plain color and basic shape.
  6. Ornaments
    Add themed ornaments last for that finishing touch and to give your tree some whimsy and pizzazz, but try not to go overboard with quirkiness. If you prefer a simpler, more elegant look, avoid overly themed ornaments but choose simple colored ornaments in different shapes that match your overall color plan, such as using drip, icicle, or star-shaped ornaments to complete the tree.

Voila! You have a Christmas tree that will bring beauty and elegance to your holiday decorating all season long.

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Time-Saving Tips for the Holidays

With shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, travel, entertaining and more all part of the holidays, it’s a wonder there is any time left over to just enjoy the season. These time-saving tips can help you make the most of every minute without sacrificing the joy and celebration that matters most at this time of year.

  • Start early! You may not enjoy seeing “Christmas Creep” in stores before Halloween, but if you start addressing holiday cards ahead of time, make freezer recipes for holiday meals or try shopping for holiday gifts with Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and other fall sales, you’ll have far less to do the closer the holidays get.
  • Tabletop topiaries are great for holiday decorating, and need nothing more than a festive bow for instant seasonal appeal. They also make a green and growing addition to your home when you need it most in the late winter months. Pick one up from the nursery for an instant gift – no wrapping needed!
  • Cast stone cherubs and garden sculptures make wonderful holiday decorations set off by greens and berries. When the holidays are over, you don’t need to lug them into storage. You can even change their decorations seasonally to reuse them as fun and whimsical accents throughout the year.
  • Present gifts in reusable gift bags, stockings, baskets, tins and garden totes for easy wrapping job that’s recyclable. For even more flair, use a colorful scarf as an impromptu ribbon, or trim the package with seed packets or small garden tools instead of disposable bows.
  • Start Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs now. Use potting soil rather than gravel for longer lasting blooms. Also consider other living holiday gifts, such as fragrant herbs, luxurious poinsettias or even a shaped rosemary plant or miniature Norfolk Island Pine decorated for the season.
  • Float a candle or a sprig of greens in a crystal bowl for an instant elegant center piece. Add more color with marbles or pebbles in the bowl, or choose a bowl with etching or seasonal patterns for subtle flair.
  • Start your holiday baking early and freeze doughs or completed recipes to save time later. Baked goods – cookies, breads and fudges – also make delicious and easy gifts, with no extra time needed for another batch if you’ve doubled the recipe.
  • Keep a few extra wrapped gifts in a handy closet, labeling the contents with Post-It notes so you can quickly choose a gift for an unexpected guest. Easy items to give include warm gloves or socks, fragrant candles, seasonal photo frames, mini tabletop games, tote bags and luxury soaps.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate! Consider a pot luck holiday dinner, enlist your kids to keep the tree stand full of water, share shopping tasks with a sibling, join a cookie exchange for less stress holiday baking or shop online to have gifts wrapped and delivered right to the recipients.
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Care of Christmas Greens

Fresh cut greens – pine boughs, holly sprigs, mistletoe, etc. – are wonderful for winter and holiday décor, both indoors and out. Extend the life and enjoyment of your fresh greens by following these easy steps:

  • SOAK – Immerse greens in cold water overnight or up to 24 hours. The needles will soak up moisture to stay plump and firm. A good location for accomplishing this task is in a utility sink or bath tub, but be sure the water won’t freeze while the greens are soaking. Use only fresh, plain water without any additives or chemicals.
  • DRY – Allow greens to drip dry for an hour or so in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. This will remove excess water from the branch ends so they do not leak.
  • SPRAY – If desired, spray Wilt-Pruf, an anti-transpirant, on greens when they are finished dripping. This will seal moisture into the needles extending the life of your greens. Do not use this on Princess Pine, and note that this product may change the color of blue-colored cut greens like Colorado Blue Spruce and Blue Juniper. Test the spray on an inconspicuous area first to be sure you don’t mind any changes.
  • DRY – Allow the greens to dry thoroughly after spraying and before decorating and hanging or arranging. This will be sure there are no water spots on any of your bows, accent pieces or ornaments that are part of your fresh arrangements.
  • COOL – Keep greens in as cool a location as possible, out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source, including heating vents, ceiling fans and air ducts. Moving arrangements of fresh greens onto a cool porch or into a garage each night can help extend their vibrancy.
  • BUNDLE – Arrange your fresh greens in dense bundles and bunches, either as wreaths, vase arrangements or swags. As a group, they will help keep each other fresh with slightly higher humidity between each green.
  • CLEAN – Keep fresh greens crisp and clean through the holiday season by dusting them lightly. Use only a clean, lint-free cloth without any sprays or chemicals. This will remove dust that may dim the arrangements, but chemicals could damage the greens or change their colors. Do not brush the greens so harshly that you may damage or dislodge their needles, foliage or berries.

With proper care, your fresh cut greens can be stunning holiday decorations for several days or weeks, bringing a touch of nature into your home even when the world is cased in ice and snow.

Fresh Cut Trees

There’s nothing quite like a fresh, vibrant Christmas tree with its bold branches, crisp scent and natural charm. But which tree is right for your holiday décor? There are several popular tree species that can be ideal decorations.

Douglas Fir

  • This tree holds its dark green needles for a good while, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer to decorate their tree early or like to enjoy their tree into the new year. The soft branches and needles emit a faint lemon scent when rubbed. Douglas Firs have an airy open shape, great for lots of ornaments, garlands and lights.
  • Scotch Pine
    This tree has a beautiful bluish cast which gives it a bit of a frosted appearance, especially on lighter new growth. The needles are long and soft, giving the tree a bushier, fuller appearance even without quite as many branches. It has a wonderful pine fragrance reminiscent of the most classic holiday celebrations.
  • Fraser Fir
    This pine is an aristocrat among Christmas trees with its short grey-green needles and majestic shape. Typically, this tree stays fresh the longest with long needle retention, ideal for longer periods indoors. The branches have a more open shape, great for displaying stunning ornaments. Fraser firs have a delicate evergreen fragrance.
  • Concolor Fir
    This tree looks similar to a blue spruce in shape and color, but its needles are soft, rather than sharp, and have a fresh lemon scent. The branches are very sturdy and great for hanging ornaments, garlands, lights, candy canes and other decorations.

When Your Fresh Cut Tree Isn’t So Fresh

When Christmas is over and your tree starts to droop, you have many options to keep it useful. First, you can easily recycle your tree; many parks and towns sponsor tree recycling programs in January. If you live near a beach, there may be a program to install cut trees on sand dunes to help control erosion. If you prefer to use your tree at home, the boughs make perfect mulch for perennials and the trunk can also be chipped for mulch. Chunks of the trunk can even be made into simple bird feeders or similar garden crafts, or you can use the whole tree as an impromptu brush pile to provide protection and shelter for winter wildlife. You might even consider decorating your tree again using cranberry and popcorn strings, small birdseed ornaments and chunks of fruit to create a bird feeding station.

Fresh cut trees are amazing holiday traditions for many families, and there is a perfect tree type to suit your decorating preferences to make amazing holiday memories.

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