Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Peggy Martin Rose Journal

Peggy Martin Rose, 2012, Newburyport, MA
Welcome to our Peggy Martin Rose Journal.  For the next few  years, we will follow the growth of our Peggy Martin Rose, documenting her bloom cycles as well as how she fares throughout the year and especially over the winter.

Unlike the way we usually post updates in which we include links to previous posts on the same topic, this post will contain every previous entry in journal format, dated and in chronological order.  The current year's updates will always appear at the top and we'll try to update the diary at least once each season. 

If you are new to this Diary, please scroll down to read the inspiring story of the remarkable woman for whom this rose is named and who has shared this incredible "found" rose for the benefit of the Heritage Rose Society and the American Rose Society.

Latest Updates - June - July, 2013  
(Scroll down to see the rose in full bloom at the end of June.)

June 7, 2013:  Completely Budded and Soon to Bloom

One of our considerations when we pruned the roses to switch out the trellises was that we would interfere with Peggy's bloom cycle.
We need not have worried.

May 27th was The Big Move, and then on June 2nd, we departed for New York for our spring volunteer work at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Cranford Rose Garden.

The day we left, I was happy to see that Peggy had started to sprout a few buds and I breathed a sigh of relief.   My thought was that while the buds that I could see were pretty sparse, at least she would bloom.  My only regret was that with the warm humid weather, the buds might open while we were away and I'd miss their 2013 debut.

We returned home and in less than four short days, she had exploded in a halo of buds.  many are ready to burst open but so far, they are still very tightly held buds, clustered on every branch and twig.

I can hardly wait for them to open! 

June 8, 2012:  Once again, every branch promises to be a gorgeous pink bouquet.

June 26, 2013:  In Full Bloom!

Despite having been heavily pruned in order to install the new trellis, Peggy has rewarded us with a spectacular bloom.  The blossoms began opening on June 11th and blooming in earnest a week later.  By June 26th, the bloom was at peak.
June 16th, blooming in earnest.
June 26th:  Sharing the trellis with New Dawn
June 26th:  Sharing the trellis with New Dawn; the lavender hedges are in full bloom as well.
June 26th:  A stunning entrance to the formal garden.

See the Rest of the 2013 Diary, Below

January 1, 2013:  Happy New Year, Peggy Martin

January 1, 2013: Happy New Year,  Peggy Martin.  So far the winter has been cold and wet but not frigid.  We had snow over Christmas week but it quickly melted away revealing a still very green Peggy.
January 16, 2013:  One of many snowfalls.  Peggy spent much of the rest of the winter nestled under a blanket of snow or enjoying the warm sun when the weather warmed up and the snow melted.
January 28, 2013:  We hung a bird-feeder from the trellis and tossed seed on the walk for the mourning doves, although the sparrows and juncos enjoyed it there as well.  Much of the snow from the previous storm has melted, revealing Peggy's still green leaves.
 May 13, 2013

Over the winter, Peggy's trellis home deteriorated significantly.   It first begun to twist under her weight last summer.  We were able to stabilize it after pruning but when we noticed problems developing in the late fall, we felt it was too late in the season to change the trellises over and opted to wait until spring.

The trellis twisted so much over the winter that the top separated from the side, which is now leaning back at a significant angle, the metal actually bending where it inserts into the cement.  (The posts are cemented into sauna tubes which remain firmly in place.)

We had known that the trellis would need to be changed out this spring and in anticipation, we had already purchased, assembled and stained a lovely cedar trellis.  Hopefully, we will have it installed as Peggy's new home this weekend.  Her weight will be supported by eight large re-bar poles inserted along the inside and outside of each panel at each corner.

The photograph below shows the disarticulation of the trellis and the degree to which it leans most dramatically.  Peggy has already been pruned once this spring and her growth continues unabated. (We aren't complaining, however.)

Significant pruning will again be required to remove the existing metal unit and replace it with long pieces of re-bar and the decorative wooden trellis.  I hope that doesn't affect her bloom cycle, although my guess is that we are doing this early enough not to interfere.  She has not set any buds that I can see and she is still a full month away from blooming.

Pruned only a month ago, Peggy has  overtaken the existing trellis once again. Note the clematis just starting to grow and twine again around her feet and climb along her canes and up the inside of the trellis once again.  I actually pruned back all of the old growth (of the clematis) when I pruned Peggy the first time as we had been planning to switch the trellis out much sooner than this.  This should make an impressive display once again when first Peggy and then the clematis bloom again this summer.

May 27, 2013:  Peggy's New Home

It has taken considerable time and effort, but we finally were able to prune back Peggy Martin, New Dawn, and the Sweet Autumn clematis that shared a trellis in order to replace the trellis with a sturdier, decorative cedar one.

Pruning everything back took much of the afternoon.  We filled two garden wagons twice, piled high, with clippings.  I was amazed at the enormous amount of growth we had to cut away.

Now, I expected that from New Dawn, and to a certain extent, Sweet Autumn,  but Peggy had already been cut back once this spring.  So while I expected to do a little bit of pruning, I didn't expect that everything I'd already cut would have grown  back and then some,  and in less than a month.

However, she had once again crested the top of the trellis and was climbing back down through New Dawn. Long canes arched down from the top of the trellis, almost to the ground.

We pruned away three wheelbarrows-full from both roses in order to be able to dismantle and remove the old trellis.  Then we moved the new trellis into place and secured it with four foot lengths of re-bar and 5 foot fence posts.  Living so close to the ocean, our yard often resembles a wind tunnel and our  trellises have been known to take flight in gale force winds, with sauna tubes attached!

May 27, 2013:    With the new trellis finally in place, we tied the canes with twine to support them until they were able to grab and intertwine around the trellis. 
Look at the size of this cane -- and it is not one of the older canes, either.  The growth rate on this rose is startling.  For a rose that arrived as a bare root, this Jack-in-the-Beanstalk has far exceeded our expectations.

The Peggy Martin Rose Journal

Spring, 2011:  A Bit of History ~ Why We Even Bought This Rose

In the spring of 2011, Manny Mendes, then president of the New England Rose Society, encouraged us to purchase the Peggy Martin Rose.  After calling and repeatedly badgering me, he mailed me a catalog from the Antique Rose EmporiumThe Peggy Martin Rose was featured on the cover.  It doesn't get more in your face than that. We had been slowly adding heritage roses to our garden and there isn't a more comprehensive source around than this one anyway, so I went through the catalog and sent in an order.

That late in the spring, most of the roses I was interested in acquiring were already sold out and the pickings were slim.  Along with Conrad Ferdinand Meyer and Clothilde Soupert, we ordered the Peggy Martin Rose.

Marketed as a vigorous but "mannerly" grower, the photograph on Antique Rose Emporium's catalog cover showed an enormous, mature climber with a profusion of bloom-covered canes cascading over the top of an immense conical support.  The presentation was so dramatic, I couldn't imagine that this fairly young rose (hey, I did the math; the hurricane only happened in 2005!) could have grown that much, and I wondered at the time if the image had been photo-shopped.  We planted our Peggy Martin on the rose arbor at the entrance to our formal English garden where it would share an arch with New Dawn.

The side of the arbor where Peggy Martin was planted had previously been occupied by a gorgeous Sweet Autumn Clematis which had been the perfect trellis mate for New Dawn. Unfortunately, for the second time in recent years, voles had destroyed the clematis over the winter, gnawing at both the root ball and its main trunks.  It looked as though the clematis was a total loss.  (NOT!, we found out a month or so later!) We decided to try something else.  Since they had ignored New Dawn in favor of the clematis, maybe a rose would be a better choice. 

June 2011, the bare root rose leafed out fully within a month
That said, I wasn't convinced that this particular rose was the rose.  After all, this was a southern rose and we live in northeastern Massachusetts in a miro-climate famous for ice storms. However, when I sent in the order, I had broken one of our cardinal rules: I had ordered a rose without any plan for where I was going to put it in the garden.  So when the order arrived, I was faced with a bare root rose that needed to be planted immediately and the most obvious place to put it was the glaring "hole" on the trellis at the entrance to our formal English garden. 

Despite the dramatic picture on the cover of that year's print catalog, this is not a rose I would ordinarily have ever chosen for our garden.  In fact, the more I had read about the rose itself, the less interested in it I was.   But after reading the history of this particular rose, the only reason I decided to add it to our order was to support the real Peggy Martin's efforts to restore the historic gardens in New Orleans, not out of a personal interest in this particular rose variety.

June 15, 2011 She has big shoes to fill!
Described as a climber without fragrance or hips, and hardy only to zone 6  (and even that was still questionable at this point in my mind, as it didn't have a long history of success to fall back on), as far as I was concerned, the Peggy Martin Rose had 3 strikes against her at the outset.  For us, a rose without fragrance holds little appeal, and a scentless rose that doesn't produce hips doesn't usually make the cut when we are choosing roses.  Rose hips help feed our wild bird population over the winter.

With 225 roses already and little room to add more, unless it's a species rose we have been hunting for or a historically important Old Garden Rose we have been trying to add to our collection, any new rose we acquire has to have a major physical attribute - incredible fragrance or over-the-top, unusual or gorgeous bloom, for example - for us to even give it a second look. What Peggy Martin had was a story that both broke my heart and inspired me at the same time.  I bought both the rose and signed on for membership in the Heritage Rose Foundation to support the "real" Peggy Martin.  

The biggest concern for me in planting this rose at all was that our zone 6b winters can be wildly variable and in our micro-climate, located as we are on the northernmost point of Cape Ann, what we don't get in sub-zero temperatures we more than make up for in brisk, drying wind and ice storms over the winter.  Gale force winds are a regular occurrence here and they take a tremendous toll on climbers that are harder to protect from the ravages of winter.  I have learned the hard way to stick with roses that are rated for zone 5 or colder.  So despite what I read, I was far from convinced that this Southern belle could handle one of our winters on the North Atlantic coast and I wasn't completely sold on the idea of spending an entire growing season to find out.  Coincidentally, we discovered that our Sweet Autumn had seeded itself everywhere, including the spot where Peggy was now planted.  So I consoled myself with the thought that if Peggy didn't survive, there was another young clematis growing as well.  Oh me of little faith; I definitely should have had more in a rose that survived being submerged under salt water for two weeks!

June, 2011

July, 2011, First Blooms.  Note the tall cane heading up the trellis at left

In May of 2011, a bright green bare root rose arrived and within days of being set in the ground, she began to sprout canes that quickly leafed out.  I wouldn't have called her growth at that point vigorous.  I wouldn't have even called it enthusiastic. I would have called it scary. Once it started to grow, it was straight out of   Jack in the Beanstalk.

What do you call a rose that grows so fast, you can almost watch the leaves sprout as you're standing there?


Within a month canes were snaking up the side of the arbor.

She bloomed for us her very first summer, barely 5 weeks after being set in the ground.  It wasn't an exciting bloom since the shrub itself was still very young and still quite small, but when you consider that I didn't plant her until late in May and she's known as a spring bloomer, we weren't expecting a bloom at all.   

In contrast, Conrad never bloomed that first year and Clothilde set her first buds at the end of the summer when Peggy was giving us her second flowery show.

August 15, 2011:  Canes stretched nearly to the top of the trellis

October, 2011

October 16, 2011
When October rolled around, to our amazement, Peggy bloomed again.  As I recall, it was a single spray of perhaps five blossoms in all, but when you consider that historically, this rose is known to take a couple of years before it gives a second bloom, Peggy Martin had more than caught my attention.   The last of her fading flowers still had color when an unseasonably early snowstorm fell over Halloween weekend.

When the surprise snowstorm hit, we had been talking about winter protection for Peggy.  We never got the chance to follow through.  Then again, we didn't need to.

January,1, 2012 ~ Happy New Year, Peggy Martin

January 1, 2012:  The only rose showing leaves and active growth in our garden. Note the Sweet Autumn sprouting as well.
Admittedly, the winter of 2011-2012 was unusually mild.  We had just over 2 feet of snow in aggregate - well below normal - and temperatures were above the average for winter in this area most of the winter.  No one complained that we were experiencing more rain than snow;  you don't have to shovel rain.

Still, this is New England, temperatures were often well below freezing, especially at night, and all of our roses were dormant.  All, that is, except for Peggy.  Not only did Peggy remain vividly green all winter, but whenever temperatures rose into the 40's, she would sprout fresh leaves.and her canes would inch higher on the arbor. Even when it snowed, her canes remained a bright, vibrant green beneath the white cloak.

I had wondered about the image on the cover of the Antique Rose Emporium's cover but I had my answer.  In less than 6 months, our Peggy had sent more than a half dozen strong canes up the side of our trellis. And when she bloomed in the spring of 2012, any doubts about this rose vaporized completely.

February 4, 2012:  Most of the leaves have fallen and Peggy appears dormant.  The sheer number of canes is amazing on this 9 month old rose.  Her dormant period was short-lived, however.  Despite freezing temperatures and snow, within days, she began to sprout fresh green leaves!

During a snowstorm, early morning, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012:  The snow ended by mid morning and the day was warm and sunny - well into the 40's.  After the snow melted, I was shocked to discover fresh, new growth sprouting on many of her canes.
Buried in snow again, March 4, 2012.  The leaves stayed green even under the snow.
March 9, 2012 ~ Sprouting more leaves, weeks ahead of the other still dormant rose.  Note the flat break in the cane;  we had had 40-50 mph winds and several of the longest canes snapped off.  We were trying more for damage control than careful pruning when this cane was lopped. Peggy, however, was very forgiving.
March 28, 2012 ~ In less than three weeks, canes have taken over the arbor, growing over the top and cascading back down over the walkway.  While I originally thought that the first photograph I'd seen on the cover of the ARE catalog might have been, well, an exaggeration, I was now certain that it showed a rose that had already been heavily pruned!  This is Peggy at 10 months of age, and winter is scarcely over.
April 4, 2012 ~ On her way to take over the trellis

Spring - Summer, 2012

May 7, 2012
Manny had promised me that I would love this rose.  My one over-riding thought when I purchased it was that even if it didn't survive (and I didn't expect it to), the proceeds were going to support a very worthwhile cause so I would at least give it a try.  And I did have the newly sprouted clematis to fall back on.

A year later, I am in awe of this rose every single day.  She does not disappoint.

After a very mild winter, spring arrived weeks earlier than usual.  By the beginning of March, the garden was waking up and growth and blooms we typically see in April were appearing everywhere. We started to prune the roses as they slowly awakened, snipping a twig here, an inch or two there.  Not so for Peggy.

By the first of March, her newest canes were more than six feet high, and the older eight to ten foot canes crossed both over and under the arch of the arbor,  teasing the still dormant New Dawn and bending back down to the walkway.

By the middle of April, as the other roses were just starting to leaf out, we were already reining in Peggy, trimming her back to keep her under some measure of control.

The Antique Rose Emporium catalog had described her growth as "mannerly".  In less than a month, her new growth almost completely filled the entire space under the arch, making the walkway impassable and she showed no signs of slowing down. (I'm trying to figure out how an UN-mannerly rose grows -- and what Emily Post would think of our Peggy, completely gobbling up every available space and refusing to share her trellis!)

By the end of April, Peggy was fully leafed out with mature leaves, and sprouting new shoots and canes with wild abandon.
By mid-May, she was covered with a dense mat of tight buds.  Every twig, it seemed, contained a bouquet's worth. We were traveling to New York in June and I was anxious to see her first blooms of the year.  But when we left on June 1st, although we could see hints of color, the first buds had yet to open and I was afraid that I would miss our first "real" spring bloom altogether. I need not have worried.

Masses of buds were just beginning to open when we returned, and while the other roses had caught up over the month of May (a couple even graced us with blooms before Memorial Day, weeks ahead of schedule), nothing in our garden compared to Peggy when she started to bloom on June 11th.

June 11, 2012 ~ Despite two assertive prunings, Peggy has completely crested and covered the top of the arbor and the canes are covered with clusters of blooms.
The canes and branches completely enveloped the side of the trellis in blossoms. Sweet Autumn is also growing up along the trellis, intertwining with Peggy.  I can hardly wait to see the blooms in August.
June 11, 2012 ~ The longest canes crested the center of the arch  of the arbor and curled down along the far side where New Dawn was also in bloom.
The first blossoms open, June 11, 2012. Peggy has been growing for barely a year.  And this followed two substantial prunings.
The same trellis one week later, June 19, 2012  Note the blooms on the cane that has arched down on the New Dawn side.
July 16, 2012 ~ Still blooming, although beginning to wind down.  Note the Sweet Autumn Clematis growing up through and intertwining with the canes. Also note, the trellis is beginning to bend on Peggy's side under the weight of her prolific growth.
July 18, 2012:  Fading clusters of flowers after almost six weeks in bloom.
August 7, 2012 ~ A rare blossom is still visible.  Even after being pruned yet again to rein in the wild tangle of canes that filled the arch, the shrub continues to grow and thrive. You can see new growth on the underside of the the top of the arch and on the inside on the left (New Dawn) side.  That is all Peggy.  She has been pruned back twice now since her first early pruning after having completely filled the space under the arch with her canes.
July 23, 2012, assembled and stained and ready to be moved into place
Hardly a year after planting a bare root rose, Peggy Martin has completely overtaken the trellis.  Her canes grew up over the arch, completely obscuring the beautiful Victorian points and peak, and trailed down the other side.  This was after she completely filled the path over the walk and under the arch with long trailing canes for a second time since May, which we trimmed back again about a week ago.

We heavily pruned the New Dawn that shares the other side of her "duplex" and admittedly, we allowed self-seeded seedlings of the Sweet Autumn clematis to sublet, since the clematis blooms when both roses tend to slow down.  (Our favorite garden combinations are clematis and climbing roses.)

Despite that, Peggy Martin's growth has been nothing short of astounding.  However, on Peggy's side, the existing metal trellis (which is not the sturdy wrought iron that it was styled to resemble) is beginning to twist under her weight (one of the reasons we so aggressively pruned again).  I think the only reason it didn't topple is because it is cemented into the ground.  It was clear to us that we needed to find a sturdier structure to support her.

After numerous discussions with our favorite nurseryman, we settled on a cedar trellis that will be supported inside and outside along all four posts with tall re-bar spikes.  The wood will be more decorative, the re-bar will actually support her weight (not that she is, well, overweight.....).

My friend Blaine (visiting from Texas) helped me to assemble and stain the trellis when it coincidentally arrived the same day that she did.  I should have guessed that a trellis this size would arrive in, well, too many pieces!  Thank goodness Blaine and I are equally proficient with a drill!

By the time we purchased, assembled, and stained the new trellis, the clematis was about to bloom so we'll hold off switching them out for now, since much of the clematis and both roses will have to be extensively pruned in order to accomplish this.  Still, the new trellis (pictured above, set in front of the trellis it will replace), isn't as much larger as it will be sturdier. 

August, 2012

Although regarded as highly disease resistant, we discovered that downy mildew really can be a problem for Peggy Martin.  We noticed a small touch of it in the summer of 2011 and immediately sprayed with a baking soda solution.  The infestation did not spread to other leaves or roses and we pruned away the affected branches. 

August, 2012: Downy mildew and possibly a touch of black spot appeared during extremely hot and humid weather.

This August, after several days of hot, humid, rainy weather, fungus appeared once again and as before, spraying with a baking soda solution completely contained it.  Since we discovered this mid- to late August, when we were experiencing extremely hot, humid weather and late afternoon thunderstorms, we added some canola oil and clear soap to the spray, and sprayed every couple of days while we were actively experiencing rain.  The shrub was now enormous and the infection was widespread.  Spraying every 2-3 days over a two week period completely contained it, however, and while New Dawn also showed signs of mildew (and was sprayed as well), it didn't spread to the roses in the adjacent beds.

It's important to note that the baking soda solution stopped the infection in it's tracks.  It never progressed and the rose never defoliated. We were careful to dispose of leaf litter, however, when the rose went dormant over winter.

When the Sweet Autumn Clematis finally bloomed in August, it made a spectacular showing.  The spicy fragrance was intense and with the clematis completely entwined through New Dawn and Peggy Martin, the effect was stunning.  New Dawn and Peggy Martin also both blessed us with a scant flush of blooms in early October.

September, 2012:  The spent blossoms of Sweet Autumn create a white veil completely covering the arbor. Peggy had stopped blooming completely by the end of July, although she continues to send out fresh shoots and leaves.  New Dawn is still blooming in occasional spray of blooms. A month later, Peggy did bloom again for us.
November, 2012:  This 18 month old toddler has totally overtaken this metal trellis, which is now bending significantly under the weight and strength of its canes. We've got the new trellis but will wait until spring to replace it.  Note that the new growth is completely mildew free.  We pruned away as much of the mildew-affected canes as was reasonable and the disease did not spread to the new growth.  She showed us a very light flush of her trademark blossoms again in early October - 6 or 8 clusters.
November, 2012:  Despite many freezing nights, Peggy Martin continues to send out new growth. Residual infection with downy mildew is still present on the older growth but has neither advanced in affected areas nor spread to new growth.

December 24, 2012:  Peggy Martin has definitely slowed down and is heading for dormancy, but her canes and leaves are still a vivid, lettuce green, with new leaves apparent after the most recent snow melt.  The residual signs of mildew are still present, and we carefully disposed of leaf litter.  We don't prune here in the fall, but will carefully clean up in spring as well.  The Sweet Autumn Clematis is also green, although much of it has already died back over the past few weeks since we have had numerous heavy frosts and several inches of snow.
December 26, 2012:  New Dawn is completely dormant as is much of the clematis.  The rest of the roses in the garden are also dormant as is the lavender.  Not so, Peggy Martin, who still has a vivid green showing. It amazes me that her leaves are still healthy and supple even after numerous freezes.  Even our mint and parsley have gone dormant this year (last year we harvested mint and parsley all winter after providing only minimal protection).
The Story of the Peggy Martin Rose

Peggy Martin in front of her namesake rose.
For those of you who are not rose aficionados, let me tell you about this amazing rose and introduce you to the "real" Peggy Martin, the woman behind the Peggy Martin Rose. (You can read the entire story of the Peggy Martin Rose HERE.)

Peggy Martin, for whom this rose is named, has been a tour de force behind the Restoration Fund for the four Historical Gardens in New Orleans as well as several other historic rose gardens in the Gulf Coast area that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  An active member of both the American Rose Society and the Heritage Rose Foundation, she is perhaps best known for her dedication to and leadership of the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society.  Over the course of the past several decades, Peggy's name has become virtually synonymous with old garden roses and heritage roses.

The exact genetics of the Peggy Martin Rose are unknown.  A thornless rambler that grows vigorously and is covered with literally an explosion of blooms both spring and fall and occasionally in between, it came to the "real" Peggy as a cutting given to her by a friend who had acquired cuttings from her mother.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which claimed not only Peggy's and her husband's home and fishing business but  the lives of her beloved parents as well, Peggy returned to where her home had previously stood.  After twenty feet of salt water finally receded, this rose remained as the only rose and one of only two plants from her extensive garden to survive, a reflection of Peggy's own tenacity in the face of extreme adversity and incomprehensible loss and tragedy.

Since that time, Peggy has spearheaded the restoration of the historic gardens and old garden rose collections that were destroyed by Katrina.  The funds for these projects have come in large part from the sale of roses propagated from cuttings of the original Peggy Martin Rose that Peggy had kindly shared with Dr. William C. Welch, a professor at Texas A&M University.

From the rose grown from those original cuttings, Dr. Welch was able to provide cuttings so that the rose could be made available commercially to other rose lovers and in so doing, support efforts to restore the historic collections of gardens across the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Texas.  Rose lovers can support the restoration efforts by acquiring the Peggy Martin Rose from the Antique Rose Emporium or one of the other nurseries listed HERE.  If you don't have a place for this prolific rambler in a garden of your own, please consider making an outright donation to the Heritage Rose Foundation or the the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society.

Additional links to Information about the Peggy Martin Rose:

The Official Peggy Martin Rose Web Site

A History of the Peggy Martin Rose bt Dr. William C. Welch

Dr. Welch's Update on the Status of the Peggy Martin Rose

Photograph of Mrs. Peggy Martin used with permission, courtesy of  Mrs. Peggy Martin.


  1. I have heard this unique story of the Peggy Martin rose before. It is quite an amazing story. Don't you just love plants that survive against all odds? They inspire hope.

    1. Yes, they do. And the rose also symbolizes what one woman can accomplish as well. She's an amazing woman, and the rose is an amazing rose. Ours is STILL blooming!!! (Granted, only one spray is left blooming, but this has been blooming now since JUne 11th - 2 full months. And once again, she has taken over the entire trellis and canes are arching everywhere!

      Thanks for dropping by!


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