31 July 2007

My summer in a garden

Because I haven't had time to hunt down or purchase the book for this month's garden bloggers' book club, (brought to you by Carol of May Dreams Garden) I thought I'd share a tale or two of my summer in a garden.

A garden can look like many different things, as we all know. The most memorable summer in a garden I spent was in the summer of 1979. And while the ‘garden’ included my father’s vegetable patch, an ill-advised herb ‘garden’ and my best friend’s father’s garden, the main ‘garden’ I want to talk about was scattered around Hants and Colchester counties—the garden of nature.

In the previous year’s studies at the Agricultural College, I had taken a course in Plant Identification; learning all about the botanical aspects of plants, from their leaf shapes to the types of flowers and flower clusters, to the art of using a key system to determine a plant’s classification…and I had done really, really well in this course. So well that when a summer job came up at the college to work on adding plants to the A.E. Roland Herbarium, I jumped at the chance to get hired. And did.

Together with another student and our overseeing professor, I spent the summer collecting, drying, identifying and mounting specimens of plants for the newly named herbarium. We mostly stuck to Hants and Colchester counties, with maybe one or two forays into Pictou county and elsewhere, and we worked on our own at times and individually at others. For a reference key, we used the amazing Flora of Nova Scotia, written by our own A.E. ‘Doc” Roland (after whom the herbarium was named) and E.C. Smith (after whom the Acadia University herbarium is named). If we really got stuck, such as on one of a gazillion asters…we simply took the plant to Doc Roland, who could identify just about anything, we figured.

This was the summer that my love of plants really, really blossomed (pun intentional). I spent a lot of my own time wandering through woods and meadows and pastures and along waterways, getting to know plants I had seen many times before but never really noticed or appreciated. And given that my course was in plant science and about growing edibles (primarily), I thought I should help out with our home vegetable garden by planting a herb bed to accompany the veggies.

The first thing I brought home was some wild peppermint, which I carefully planted in a small patch that my father tilled up for me, not far from the asparagus patch. I added a few other herbs—where I got them I don’t remember, but possibly I grew them from seed. Chives was one of them, although we had a family superstition about chives for many years: every time my father planted them, we got transferred to another province. However, the charm broke when we moved home to Nova Scotia because none of us has ever left despite countless plantings of chives in various yards.

Well…the mint, as you can imagine, ultimately took over the herb patch…and the asparagus patch…and the vegetable garden. Over the following few years, my father battled mint with the same ardour or fervour that I now battle goutweed. He finally abandoned that garden site and made a new one…and the people who now live there probably still have a ‘mint lawn’ in that part of the yard.

When I wasn’t working (one of four jobs I had that summer, two paid and two unpaid labours of love—I also worked at a campground on weekends,, helped my Dutch dairy farming friends hay, and led trail rides at the campground), I was at my best friend’s place. Her father was a terrific gardener, mostly of flowers and shrubs, which made sense because he operated a florist shop after he retired from teaching. So my life was all about plants that summer, and while I’d always been interested in gardens even as a child, the mould was truly solidified that long, sweet summer.

There are certain plants that to this day immediately flash me back to my first real summer in a garden, extended and rambling and wild as parts of that garden were; the smell of sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) on a hot summer afternoon; the graceful fronds of ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris), both in their edible fiddlehead stage and after they unfurl into waves of cool green; mint, of course, of any kind (always planted in containers now, thank you!) and the perfectly exotic, elegant and almost-surreal flowers of yellow ladyslipper, Cypripedium calceolus.

I can still find the spot down near Windsor where I stood awestruck looking at the patch of yellow ladyslippers with my professor/supervisor and colleague, and I still rejoice in the perfection of a wildflower—as well as in the jubilation of a wellgrown garden plant. My plant identification skills are somewhat rusty, true—however, the wonder of plants will never leave me.

30 July 2007

Beauty for a day--the daylily

A fellow blogger called me an "unrepentedly happy person" recently, and I was quite tickled to think that I come across that way. I'll have to tell my longsuffering spouse, who will probably disagree--only because he's seen me cranky now and again--but he loves me in spite of that. Actually, I am generally a perennially happy person, especially when it comes to gardening and I try to write my articles, newsletters and blog postings that way. Even when I'm annoyed about something (like the evil bad Aegopodium), it's in a jocular way.

However...I'm about to have a rant. Of the gardening variety. With apologies to the real Garden Rant team.

I recently read something that really annoyed me. It was a posting by an individual who doesn't like daylilies. Fair enough, that part. Not everyone likes every plant. (I obviously am no fan of Aegopodium.) But this individual was dismissive of the idea that anyone could like daylilies, and that got my knickers in a twist.

One argument: the foliage is rather boring. True enough. It does look like grass, and sometimes it does get messy. But unless you're raising daylilies to sell, most of us incorporate other plants into our borders along with the daylilies. In that case, I think the long ribbonlike foliage makes a nice contrast to the thistle-like foliage of Echinops (Globe thistle) or Eryngium (Sea Holly) or the brilliant gold of Berberis 'Nana Aurea' (Dwarf yellow barberry) or the rich burgundy of Diabolo or Coppertina ninebark. Or any of countless other plants.

And then there are the flowers. There's way, way more to Hemerocallis than the orange on orange of H. fulva, otherwise known as the ditch lily. There are contrasting edges, and eyezones, and throats, wavy edges to petals and sepals, flower shapes from spider to darn-near-orchidlike...

And every colour except black, pure white, and blue--so far.

Watch hummingbirds zipping into the flowers looking for nectar, or fat happy bees staggering out with a load of pollen. Smell the sweet fragrance of many daylilies (including the well named Root Beer, which does smell like that drink!)
Every day there are different flowers in bloom; the individual blossoms do last only a day, hence their Latin name which means 'Beauty for a Day'. But each scape can have many flower buds on it, and each plant may put up dozens of scapes on a well-established plant, meaning that the show can go on for weeks. Some daylilies rebloom, or keep on blooming all season long.

I personally am not into crosspollinating daylilies to see what sort of colours or patterns I might get, but I know of other gardeners who really enjoy doing this. Let me introduce you to 'Pride of Canning', (above) named so because it was bred and developed here in the community of Canning, Nova Scotia--not yet registered, but a work in progress, and a happy daylily to have in any garden.

Some people maintain that daylilies are boring and overused but I reckon this is because some lazy landscaper planted seventeen dozen Stella d'oro or Catherine Woodbury or Franz Hals around a community so that all you see are waves of these particular colours--nice enough mixed in with other plants but not the be-all and end all of daylily choices, definitely.

I don't care if someone doesn't like daylilies--providing they've tried them or don't like them in their personal gardening domaine. But it's the height of arrogance to imply that anyone who likes them (or hostas, or roses, or heck even coneflowers) has no taste and is a loser to enjoy them.

Look, gardening isn't rocket science--or politics (well, ignoring some garden clubs and hort societies) or heart surgery or other deep, heady, deadly subject. It's about beautifying the world around us. (and feeding ourselves, for those who are good at growing foods in their potagers) And if your garden consists of seven pots of bright red walmart geraniums, who am *I* or anyone else to tell you it's not cool/trendy/attractive? If it gives you joy, then plant it and love it. Bloom where you're planted, fellow gardeners! I don't grow Cleomes in my own garden because I don't like the smell or their colour--but I LOVE them in other gardens.

Heck, if goutweed gives you joy, I'm glad for you--and I have a few dozen truckloads you can have to make you more joyful.

Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me--I'm going to go be unrepentedly happy while I enjoy my 60-70 different cultivars of daylilies.(I'm not entirely sure--because I can't remember what all I have where!) And the hundreds of cultivars grown by gardening friends such as Wayne and Wayne at their nursery, Nancy at Red Lane Gardens in PEI and those of other friends who are also collectors/breeders.

Here endeth the rant.

27 July 2007

Why I love coneflowers and other true stories

As I walked around the garden this morning, I tried to remember when I became besotted with coneflowers. It’s true I am very fond of most ornamental members of the Compositae, or Asteraceae family, from sunflowers to asters (though don’t ask about my ongoing problem with pulling the wrong asters out of the garden…). But there’s something about coneflowers that really pleases me, and I think it’s partly the attractive central cones, and partly the colours, and partly the way the plants are loved by butterflies and birds and bees of various sorts.

Here’s a little coneflower botany; there are three types of plants that are referred to as coneflowers—Echinaceas, Ratibidas, and some of the Rudbeckias. I don’t have any ratibidas at present—having had several Mexican Hat plants expire on me in the past (or having inadvertently weeded them, mistaking them for something weedy.) We have a host of rudbeckias, including the traditional browneyed Susans, as well as the black coneflower (Rudbeckia 'Black Beauty') and the wonderful ‘Prairie Sun’ Rudbeckia. But most of us, when we say coneflowers, are thinking about Echinaceas, aka the purple coneflowers.

But they aren’t just purple!

The most common garden-grown species of coneflower around here is E. purpurea, the purple coneflower—there are nine species of Echinacea, however, and another popular species is E. angustifolia. But a less utilized and equally attractive plant is E. paradoxa, the yellow coneflower.

And from the crossing of the purple and the yellow coneflower species (and probably some other interesting genetic hocus pocus) we have recently seen a whole host of new colours in coneflowers—oranges, yellows, melons, golds.
I happen to be very fond of the Big Sky series of coneflowers from Itsaul Plants in Georgia, as I have mentioned before. In the photo at the beginning of this entry, there are three cultivars showing: Sunrise (yellow) Sundown (pink-orange) and Harvest Moon (gold, far right).

After purchasing a second Harvest Moon plant—I discovered my first one, and it’s about to flower. Delicious gold colour, and oh yes, it’s fragrant, too.

I have both Sunset and Sundown, but I keep mixing them up and forgetting which one is which—and the labels don’t help, because somehow I planted both varieties close together.

Green Envy continues to expand its petals—and change the colour of its central cone—and delight me. There’s another cultivar, ‘Jade’, which is called green but is really white with a greenish tinge—or so I’m told. Ours isn’t flowering just yet, but its buds are expanding.

Sometimes it’s best to buy a plant in bloom so that you can see if it really is what you want. Take Razzamatazz, called the first truly double purple coneflower. This particular plant is just starting to really double, but I like it a lot.

Then there’s ‘Double Decker’ or ‘Doppelganger’—which doesn’t always grow its moptop the first year. Some say it takes a year or two—others say that they don’t always do the moptop routine. Mine certainly is!

When I spied this gorgeous Shasta daisy, Ice Star, at a local nursery, I had to have it—when the flowers are fully out, they look like a double white version of Razzamatazz, so I thought it would be fun to plant it beside ‘Double Decker’ and see how they worked. Don’t they look wonderful?

Prairie Sun Rudbeckia has green centres, and again when I saw it in full bloom, I had to have it immediately. I never met a Rudbeckia I didn’t like; even the standard brown eyed Susans with the orangy yellow petals is welcome everywhere in our garden.

Although Helenium aren’t called coneflowers, they are fantastic plants—usually latesummer blooming, although I have two or three plants of the shorter varieties starting to flower now. I wasn’t sure how to react when I saw them flowering—seems like they’re trying to tell me we’re heading into fall, when I KNOW we aren’t even halfway through summer yet. I’ll just enjoy these and not think about it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of our coneflowers and their relatives—none of our white ones are blooming yet, and some of the other E. purpureas are also not in bloom yet, but you can see why we’re cone crazy!

Next time; you’ll be ‘Destined to See’ why I think daylilies are just dandy.

23 July 2007

Change is good, when it's positive global change!

You just never know what will happen when you return to your computer after a few hours away. I found this lovely note from Yolanda Elizabet, of Bliss, chatting about plants and then telling me I'd won an award. Well! Deepest and heartfelt thanks to Yolanda Elizabet and the Bliss team for having given me a Bloggers for Positive Global Change award. (and a bouquet, of course) And congratulations to my fellow winners in this.

The BPGC award was created by the wise heads at Climate of Our Future, a positive and inspiring site in itself, to celebrate bloggers who do so in an effort to change the world for the better.

How do my bloomingwritings change the world? Well. My whole raison d'etre is to be a garden cheerleader for others to bloom where they're planted and to rejoice in all green growing things. Well, except for goutweed and the strange goo in the bottom of my fridge. I learn so much from the gardeners around me, and so I keep my blog as a way of giving back to the gardening community.

As a recipient, I now get the delightful honour of nominating five blogs that I feel are worthy of a Bloggers for Positive Global Change award. Before we get to those, here's what you need to do to participate in this meme yourselves:

Meme Rules

It’s easy to participate in this meme. At minimum, you can proudly display the BPGC badge (it’s available in two varieties: Transparent GIF and JPEG with white background) on your blog and bask in the glow of our collective good will. If you are sharing the kudos, however, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.
In your post, make sure you link back to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.
Optional : Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

Now for the real fun: My winners are:

Wild Flora, author of several blogs but especially Wild Flora's Wild Gardening--friend to all pollinators, and ducks too!

Nancy's Soliloquy blog, which gently asks us to think in challenging yet positive ways.

Layanee, of Ledges and Gardens, whose garden is as big and lovely as her heart.

Sandy whose gardenpath may lead to a small garden in Maine but whose wisdom about wild plants, pollinators and other important garden friends rings round the world.

And Kate, whose smudging in the things she loves gives all her readers joy and encouragement.

I learn from these, friends I may never meet--and they make my world a better place, so they can't help but make positive global change--one word, one photo, one heartfelt posting at a time.

For the many others who also inspire and teach me, bouquets of coneflowers and wild roses--and your further recognition is coming too. You're all winners in my book, of course.

22 July 2007

After the rain (and the book)

Yes, I finished reading Book 7. No, I'm not going to comment on it here, other than to say it was excellent and satisfying. There are plenty of people prepared to dissect it, critique it, and if they can, spoil it for others. Bet they peek at their Christmas presents before they're wrapped, too.

So on to other things. It's not Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I thought I'd fling a few rainwashed blossoms (and other delights) around. After an inspired rain yesterday and some fog too, today was hot and sunny and wonderful.

Hummingbird Mint (Agastache mexicana 'Acapulco Orange') is one of my favourite container annuals. It will overwinter indoors (and apparently, with a little winter protection, outside around here too--I'm going to try that this year.) And yes, the hummingbirds do adore it.

A friend of mine gave me this verbascum which I really like--and so do the bees. This was one of those perfect quiet mornings when everything worked: fragrances hung on the air like silk, the rain had washed everything brilliantly clean, there was no wind and all that we could hear was the sound of nature--birds, bees, other insects, humming and singing and buzzing and zooming and doing their thing. And it was wonderful.

Blue false indigo is a lupine relative. It took this plant four years to finally get around to flower (and this was another of those "Bloom or you're outa here" plants!). It's lovely though and was worth the wait.

Viburnum plicatum mariesii or doublefile viburnum--mine is small yet but flowering this year--the flowers will whiten as they get a bit older.

This is a woody perennial mimulus (well, it would be perennial in warmer climates--I'm taking this indoors come fall to be a houseplant. The flowers are less flamboyant than the garden annuals, but a lovely melon colour,, and with glossy, deep green foliage.

Not to be outshone by its perennial sibling...the traditional monkey flower is a delight and great in shaded gardens.

Take time to savour the simple things--raindrops on sunkissed pine needles (this is eastern white pine, Pinus strobus).

A new-to-our-garden peony, Primavera. I'm really delighted with the yellow centre, which as the flower matures becomes larger and more showy.

Widows tears (Tradescantia andersoniana 'Osprey'), one of a half dozen different cultivars we have. This is my favourite tradescantia; a clump former rather than a spreader.

Do not adjust your screens. This poppy really IS deep wine--almost black. Interestingly, some of them seem to cross pollinate with the huge double red ones we also have, and that results in some interesting new colour tints every summer.

An annual sage, Salvia 'Blue and Black'--definitely cold-sensitive but I've learned to keep it well protected and warm unti the weather stays consistently above 50 degrees--or else it pouts. It's so beautiful it's worth mollycoddling, though. I'm partial to blue-flowered plants, as I've discussed before, and so I don't mind nurturing a few fussbudgets.

What tender prima donna plants do you nurture every summer?

21 July 2007

Bubotubers, mandrakes and gillyweed

No gardening today, folks. The only plants I'm dealing with today are those found within the pages of a certain series of books, the final one of which hit the bookstores this morning at 12:01 am....

...Unlike scores of others, I didn't stand in lineups at midnight. Nope. I waited til this morning then went to the Box of Delights Bookstore in Wolfville, my favourite bookstore anywhere, where I bought my copy. Maybe it wasn't as deeply discounted as at the bigbox stores...but 5.00 from the sale of each copy is going to UNICEF plus we had a huge Hogwarts Cake!

So it's a good thing it's raining...the garden will wait tiil tomorrow...and so will everything else! I have my nose in a book!

20 July 2007

A remarkable garden

As promised, a few photos from my trip to my friend Marnie's place near Greenwood. But first...today I was at Springvale Nurseries' Berwick location, and spied Lychnis arkwrightii. So of course I bought it--oh, and did I mention that they were having a sale--buy three, get one free? Yup....Anyway; on the left in the pot is today's lychnis purchase--slightly adjusted for colour, but the flower is redder and the purplish leaves are definitely there, where in the orange one on the right (the largest flowered of the three Lychnis I wrote about the other day), the leaves are purely green. So the mystery definitely continues.

Now: on to Marnie's garden. She and her partner Lee have been there at Whispering Echo, their home, for less than five years, after moving up here from the south shore of the province and this was essentially a blank slate when they arrived. They have 84 acres in total, with about three of it planted in gardens--including raised veggie and herb beds, fruit and berry plantings, and scads of perennials, shrubs and trees. And it's all organically done, too. There are piles of compost, rainbarrels and buckets of compost tea, wild spaces of wild native plants for pollinators to enjoy...and it's a peaceful, joyous garden that filled my heart with great delight.

There's a lot of whimsy in this garden, from wooden carved birds in an iron tree...

...to a crocodile near the sauna.

Although a lot of the area around Greenwood (where 14 Wing of the air force resides) is quite flat, Marnie's garden has a long hillside on one part, leading down to the pond outside the sauna.

This garden is awash in roses, including a lot of David Austin English roses, and also in lilies.

While there are some pastel perennials and roses here and there, mostly there are lots of hot-colour plantings. This one features tritoma or redhot pokers, a fine healthy rose, lilies and rudbeckia, with blue cornflowers cooling off the planting a bit.

The view from the back deck, looking uphil towards the sauna building.

A perfect drift of various gallardia.

This is the red flowered sage that stopped me in my tracks and elicited instant plant lust out of me. Want. Want. Want. Also Want to know which sage it is! Marnie says it self seeds, and she's going to bring me one.

Like me, Marnie adores poppies. These three annual poppies stopped me dead. We're going to trade seeds, as I have black ones (actually deep wine) brilliant red, sweet pink...and she has these and many more!

There are plantings and flowers every; a lineup of planters along the side veranda includes this colourful collection.

An Asiatic lily, though which one neither of us knew...all I know is that I was teased a fair bit during this tour because I had pollen on my nose. I don't stick my nose into Asiatics because I know they have no scent, but there are also heaps of Orientals there, and daylilies too...and many other things with great fragrance, but this

These stately iris (Japanese? I don't grow many irises so I don't know. They are pretty though!) caught many visitors eyes during this tour. Marnie has a wide variety of irises and they were spectacular. Well, everything was spectacular! I'm so glad I got there finally--and will come visit again before the summer is out.

18 July 2007

A little green envy

Many of us have pored over garden centre and mailorder catalogues and websites, and stared at photos of plants and wondered if the blooms are truly that shade of blue/red/purple/green. Sometimes, the tags and catalogue photos boost the colours, and we've all seen that and sometimes it's quite obvious.
Well...when I first saw photos of Echinacea Green Envy I went RIGHT into orbit. Talk about plantlust. I had it in spades. I needed that plant. Even if the photos on labels and in catalogues were an exaggeration I was sure I needed it anyway.

Well...I got it, too. And guess what?

It really IS that green. And pinkish purple, which just makes it more desireable. Now, I have to tell you--mine aren't open this far yet--so this is a photo from one of those at Blomidon. Mine are starting--doing that slow elongation of the petals as the cone raises up from the centre--i figure by the weekend one will be open to almost this point. Isn't it delicious?

Then there is 'Matthew Saul' echinacea, also known as Harvest Moon. It's pretty awesome too. I like it better than Sunrise which I like really well. This is Harvest Moon (sing a little Neil Young along with me!)

I may have to go back to the nursery and get this plant. Confession is always good for the gardener's soul. I have a Harvest Moon--bought it this spring. I planted it, too--SOMEWHERE in the front beds. I can't remember where. And things are doing really, really well--we had some rain and now some heat and it's a case of "stand back, the triffids are on the move." Honestly. Everything is doing splendidly as if to make up for the crappy spring and summer til now. Hostas are enormous, roses are covered in blossoms, perennials are leaping out of the ground in huge sizes (I have a heuchera, Frosted Violet, that is 2 1/2 feet across--and still growing! In its first year here!). Must be the Seaboost coupled with mushroom compost coupled with fog.

Anyway, because of the jungle, I don't exactly know where my Harvest Moon coneflower plant is. I'm going to look carefully through two areas of the garden where it probably is, hidden under a giant monarda or daylily or perhaps the seven foot tall monkshood. and if I can't find it--if it succumbed or is overwhelmed by other plants--I'll admit my mistake and go get another one.

Er, make that my experiment. Because as the slogan goes, there are no gardening mistakes--only experiments.

16 July 2007

More on Lychnis

The caryophyllaceae family is more easily called the Pink family. It includes several weedy species, including mouse-eared and common chickweed (Cerastium and Stellaria, respectively) but also some of the more charming of garden plants: Dianthus (pinks and carnations), silene (catchflies and campions) Saponaria (soapwort) and Lychnis, (also catchflies and campions.)

We all know lots of pinks, from the cheddar pinks to sweet William to carnations; I have a silene and a saponaria, but it's the Lychnis species that are causing me entertainment (and puzzlement) of late. Some botanical flora collections put Lychnis into Silene in recent years, because of there not being enough distinction to put Lychnis into its own genus. Gotta love DNA testing,, which determines a lot of the classifications these days. Many gardeners still call Lychnis by that name, and I'm going to for the time being.

One of the best known is Maltese cross, Lychnis chalcedonica. We have it in red, white, and salmon, and I'm hardpressed to say which I like the best; all attract butterflies so they're all welcome.
But I have these other two orange-red species that I'm puzzling out. In this photo, you see Maltese cross first, then the two other species, both with significantly larger flowers:

The largest flowered one, which my friend Sharon thought might be L. arkwrightii, has bright green foliage; but it also has these furry flower buds that, when open, become the fused sepals holding the petals--and aren't they furry?

Here's the backs of all three flowers: each has some hairs, but the largest one is the furriest.
I have vacillated between thinking it's a variant of L.arkwrightii and L. miqueliana; the foliage is bright green with no bronze or red or purple undertones. The middle flower is delightful too--scarlet orange splashed with silver as the petals range towards the centre. I haven't a clue where I got this or what it is, and its label is also long gone. I am sure, however, that I picked up the largest-flowered variety at West River Greenhouses last year, so I must call and see if they know what I have.

This is Lychnis coronaria, rose campion. I love its vibrant deep fuchsia flowers and silvery foliage. We also have the white form as well as Oculata, which is white with a pale pink 'eye'.

The fluffy lychnis is Lychnis flos-cuculi 'Jenny', as I observed a double ragged robin. I bought this at a big box store, having never seen it anywhere else; it's been flowering steadily since I planted it, and I like it for its texture more than its colour.

If anyone has any suggestions about my two mystery Lychnis/Silene, I'm all ears. I've looked through all my Rix and Phillips books, and can't find either of these...I think they're gorgeous, however and am delighted that they came back after last year--despite my almost digging up the silver and orange one thinking it was a weed!

One further observation; how do other digital-camera users get their red-flowered plants to show up reasonably accurately in photos? i went to my handy dandy camera professionals the other day, asking whether I was doing something wrong because my red flowers come out orangish--and lacking in detail. Rick, my camera guru, told me that it's not me--it's the sensor in the digital camera which cannot capture natural reds accurately. There are a number of fixes (mostly in Photoshop) but I'll have to study up on this; I always stress that I'm a writer who takes photos, not a photographer as such. But I AM taking a course this fall from my camera guru, because nothing is as effective as learning first hand from a pro.

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