In a perfect world I would have cut the grass and done more weeding before I took these photos, but it is supposed to be an honest reporting of the state of my back garden, and I have been busy on other, more urgent matters…

Newly sited and fully glazed greenhouse

Between us TNG and I have managed to re-site, concrete in and glaze the aluminium greenhouse. Just in time too, as today the compost arrived ready for the tomatoes, which are certainly starting to look in need of planting out. So, this afternoon I finished the path and built raised beds, filled them with rich soil, and spent what seemed like hours securely tying in bamboo canes as stakes. Last year I suffered an embarrassing tomato collapse. Last year I trained the vines up string. Which broke. No string this year – well, except for tying in the canes. And anyway, I’m not using string, I am using wool. Twool, to be precise. Lovely strong soft stuff made from Dartmoor sheep’s wool.

looking down the garden towards the park border

Looking down the garden, across the shaggy, dandelion-infested grass, the acer shines out like an autumnal beacon. It wasn’t this vivid last year. I’ve mostly just been walking past it and admiring it, but in the process of taking the photos for this blog post I realised the extent to which it sticks out, a little like Jessica’s azalea.

looking towards the acer in the back corner of the garden

Its making me feel a little uncomfortable, if I’m honest. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of getting rid of it, but I would like it to sit better within its surroundings. The colour was darker, less vivid last year. I feel I need to plant something(s) around it that – dare I say it – tone it down a little, bed it in. Its alkaline soil, so no azaleas, and the euphorbia happily seeding its way around is more brown than red, I’m not sure it would do the job. Any ideas? I am happy to completely rethink the area behind it, between the bamboo and the acer in the photo above. This area is currently home to a hazel rescued as a seedling from my previous garden, an extra raspberry plant, and underplanted with wild garlic. The hazel has flower buds for the first time, and I adore the flowers – and leaves – of the wild garlic, but things can be moved.

hazel bud

wild garlic flower

The area is still relatively bare, because I am still working on eradicating the bindweed.


Nasty pernicious stuff, I have glysophate gel, and am planning to persuade the wretched stuff to climb up bamboo canes rather than my plants, and then kill it off…

The acer isn’t the only source of jarring colour, to my eye at least. In our first autumn here I bought some dwarf narcisuss to start naturalising around the base of the yellow bamboo, and some tulips to put in pots. For some reason, I am at a loss to explain how or why, I planted the deep purple, wonderfully elegant, ‘Burgundy’ tulips in the border instead, and was astounded to see a pot full of daffodils appear.

misplaced purple tulips clashing with yellow bamboo canes

tulip 'Burgnundy'

I can easily find a better home for the tulips. Perhaps nearer the drift of forget-me-nots I have gained this year, assuming they will seed around with their normal gay abandon.

Moving back to the park border, I plan to add more perennials this year, both geums for early colour and then, given how sunny it is, late flowering brightly coloured plants like Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

Center of the park border

But first I have to dig out the violets I inherited which don’t really flower, and when they do, the flowers are not fragrant. It is choked with goosegrass, and removing both will free up lots of lovely space. I also need to dig up the fruit bushes and free them from the Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’ and aquilegias that are currently threatening to choke them. G. mac. is agressive, and many people find the smell of the leaves unpleasant, but I find it really pretty, and am happy to use it to help supress weeds elsewhere in the garden. Just not at the base of my blackcurrants…

Geranium macrorrhizum 'album'

If it wasn’t for my newly discovered acer conundrum I would be feeling pretty optimistic about my back garden, so I think I will finish with some random pretty pictures from elsewhere in the borders and suggest you pop over to Helen’s blog to check out the other End of Month View posts linked to there.

Dicentra flowers looking like washing on the line
Saxifraga x urbium
Saxifraga x urbium aka London Pride
honeybee on borage
Honeybee on borage
hoverfly on aquilegia
A slightly lost hoverfly on the wrong bit of an aquilegia flower…

63 thoughts on “End of Month View April 2014

    1. Thanks Jenny, the dicentra was an impulse buy that I have been delighted by.

  1. It must be fascinating to see what keeps popping up in your new garden. I also love geranium mac and have some in my garden, too. It’s such a tough plant. That saxifragia is just beautiful. I need to see if I can find it here!

    1. It is, I didn’t expect any more surprises this year, but then, suddenly, I had a peony!

  2. Oh yes, I agree that those Burgundy Tulips would look wonderful amongst the Forget-Me-Nots. I’m not usually a burgundy flower person, but that Tulip is very pretty. Your veg plots look so organized! Enjoy the planting and tending!

    1. It is a rather fine tulip. The veg beds are getting full, which makes me very happy, I should soon be picking the first peas.

  3. Well, I’m going to suggest something a little bit crazy for what to do with your Acer, and it doesn’t involve toning it down, but rather playing it up even more. You should plant more plants with that color in the bed, to balance it, something with the same mass at the other end. Not exactly the same plant, but maybe something ground-hugging with foliage in the same hue. I like Geranium macrorrhizum too.

    1. Actually, Alison, that’s my instinct too, knit it in with more similar coloured plants. Glad I’m not alone liking g. mac even though it is a thug.

  4. Why not consider adding more purple and/or other complemental colours to that area where the acer is? Perhaps a purple Cotinus would look good in the mix :)

    1. I was wondering about “forest pansy” in place of the hazel, but I can’t remember if the new foliage is as red as cotinus, but yes, I think one or two plants like that would do the trick, I need more mass behind it to anchor it in too.

  5. Lovely to see the garden is coming along – even though you seem to change everything from month to month – getting your garden how you want it is proving to be a long process – one day, maybe, you will post and say – there – finished – perfect! Maybe.

    1. I see it as a long slow evolution Elaine, though I have to say that the notion of any garden being “finished” is alien to me. The park border had the main structural shrubs and fruit put in last year but was then neglected during Project Kitchen, and concentrating on the front garden. The structural changes have been in my head for months, apart from the greenhouse, which was necessity. Interesting to see my garden through your eyes!

  6. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! Yes I am excited about my new border. It has bindweed in it too! Interested to hear about growing it up canes to treat it with glyphosate gel!

    Your tulips are gorgeous!!I think it has been a good year for them. Your veg plots look very organised, Love your closeups!

    1. Hi Linda, you’re welcome! Bindweed is such a pain, isn’t it. It was one of the RHS gardens that uses the canes trick, so I am hopeful. If it stops the wretched stuff choking the bamboo again…

  7. BIndweed is the bane of our allotment plot. Do you want to add more deep maroon plants to balance the acer? The garden is certainly developing

    1. Hi Sue, wretched stuff isn’t it. Yes, deep maroon, and probably some oranges and reds too, plus I need more volume in the border behind. The downside of having got rid of all those huge spotted laurels…

  8. Now Janet, your Acer is far more tasteful than my Azalea!
    Much of the advice I have received involves planting more of the same colour, or at least ‘weight’ of colour if that makes sense. I’d also surround it with plants that help to integrate it into its surroundings in terms of height.
    I too love that G mac. Strangely, given my experience with Lily of the Valley, it has not been aggressive… yet.

    1. Hi Jessica, well, yes, it is ;-) I think balancing out the colour will help a lot, but I also need to balance the volume, which is a different problem, plants take time to grow, even the thugs, and the dogwoods tucked in and around are slow growers.

      I can’t believe you don’t find G. mac. spreading everywhere…

  9. I totally agree with other comments, Janet – the problem with your Acer is purely in the colour spectrum. There’s a lot of yellow/green in springtime foliage which clashes with the red/purples so your Acer sticks out. By harmonising the plants around it, it will blend. Moving the forget-me-nots and purple tulips nearby would help – perhaps also the new paeony? (Oh, and replace the yellow bamboo for black?) I actually like its rich, red tones and would definitely be playing it up! Btw, your raised beds and greenhouse are looking f-a-b!

    1. Thanks Caro, I have been wondering about the bamboo, but it is just getting well established, and I am hoping that adding some volume in behind and balancing the colour will do the job. I am toying with fitting in a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ next to the Drymys, to echo the pruple stems, and therefore putting the fatsia on the other side of the bamboo, which I think woud help tone it down a little. I’m really happy with the raised beds, they look good and work really well.

  10. I agree with Alison. I dont think the Acer colour jars its more a case of it standing out as it is so different to its surroundings and it needs tieing in. Also the darkness is creating a bit of a black hole. If you used plants that co-ordinated or even clashed it would zing it up. My thought was some orange flowering geums and orange and burgandy tulips, the peony as Caro says and then maybe some echineau or asters for late summer

    1. Yep, I think you are all right! Lots of plant moving to do, wish I knew what colour the peony was, no sign of any flower buds, but it is pretty shady where it is at the moment. And I was already planning to buy geums and pop the tulips from the pots into that border so that works well. I’m quite excited about having a vividly coloured border, even in Spring. I do need to get some volume into the border behind though, it will be a while before the dogwoods grow enough to make a statement and help anchor the acer back into the border. I don’t regret getting rid of the spotted laurels though ;-)

  11. The garden has come along nicely since last month. I think you are wrong about the acer – mine stands our too at this time of year, but I love it as it brings some brightness and colour to my borders as the later plants around it are still putting on their growth before flowering. See how it looks at the end of next month before you make a decision. Well, that’s my view ;-)

    Congrats on getting the greenhouse done – big job and it now looks settled into it’s new possie.

    That is a gorgeous tulip & it would look fantastic with the forget-me-nots. I like Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’ too and have it planted in my shady border. It can take over, but not that hard to keep it under control and it’s a good plant for shadier areas of the garden.

    Love your neat veg beds. The garden is coming along wonderfully.

    1. Hi Julieanne, I love the acer too, I think adding more vivid colour will help. We’re thrilled to have got the greenhouse moved, it was a big job, but it really improves the garden layout, particularly the entrance. Can’t wait to get the paths in so that I can plant up the new border as part of the mini cutting garden. G. mac is a lovely plant, in the right place, I will be adding some to the back of one of my borders as a weed suppressant.

  12. Wow Janet. Your gardens are really coming together, of course the greenhouse is the centerpiece. It looks like the right size for your garden space and should keep your veggie beds full. That tulip is a looker, far better than those others we laughed about. Somehow your colors look more harmonious now, as the season develops, more shades are coming out. Love your raised beds.

    1. Hi Susan, thank you, I am pleased that it is gradually coming together, and it is good to have the greenhouse back in operation. Can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen.

  13. Oh well done for the greenhouse and paths and all – job done! Now if you want any more hazel or wild garlic, just give me a nod….. (don’t expect you will, though!)!! It’s great to be able to stand back and look at things and decide what does and doesn’t work, and it’s interesting that the acer didn’t jar last year. You were after more geums, so any of the red and orange ones would help balance it out – in my ‘umble opinion, that is.

    1. Hi Cathy, it was my first ever path! I am chuffed it has all come together.I think I’ll skip on the hazel and wild garlic, thank you, the anenomes were a much better gift ;-) I am hoping to order geums tomorrow!

  14. Lovely pictures. It all seems to be coming along nicely. I bet you are glad the greenhouse is now up. It looks great – and the raised beds too. And what can be more pleasant than a planting conundrum?! I was going to suggest a Japanese corner, with more bamboo behind the acer and gravel beneath it for contrast, but I can see from the other comments that I am alone!
    You are ahead of us I think. My first aquilegia opened today, but my borage hasn’t made its presence felt yet. Still, so much is earlier than usual here though. I love the look of the white G. mac. I have lots of pink ones, and agree it is invaluable as
    ground cover In The Right Place!

    1. Hi Cathy, I am so pleased we got the greenhouse done, it was a big job, but the end result is worth it. Now we have to wait for the winter storms to see if it worked! The raised beds are great, so easy to look after, and I can cram the plants in too. Do you know what, I just hadn’t though about adding more bamboos and acers to that corner, but I really could, one of those bright green acers would work really well with the existing bamboo, and a deeper purple acer behind as a contrast? Plus, of course, the geums, just because… Thank you! Enjoy your aquilegias, I am about to order more, I grew most of mine from seed, but I bought a beautiful pale yellow one at the Malvern Spring Show a few years ago and I miss it. G. mac. seems to be almost evergreen here, so I think I will find it really useful. If I am careful…

  15. The photos are pretty and you have accomplished quite a lot this month with the greenhouse set up and paths for the garden. We have bindweed too and it is a pest. Dicentra is so pretty. I like the acer and adding a few plants in similar colors along the border should bring it into line.

    1. Hi Shirley, thank you, it does feel really good to have finally got the greenhouse move completed, and the tomatoes are certainly grateful! I love the dicentra – I can’t get used to the new name – and am going to get myself a white one too.

  16. I spent yesterday tying in bamboo canes too and planting my tomatoes. I took a tip from Monty (on a GW last year) and planted them deep with an inch or more of the stem buried. Never done that before and it felt wrong but we’ll see. Congratulations on your new greenhouse – you’re going to be spending much of your life in there, aren’t you? Dave

    1. Hi Dave, I always plant my tomatoes deep and it always works, but I have no idea what difference it makes, it was what I was taught! Hope it works for you!! As for time in the greenhouse, well, there will be all that sideshoot removal, but the stool is in in the wooden greenhouse, which also has more room, os probably only to water, feed and pick!

  17. A most enjoyable post and lovely photos. It looks, and sounds, like there’s more than enough for you to do over the coming weeks, indeed months!
    My mum had lots of ‘London Pride’ in her garden but I don’t think that I’ve seen any, or heard it mentioned, for many years.
    Happy gardening! xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, I don’t think I am in any danger of having nothing to do in this garden… I had never heard of London Pride before I came here, but it is really pretty, I love it. Have a great weekend, hope it is warmer down your way than it is here.

  18. I think, from your photo of the tulips and distant forget-me-nots, that these flowers will look lovely together. I love the two different colours and the difference in height and shape. It is good to see the veg coming along so well in the beds and all the flowers – the saxifraga is especially beautiful.

    1. Hi Wendy, it will be good to get the tulips some better companions, they deserve better than their current situation. I picked lettuce from the veg beds for the first time today, always a good moment, and there are flowers on the early peas.

  19. Janet I should think cementing in and re-glazing a green house warrants some uncut grass, the tomatoes alone will make it worth it, when I remember how your garden looked when you first moved in it seems almost unrecognisable now, you have both worked hard and done a great job, the acer doesn’t bother me but maybe if you had another plant or 2 that were not green the contrast would not stand out so much, the tulips look beautiful and would look lovely dancing with the forget-me-nots, Frances

    1. Hello Francis, it is strange to look back at photos of the garden when we moved in, good though, I often need to remind myself how much we’ve done because mostly I am just concious of how much we still have to do. That’s gardening, I suppose! As for the acer, I like the not-green thing, I think I am going to go for zingy in that corner, play it up, rather than the very gentle colour scheme I had started out with. Fun!

  20. You have done so much since you moved in, the garden is becoming yours and not what you inherited last year. I like your Acer, more of the same to help it blend rather than becoming the main attraction, your Dicentra would look lovely next to it. I’m impressed with all the work you have done with your greenhouse, I’m sure you are looking forward to all the luscious food that will appear later in the year!

    1. Hi Pauline, thank you, it does begin to feel that it is mine, though I do sometimes look around at everything there is still to do and think wistfully of my previous, very established, garden. The acer is a really beautiful tree, it deserves to be made the most of rather than being left looking somewhat forlorn. I know what you mean about the dicentra, but I am tending more towards oranges… Can’t wait to be picking tasty tomatoes and eating them while still warm from the greenhouse, one of my favourite things to do.

  21. I was going to suggest growing something else in a similar colour to the Acer but see that’s already been suggested. Good luck with what ever you choose.
    Well done on getting the greenhouse sorted, it’s always good to get these sort of jobs behind you. I hope you have better luck with your tomatoes – you’ve certainly planned it well enough and as they say failing to plan is planning to fail!

    1. Hi Angie, thank you, I’ve had some great suggestions, one of the things I love about this blogging lark. I’m happy to have got the indoor tomatoes planted up, and hopefully I won’t be forced to initiate emergency support this year, I had a lot of tomatoes on my greenhouse floor… I just hope it warms up soon, I want to get the outdoor toms settled in.

  22. Love the photo of the hoverfly.

    The acer problem – I’m no good at garden design, wouldn’t have a clue. However, it strikes me that this could be the basis and inspiration for something really impressive. Sort of starting there and working out so it has more of a context. On the other hand, you might not like to give over space (and light) to an arrangement you wouldn’t have chosen if the acer hadn’t happened to be there. Maybe it should go?

    I’ll have to see if I can persuade you to like convolvulus in the same way as you like ivy. (The spell check doesn’t like convolvulus either. It wonders if I might prefer to say ‘convulsion’.)

    1. Hi Lucy, I love the acer, but it definitely needs a better context. After pondering all the suggestions I think I am going to move it in the Autumn which will make access to raspberries and the pear tree easier and also make it more part of the main border. I think I can do the rest with adding purple leaved and red flowering plants around it, and generally replacing the bulk I got rid of when I dug out all the enormous spotted laurels!

      I admit to really liking the flowers of bindweed, I just hate the way it strangles other plants! One might say it gives me convulsions… I think you would have better luck with dandelions, I already leave them alone in the grass, they make me smile.

  23. I love the way you casually mention what must have been a gargantuan task – moving, concreting and reglazing the greenhouse ! Amazed you have had time for anything else !
    I must admit to liking the bold splash of the Acer amidst the green !
    Lots of lovely plantness goin’ on !!

    1. Hi Jane, it was indeed a gargantuan task! It took us months in elapsed time, though a lot of that was deciding where to put it and then endlessly debating how best to anchor it down. I’ve worked out that I too like the bold splash the acer makes, it is the physical isolation combined with the fact that the surrounding shrubs are al babies, no volume left in the back where I rudely ripped out the spotted laurels when I moved here. I am having a very happy time plotting what plants to add to make the acer sing out even more…

  24. Have enjoyed your end of month view Janet with my morning coffee :) I see what you mean about the acer but as others have said you will be able to knit in with your other planting. It’s a beauty. Have you considered moving it? I can see it at home over to the left somewhere next to the black fence. Your veggie beds are coming on a treat. Good luck with the bindweed battle – it’s a —— at the allotment. I’m off to investigate Twool forthwith.

    1. Hello Anna, it is a beautiful acer isn’t it. I think I am going to move it back a little so that it will be easier to knit it in and so that I can still get to the raspberries and plum tree in a few years time. But I am going to be really good and wait until the autumn! I love the idea of siting it against the black fence but sadly it wouldn’t get enough sun. Enjoy picking the colour for your twool!!

  25. The acer looks lovely, but I can understand you feeling uncomfortable at it standing out so in the border, where the other foliage blends in rather gentler progression. Our acer is also rather a beacon at the minute, but standing in the centre of a fairly small semi-circular bed just beneath the path suits it better (and at the moment a riot of forget-me-nots, heucheras and euphorbias that are just beginning to find their ruby eyes make this bed even more of a party, rather suiting the attention).

    I would be tempted to add another couple of ruby-hued shrubs/trees to make a trio in this corner (perhaps the old faithful Cotinus, the lovely Cercis canadensis Forest Pansy that I lust after, or a red Physocarpus – Lady in Red or Diabolo perhaps.) And around their feet perhaps some red-toned heucheras could merge brighter green ones and some more sedate green underplanting to help filter the colour out towards the rest of the border…

    I’m a big fan of G. mac, we have introdced a lot of the magenta-flowered one here to creep around the bases of our mature trees and other places that needed softening. The white one looks very lovely too.

    1. Hi Sara, love the sound of your party border! I’ve realised that I do actually really like the strong contrast with the acer and the surrounding foliage – after all, I did deliberately plant my purple hazel next to the bright green griseliana… It is the lack of plants around it that disturbs me, the side effect of having got rid of so many huge shrubs that were burying it before. Hadn’t thought of Physocarpus, I adore ‘Forest Pansy’ though, and have an ongoing debate with mysef about where to put one. I crammed one in to the north facing border in my last garden and it coped fine, but I have a yen to give it the space to really strut its stuff. Oh, the temptation…

      I’m going to move some red toned euphorbias and one of the heucheras closer to the acer, and generally have a play around. And come autumn I am going to move the acer back a coupld of feet so that it is securely nestled into the rest of the border, it will make access to the fruit easier too. Glad I’m not the only one to love G. mac.!!

  26. I blame the white walls of the house behind! One or two of something variegated might break up the impact

    p.s. Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’ – thank you, that’s the name of the cranesbills I was admiring in Ruseell Square. Must acquire some
    pps impressed with all you’ve done so far especially the greenhouse

    1. Hi Laura, I have to admit to not being a great fan of variegated plants, although I would move the photinia davidiana ‘Palette’ from the front garden back there if there was enough sun, but I don’t think there is. But I do almost have a plan, even though it involves shifting the acer back a couple of feet and moving the pear tree…

      PS I’ll check my pots, but I am sure I have some G. mac I could send you if you like? It is a tough little runner, but so pretty and shade tolerant, I wouldn’t be without it.

      PPS Thank you, we are so chuffed to have actually finished something, it sometimes feels as if all we have are part-done projects!!

  27. I love the look of your garden veg beds…lots growing…and then to see all the flowers especially the borage, foret-me-nots, bleeding hearts and columbines…some of my favorites.

    1. Hello Donna, thank you, I am very happy with how the vege beds are coming together, though I always think I have more room than I actually do! I am after more dicentra, I’d like a white one to sing out from the back border, such graceful plants. The plant I am really missing this year is honesty, I forgot to sow any last year, so will have to wait until next year now. Ah well!

  28. Love the ‘Burgundy’ tulips; I’ve ordered them before but they never seem to be that wonderful colour, who do you buy yours from? Well done getting the greenhouse sorted, you must be really chuffed! What tomatoes are you growing this year?

    1. They are beautiful, aren’t they, particularly elegant in form too. I got them from Crocus, just because I was ordering lots of other things at the same time, otherwise I now just use Peter Nyssen, thanks to you and others. As for the tomatoes, (takes a deep breath), Yellow Pear, Latah, a variant on Gardener’s Delight, Rosada (its last chance to impress), Moneymaker, Indigo Rose and Jen’s Tangerine. Almost all of them new to me, most recommended by various bloggers, so I am excited, and thrilled to have got the greenhouse settled in to its new location in time for them to get planted out.

  29. I love the Burgundy tulips! But I agree, they would look even better near the forget-me-knots. The Japanese Maple is also beautiful, but maybe planting some taller perennials around it would help to settle it in. Could you move the raised bed near it? I have lots of out-of-place plants, too; I only hope I can find the time to move them all before summer sets in!

    1. They are gorgeous, aren’t they! I moved one clump today, the other will be harder as it is entangled in a raspberry and I ran out of energy. Yes, tall perennials is a great idea, though what you can’t see in any of the photos are the three dogwoods planted in and around, which one day will be substantial plants in their own right, but in the mean time limit the space available for large perennials. I am going to move the acer back a couple of feet in the autumn, which will help knit it into the surrounding area, and then get the planting around it bulked up to give it a better context. Oh, and lots of bright geums, as soon as I get paid!

  30. What about some vibrant pinks/purples for a bit of a Christopher Lloyd clash. Verbena bonariensis and the perennial wallflowers could look good. I also think something to the left of the acer as you look at it which is taller would give some balance. A shrub or tree with perhaps flowers or bark which carry the colour through. A cherry could be nice. I agree the dicentra would look good there too. A word of caution on the wild garlic. I was offered a gardening job at a place which had been taken over by wild garlic. It was a huge garden and I would still be there now, 4 years later, digging the stuff out. Needless to say I didn’t take the job. ;) Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Yes, the wild garlic seemed like a great idea at the time, but I am already beginning to wonder… I am certainly not concerned about disturbing it while I fossick around digging out the bindweed! At the moment it is more the Spannish bluebells that are exercising me, also impossible to remove entirely, I foresee years of dramtic editing ahead of me.

      I actually have an enormous (in terms of trunk thickness) but short (in terms of height) flowering cherry in the front garden which has to go, as it spoils the view. It has deep purple leaves and magenta flowers, it would be perfect, I am just not sure I can dig it up with enough of a rootball to make transplanting it realistic, not to mention the fact that I nearly broke my wheelbarrow moving a shrub with a smaller rootball that it would have to have… I am definitely going for bright colours – Euphorbia fireglow, geums, wallflowers. I am also going to plant a large shrub beside the bamboo, the space needs an evergreen I thought deciduous would work, but it is too much of a hole there. And I will probably move the acer back a couple of feet, it will win me more space to pick raspberries, and access to the pear tree. It is coming together – as is the plant order…

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