Quite often, when a new or curious gardener wants to know, “What should I plant in my garden?” One of my common responses is: “it’s hard to go wrong with All-America Selections Winners.”
The AAS has been independently trialing and judging plants, across North America, since the 1930’s. The judges are experts in the field of horticulture, including seed and plant developers, arboretums, garden centers, public gardens, and land grant universities.
Among the AAS winners that I’ve tried that have found a nearly permanent place in my garden include the "Arizona Apricot" Gaillardia, the "Queen Sophia" marigold, "Sugar Snap" peas, sweet peppers such as the "Cornito Giallo" , "Giant Marconi", and my all-time favorite sweet pepper, the "Gypsy". And, tomatoes: Big Beef, Celebrity, Chef’s Choice Orange, and Juliet.
So, what are the 2024 winners? That’s what we are going to delve into today.
We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!
Previous episodes, show notes, links, product information, and transcripts at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout.
Pictured: Skytree Broccoli, a 2024 All-America Selections Winner
All-America Selections website, where you can find more information about the plants mentioned in this episode.
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GB 303 2024 AAS Winners TRANSCRIPT
Farmer Fred 0:00
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.
Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.
Quite often, when a new or curious gardener wants to know, “What should I plant in my garden?” One of my common responses is: “it’s hard to go wrong with All America Selections Winners.”
All America Selections has been independently trialling and judging plants, across North America, since the 1930’s. The judges are experts in the field of horticulture, including representatives from seed and plant developers and growers, arboretums, garden centers, public gardens and land grant universities.
Among the AAS winners that I’ve tried that have found a nearly permanent place in my garden include the Arizona Apricot Gaillardia, Red Sails and Salad Bowl lettuces, the Queen Sophia marigold, Sugar Snap peas, a lot of sweet peppers such as the Cornito Giallo (which did well for me last year), Giant Marconi, and my all time favorite sweet pepper, the Gypsy.
Other AAS winners for me that I’ve grown fond of over the years include Bloomsdale spinach, Black Beauty zucchini, zinnias such as Queen Lime Orange and Zowie Yellow Flame (a makes for a great cut flower by the way).
Oh, and of course, tomatoes: Over the years, I’ve been wowed by the production and taste of big beef, celebrity, chef’s choice orange and Juliet.
So, what are the 2024 winners in the opinion of the All America Selections judges?
That’s what we are going to delve into today, on the Garden Basics podcast.
We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!
2024 AAS Winners PART 1
Have you heard about the All-America Selections winners? These are plants that have been trialed from coast to coast, throughout North America, to see how they perform in your locale. And every year, there's always a great selection of new winners. We're talking with Diane Blazek. She is the Executive Director for All-America Selections, as well as the Executive Director for the National Garden Bureau. All-America Selections, Diane. It’s been around a long time.
Diane Blazek 2:51
Yes, we were founded in 1932, by a gentleman with the Southern Seedsman Association. His name was Ray Hastings. And I kinda like to call him a doubting Thomas. Because when the organization was founded between World War One and two, that's when a lot of new hybrids were being created and developed by the breeding companies. And he said, are these really as good as you're telling me they are? So he created a nonprofit organization called All-America Selections. He started trialing plants and working with different trial sites all over North America. I think they had 10 at that time, and now we have closer to 30 to 40 for each trial. But he created the system that said, Okay, this is an anonymous trial, we have volunteer judges. These judges are going to put this new variety through its paces and see if it's really as good as the breeders are claiming. That's the story behind the All-American Selections.
Farmer Fred 3:51
I have to tell you my favorite new plant. And it's not that new, but it's fairly new, that I grew in 2023. It was an All-America Selections winner back in 2019. And a fellow Master Gardener came up to me back in 2022 and said, Have you ever grown a potato from seed? And I’m thinking, you're talking about growing it from a slip or chunk, like a seed potato? No, an actual seed. Really? Well, I got to try that. And it was called the Clancy potato. And wow, what a wonderful little red potato that is. iI keeps on producing. And of course I'm growing it again.
Diane Blazek 4:25
Excellent. I'm so glad to hear that because yeah, a lot of people are like, no, you can't grow potatoes from seeds, like literal seeds, like you say, but yes, you can and it's quite interesting. I think it makes the availability more because maybe somebody can't ship these eyes to Canada or someplace, but yeah, just having something from seed kind of changes that limitation on potato growing for gardeners.
Farmer Fred 4:51
Yeah. And it solves a lot of problems too, because by planting from a chunk of a potato, it has to be from a seed potato, to ensure that it is disease free. And by planting the Clancy directly from seed, you bypass that problem altogether.
Diane Blazek 5:09
Right. And they're easy. I mean, I was surprised somebody said, just do it like you do tomatoes and peppers. So if you plant at the right time, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is true, this is real, they are really easy and then they produce. So yeah, this tiny little seed that will produce, I'm not sure how many pounds you got from each plant, but it's quite prolific indeed.
Farmer Fred 5:29
I grow them actually in a container, in a fabric pot, a Smart Pot, about a 20 gallon size. And it's much easier when you're growing it in a container like that to harvest it. Because sometimes you miss some potatoes when you're harvesting potatoes from the ground. But if you grow it in a fabric container, like a Smart Pot, you can just turn the whole container upside down, dump it out and go through it, and get all the potatoes out. And then start all over again.
Diane Blazek 5:54
Yeah, yeah, I love it. I'm so happy to hear that you like that Clancy because it's doing really well. And a lot of people, maybe they were doubting Thomases and they're like, oh my gosh, you're right, we can grow from the seed.
Farmer Fred 6:06
And like I said, it's a red potato. Fairly small, but not that much smaller than what you'd find in a grocery store.
Diane Blazek 6:14
Well, actually, it's like the ones you would buy in the grocery store that are really expensive, because they're small, and they have this really good texture. And I found that there were a couple that were really light pink, and then a couple that were more reddish, so that they definitely have variety. So I just call them a gourmet mix.
Farmer Fred 6:30
Alright, so that was my favorite new plant to grow in 2023. And of course, I am doing it again. So let's talk about some of the 2024 All America Selections. You've got three edibles: two broccoli varieties and a pepper.
Diane Blazek 6:46
Yes. I like to talk about growing things that are unique. And my favorite example is you can just grow a green bell pepper, but why bother? They're cheap enough in the store. Why not grow something unique? And I think all three of our winners this year really fit that category. So one is a purple broccoli, and it is a typical head broccoli, it has the purple colorations on the stem in the florets. Of course, it won't keep that purple color if you boil it to death. But for the most part, if you're lightly sauteeing or steaming, it will retain the color. It's called Purple Magic. As with anything that's in this cruciferous family, you know, typical broccoli, it would grow great in your fall crops. So start it in late summer, of course, depending on what your zone is. But it is unique, it is tasty, is easy to grow, the heads on this broccoli are not gonna fall apart. They're nice and tight, which is what all the breeders are wanting when they breed new things. So yeah, Purple Magic broccoli, is quite fun.
Farmer Fred 7:56
I like in the description of the Purple Magic broccoli, it talks about how it can be eaten raw, and you can find it sweeter and more tender than traditional green broccoli. Right?
Diane Blazek 8:06
I think that is very interesting. And I don't know if it's because it's purple, you know, there's something about that purple coloration that will make it sweeter. So if anybody doesn't like broccoli, try this purple broccoli, maybe that will change your mind.
Farmer Fred 8:19
What is unique about the Skytree broccoli, which is another 2024 AAS winner.
Diane Blazek 8:26
So this one, I'm sure you've seen in the grocery stores for years, you know, they have the broccolini which is a trade name, a brand name, and it's a stem broccoli. So here what they're doing instead of the shorter stems, you know in the head, they want to breed it for elongated stems. And the longer those stems are, the easier it is to harvest and they want to make sure that those stems are not woody. So here we have this Skytree which fits the bill with all of those so it's easy to harvest, it has tender stems. These two are nice and sweet, very versatile. And once you cut that main stem, it will continue to put out some side shoots. So it's not just one and done. Most broccolis will put out sideshoots, but this one really was bred for those long stems that are easy to harvest and taste.
Farmer Fred 9:19
Wonderful. And these would be smaller heads too. Actually, they're probably florets. One more edible that you have in the as winners for 2024 is a pepper that I guess I don't think it starts as red but it certainly is a vivid red at some point in its life.
Diane Blazek 9:37
Yeah, it typically starts out green then turns to red. It is called a Labuyo type pepper, which I was not familiar with until we got this one in our trials. That too is a variety name, but they have bred this one to be easier to grow. So we had a webinar about a year ago and we had a couple of pepper breeders on there. And they said, Oh, did you know that hot peppers are so much easier to grow than sweet peppers? And I'm like, well that that explains my garden. I'm always successful with hot peppers, but it just seems harder with sweet peppers. So this is something that they've been working on. And this Labuyo type pepper is even larger than your typical bell pepper. Very thick walled, dark red, like you said, a vivid red. And I guess the yield is not only a number of peppers, but in pepper square inches. It's a very, very large pepper. So there's a lot of breeding work done with kind of individual snack sized peppers. This goes the opposite direction. So you're gonna have a lot of pepper for your money when you're growing the Red Impact.
Farmer Fred 10:47
And that's the name of it: Red Impact pepper. And it's a sweet pepper, right? Yes, it is a sweet pepper. Okay, because I noticed that they compare it to the Big Bertha or the Giant Marconi . And if you're a pepper grower of any age, you probably have tried Giant Marconi or Big Bertha and you know how big those can get. So that's rather nice to have another.
Diane Blazek 11:06
Yeah, yeah, if you're a big fan, try this one. Yeah, those were our comparisons that we used.
Farmer Fred 11:12
The Red Impact pepper. Okay, that's gorgeous.
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2024 AAS WINNERS, PART 2
Let's talk about some of the ornamentals that are AAS winners. What are some of your favorites there?
Diane Blazek 14:01
I can't have favorites. You know, it's like asking me about my favorite child. They are all okay. So there's that. We have quite a few ornamental winners this year, we have things that are grown from seed and things that are vegetatively propagated. So some you only be able to find them at your local plant retailer, others you'll find at your local seed retailer and you'll be able to buy them from seed. So one of the things that we've been seeing a huge interest in is celosia. Actually, our 2023 year of the crop is celosia. And there's so many different types. There's the cristata plumosa, and Argentina. And people are just really interested in hearing the stories behind all of them and seeing the new varieties. So we have this one, and it's called Burning Embers, which thankfully, the name really describes the plant. So if you think of if you've got a campfire, and some of the ash is left down below, though it's got that orangish red. And this one is that reddish color, it's a little bit more pinkish red. But I think the reason it looks so pinkish red is it has a bronze foliage that has pink veining on it. So the contrast between these plumes and the pink veins in the foliage is just beautiful, very vibrant. Well branched, too. if you ever see well branched, that means it has more branches, each branch has a flower bloom on it. So you're gonna get a nice impact of color with the Burning Embers celosia.
Farmer Fred 15:35
And this is from seed. And for those who are unfamiliar with the flower of a celosia, they're upright and kind of feathery looking. And because of the color of the Burning Embers, it does resemble a flame and it and it stays upright for quite a while doesn't it?
Diane Blazek 15:56
Oh, yeah. That's what all the judges were saying is the length of time that it was in bloom. And the fact that it put up with all these different weather conditions, the heat and the humidity and the drought and everything. So it's a very sturdy plant that will just bloom for you all season long.
Farmer Fred 16:15
So are the AAS winners that we're talking about here, are they national winners or regional winners?
Diane Blazek 16:21
Pretty much all these are national. I'll mention if I think we only have one regional in the ornamentals. When we were talking about the broccoli, one was a regional winner, more for the West. That was Skytree. The other broccoli, the purple one, is a national winner, the pepper was a national winner. Okay, so the majority of ours for 2024 selections are national.
Farmer Fred 16:42
Alright, talk about your regional ornamental winner.
Diane Blazek 16:45
Okay, that one is called Petunia Sure Shot, it is white. This one is vegetatively propagated, so you will see that available (only as a plant). And it has a pretty good range: Great Lakes, West, Northwest. Think of a Petunia when you look at it . With this one, you're not going to see hardly any foliage, you are going to see just a ton of flowers. So they're a good size white flower. One of the big things that they're working with petunias these days is holding up to rain. Because the Petunia will kind of sag its little head and get sad when it's hit by rain. But this one will bounce back a lot more quickly. So the flowers will rebloom or reopen up if the area is getting hit by a lot of rain. They also will just thrive with with the heat and the cold. Drought, rain, whatever. Very vibrant white flowers.
Farmer Fred 17:45
A mounding habit, I guess, since it gets less than a foot tall.
Diane Blazek 17:49
Yeah, so it's not really bred to be one of those landscape types, a spreading Petunias, but just a nice mounding Petunia. And I'm going to generalize here. It's not true all the time, but a lot of the vegetatively propagated ornamentals, the annuals, are really bred for containers. And if you look on our website, that's what you're gonna see. You're definitely going to see the Sure Shot and how well it does in containers.
Farmer Fred 18:15
Yeah, exactly. That's a great idea for in the pictures, that if they are in containers, it's probably a good plant for containers.
Diane Blazek 18:24
Yes, and actually, on our website, now you can sort to buy which winners are best for containers, there's an option on the main page, like container friendly or container suitable, just click on that. And you're gonna see that there's a huge number of them that are very well suited for containers. In fact, some of these, we just started this three years ago, where we do trial both in ground and in containers. We do have some things that when in ground and not in containers, or vice versa, so we make note of that on our website.
Farmer Fred 18:57
All right, some other All America Selections winners for 2024. You have a geranium called, I guess it's called Big EZEE.
Diane Blazek 19:05
Yes, Big EZEE, meaning it's easy to grow. And it's a whole series. This series is vegetatively propagated. But the really cool thing about this is the flower petal coloration. It's called the pink Batik. So if you think batik fabric, you know what that looks like, that will give you a visual. So it's almost like a mosaic of light pink and dark pink on each pedal, which is is just gorgeous. And the Big EZEE series is known to be easy to grow. quite durable. A lot of blooms per plant, so you're gonna get a big impact with this one.
Farmer Fred 19:49
Yeah, one judge, I noticed says that the flower put out over 100 blooms.
Diane Blazek 19:56
That was pretty amazing. Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure who stood there and counted 100, But if they make that claim, that must be one of the judges that does that counting. We don't ask them to, but some judges are just so diligent. They're like, yeah, I think this is really important. And this one had over 100 blooms. Okay, so that's wonderful.
Farmer Fred 20:16
One of my favorite plants to grow, a flowering plant to grow in the shade, in the summertime. Are Impatiens. Impatiens are very popular here in the West, for shady areas, because it's usually a nice ground cover with color that can fill in an area near a house, for example, and your impatiens winner in 2024 is called the Solar Scape Pink Jewel.
Diane Blazek 20:38
Yeah, so it not only does well in the shade, but also does well in the sun. A lot of times leaves of impatiens will get a little droopy and sad in the sun. So this one will do well in both. And there's a couple key things here. So this is an impatiens from seed. So for everybody who wants to start from seed, it's there. It also is resistant to impatience downy mildew. I know the typical Impatiens walleriana would get this downy mildew. I don't know how many years ago, it was 5, 6, or 7. It started in the East Coast. I'm not sure if it made it all the way to the west coast, but it was definitely an issue. Impatiens sales across the country just tanked because no breeder and no grower wanted to put something out there that would probably succumb to this disease. So now the breeders are coming out with some of these new series. I know “Beacon” is one of them. There's there's an XDR from Syngenta. It's another impatiens that Downy Mildew resistant. So now Solar Scape is yet another series and this one is called Pink Jewel. So it's got really vibrant pink flowers. Obviously they look like jewels. But it, too, is resistant to the downy mildew. So it's wonderful news for all of us who love inpatiens and have a lot of shady areas where we wanted to put some color, we finally have our inpatiens back.
Farmer Fred 22:07
So for those of us that have tried to grow inpatiens in the sun, the usual variety we would choose would be the New Guinea impatiens. So I guess it could be compared to that.
Diane Blazek 22:17
Yeah,I would say so. Yeah. It's kind of like a another whole species here because it's an interspecific. And I'm not sure what they crossed it. Well, I don't know. Maybe they crossed it with the New Guinea line. But it doesn't matter to me, because it's a wonderful plant.
Farmer Fred 22:33
It gets about a foot tall? Yes. But it will do well in the shade, right?
Diane Blazek 22:45
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Absolutely. I know. I know. It's it's like oh, I want this beautiful color. And unless they told me it didn't work in the shade, I was gonna be really bummed. I didn't know it will do fine.
Farmer Fred 22:52
Speaking of plants that enjoy the sun, marigolds, they're a staple in most gardens. And there is an AAS winner for 2024 that's a marigold.
Diane Blazek 23:03
Yes, it's called Siam Gold. So it tells you it's one of the gold marigolds. Basically, marigolds come in yellow, orange and gold, typically. So this is called Siam Gold globe. I mean, they almost look like those old mums that we used to use for homecoming corsages. I mean, they're big, and that's what they remind me of. But the other thing that the breeders are working on is making sure that these flowerheads, number one, are sturdy. And that they're held above the foliage. It's not going to do me much good if I have a flower that's blooming and it's covered by the foliage. So you've got these beautiful golden yellow flowers held on top the foliage on nice, sturdy stems.
Farmer Fred 23:46
I would think that would be good as a cut flower.
Diane Blazek 23:50
Yes, yes, absolutely. They're 18 to 20 inches tall. So to me that sounds like it's plenty tall to use in a cut flower.
Farmer Fred 23:58
All right, again, it's a marigold called Siam Gold.
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2024 AAS WINNERS PART 3
Now there is a plant here I do not recognize the name. I think it's probably a cross between two common plants. It is spelled p e t c h o a, Petchoa. Would that be like a Petunia and calibrachoa cross or something?
Diane Blazek 25:37
You have it? 100% Exactly right. And I actually asked the breeder literally last week. I'm like, Okay, now how exactly do i pronounce this? And it is Pet-Koah, because it's pronounced like calibrachoa. Because yes, it is a cross between a Petunia and a calibrachoa. So it kind of has the best of both worlds. Calibrachoas typically do not have to be deadheaded. They're breeding the petunias now to not have to be deadheaded. But that's one of the things that's really good about this. Petunias may have kind of a sticky feel if you're deadheading them. These do not have that sticky feel. They have a nice mounding habit. This particular one is another nice bright pink flower. It has a yellow throat on it. The flowers are not as big as Petunias, but they're not as small as a calibrachoa. So again, kind of the best of both worlds.
Farmer Fred 26:34
Alright, I have to learn now how to pronounce it. Pet-koa. Would it be for the full sun. Yes, yes. The Petchoa it's probably gonna bloom, from what, spring to frost?
Diane Blazek 26:46
Oh, yeah, yeah, it's one of those annuals that will just keep producing and a good size, you know, it's mounded, but it will spread out a little bit. So at most 12 to 16 inches tall, and then probably is going to get almost two feet wide. So you get a lot of bang for the buck with this one.
Farmer Fred 27:06
So let's talk a little bit about the process, if you will. Diane Blazek, who's the executive director for All America Selections, these plants are trialed throughout the country. And there are test gardens. And then there are as display gardens. I know, the place I'm familiar with, the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center is an AAS display garden. And there's some excellent plants in there that change all the time. So you have these display gardens throughout the country.
Diane Blazek 27:34
You're right, yeah. So we have almost 200 display gardens. And they are I mean, I'm not going to say they're in every single state. I think there's one or two states we're missing. But we're working on that. But yeah, we really want to have enough display gardens so that anyone in the public, if you're out and you're driving by this public garden, driving by a master gardener demonstration garden, you can stop there. And you can see these AAS winners. And you can see how they're actually doing in your neck of the woods. So that's why we want to have so many of them. And with our display garden, so we always say, I literally was just packing seed packets this morning, we send out these seeds to our gardens every year. So every year they get a new assortment, we also send them variety markers, so that you will know exactly what that variety name is. And just recently, thanks to COVID, everybody learned how to use QR codes during COVID. But all of our variety markers also have a QR code that will take you right to our website. And there is where you can find more information about that specific variety.
Farmer Fred 28:42
Hey, that's great, especially if you try to go to all-americaselections.org , and you forget the dash between All and America.
Diane Blazek 28:49
Yes, this is true. Unfortunately, we have a dash.
Farmer Fred 28:54
So the AAS website is: all-america selections.org. Although I think if you do an internet search for AAS winners, I think it would lead to your website.
Diane Blazek 29:06
it does lead to the website. And we own the URL aaswinners.com. So if you type in that, AAS winners.com, It directs you to all hyphen America selections.org. Because that's just too long of a name.
Farmer Fred 29:20
By the way, this is one thing that I like to tell new gardeners who are wondering and ask me what to plant, which varieties do I choose? I said, Well, you ought to go to the complete AAS winners list. It's kind of long. You have to download an Excel file, but it's going to give you the class, the variety name, the year of introduction, the type of plant. The list i goes back to 1932. So if you want to have an AAS Winner tomato garden, you could fill an acre so with the tomato plants in the AAS winners complete list.
Diane Blazek 29:53
Yeah, you're right. Some of them are now considered heirlooms. I know that some of them are no longer available. And you know, if people are like, “Oh, why can't I get that anymore?” It's like, well, it's probably been replaced by something that's much better. So you can struggle and try something from 1940 or you can take something from 2024 and know that you're gonna be a lot more successful with a lot less work.
Farmer Fred 30:16
Well, if I know tomato growers, they want to try it all.
Diane Blazek 30:19
This is true and I will not dissuade that because I think that's a great little experiment to have in your garden and then you can have your neighbors over and you can have a tomato tasting party.
Farmer Fred 30:28
It's the All-America Selections winners for 2024. We've been talking with Diane Blazek. Diane is the executive director for the All-America Selections committee, as well as the National Garden Bureau. Diane, we've talked about a lot of plants. Thanks so much.
Diane Blazek 30:44
Well, thank you for having me. You know, I kind of like to talk about plants, so anytime!
LINKS TO MORE AAS WINNERS / TUESDAY PODCAST IS BACK
Farmer Fred 30:59
If you’d like to hear about more All America Selections winners, we’ve talked several times in the past five years with Diane Blazek, of All-America Selections. For example, find out about the 2023 AAS winners in Episode 243 of the Garden Basics podcast, where we chat about a popular colorful winning salvia variety, Blue By You, a salvia that isn’t a thug and won’t overtake and dwarf the rest of your garden. For the 2022 winners, check out Episodes 168 and 169, including info about an AAS gold medal winner, the Bees Knees petunia. And in 2021, we chatted with Diane and found out about the winners for that year, including a hot pepper variety perfect for containers, the Pot-A-Peno pepper, in Episode 66. You can find those episodes wherever you listen to your podcasts or, at our home page, gardenbasics.net. Plus, we’ll have links to those episodes in today’s show notes.
And, did you know that the Tuesday edition of Garden Basics is back? Every Tuesday we will be answering listeners’ questions. Last Tuesday, in Episode 302, we answered a question about good birthday gifts for gardeners. We tallked to several Master Gardeners and got something like 11 ideas for garden tools and products that they found they just couldnt live without. It’s on last Tuesday’s podcast, Episode 302. Get the Garden Basics podcast, twice a week now, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.
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