Sunday Dinner: Accomplishments

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The resolve to accomplish your goals is what counts.

If you earnestly put your mind to something,

your brain, your body, your environment-

-everything-

-will start working toward achieving that end. 

Daisaku Ikeda

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“I am only one, but I am one.

I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

And because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

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Edward Everett Hale

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“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do

if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

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Ronald Reagan

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“Do the best you can in every task,

no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time.

No one learns more about a problem

than the person at the bottom.”

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Sandra Day O’Connor

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“It’s no use saying, “We are doing our best.”

You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

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Winston S. Churchill

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“To accomplish great things,

we must dream as well as act.”

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Anatole France

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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“If you can’t do great things, Mother Teresa used to say,

do little things with great love.

If you can’t do them with great love,

do them with a little love.

If you can’t do them with a little love,

do them anyway.

Love grows when people serve.”

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John Ortberg

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WPC: Rare Beauty

August 20, 2016 Butterflies 010

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Butterflies visit our gardens for just a few weeks of the year.  These delicate, colorful creatures float from flower to flower on warm summer days.  Their presence brings our garden to life. 

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Certain butterflies grow more rare, each passing year, in the United States.  The chemical assault on butterflies, at all stages of their life cycle, have decimated their numbers.  Herbicides destroy  their habitat and host plants.  Pesticides, often designed to kill other insects, also kill many adult butterflies and their larvae.

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Organic  gardeners can provide an oasis of safety for butterflies to lay their eggs, for their larvae to grow, and for adults to feed along the path of their migration.  We consciously designed a butterfly friendly certified Wildlife Habitat to help support butterflies at all stages of their life cycle.

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We plan for the appearance of the first spring butterflies returning from their migration, and have nectar rich flowers blooming to greet them.

We grow  the favored trees, herbs and perennials needed by growing Monarch and swallowtail caterpillars.  And we fill our garden with nectar plants to fuel the adults for their long flight south each autumn.

Lantana, the flowers they are feeding on today, proves their absolute favorite.  Its blooms attract butterflies like no other!  Lantana blooms prolifically until killed by the first heavy frost in early winter.

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Swallowtail butterfly beauties, which have grown alarmingly rare in recent years, fill our garden on summer days like today.  I counted at least six individual swallowtails feeding as I worked in the garden this morning.

This makes us happy, to see our garden come alive with butterflies; their flight from flower to flower showing us that all of our gardening efforts have a greater purpose.

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As gardeners across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America each create safe havens for butterflies, and other migrating wildlife, on their own properties; we can hope the butterfly population will recover.

My great dream is that populations of these exquisite creatures will rebound.  Their appearance no longer a sighting of rare beauty…..

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 014

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Rare

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 022

Feed Them, But Will They Come?

June 18, 2015 bees 026

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As I wander around our garden, watching for pollinators to photograph, I notice the quiet.  Where is the hum and buzz I’ve grown accustomed to in other summers?

The feast is laid, but there are very few guests today.

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June 18, 2015 bees 024

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We began work on our “Butterfly Garden” during our first spring in this new garden.  We constructed a huge raised bed and populated it with butterfly bushes, roses, Zinnias, and various herbs.

We delighted in watching the constant activity of butterflies, hummingbird moths, hummingbirds, and varies sorts of bees, wasps, and flies.   This is great entertainment for the newly retired!

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June 17, 2015 pollinators 007~

And every year since, we have expanded the offering of nectar rich flowers.  Our “Butterfly Garden” now extends from the street to the ravine.  We’ve developed areas to attract and sustain these flying creatures throughout our property.

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Thyme

Thyme

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We garden organically, without harmful pesticides; we provide habitat, sources of water, and host plants.

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Asclepias, a host plant for Monarchs which also provides a long season of nectar, grows in our new bog garden.

Asclepias, a host plant for Monarchs which also provides a long season of nectar, grows in our new bog garden.

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We plant a variety of nectar rich herbs to sustain the pollinators in all parts of our garden.  We also choose flowers, like Fuchsia, Zinnia, Lantana and Canna, to appeal to nectar loving insects and hummingbirds.  We allow nectar rich shrubs and trees, like the Mimosa, to grow on the edges of the garden.

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Still, we are thrilled to spot a single butterfly visiting our garden.

I realize it is yet early in the season.  I understand that there will be more activity as summer progresses.  Yet, we spotted our first butterfly in April this year.  Why are there still so few?  And where are the bees?

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This is a disturbing mystery for us.

We follow the news closely, and know it has been a difficult time for wildlife across the planet.  Rogue weather systems have disrupted normal migration patterns and habitat.  Chemical leaks, oil tankers bursting into fiery infernos, radiation in the Pacific, eruptions and climate change all make it that much harder for wild things to sustain themselves generation to generation.

This is a global challenge.  What can one family, gardening on a little suburban lot, do to make a positive difference?

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Tiny new dragonflies hover around the Comphrey.

Tiny new dragonflies hover around the Comphrey.

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I wrestle with this question a lot, actually.  Maybe this issue helps fuel my passion for photographing and writing about our garden.  I know it drives our decisions about how to manage the garden.

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We leave these tree Hibiscus, 'Rose of Sharon' because so many pollinators visit them to feed.

We leave these tree Hibiscus, ‘Rose of Sharon’ because so many pollinators visit them to feed.  They self-seed prolifically.  A fairly weedy plant, their flowers are beautiful each summer.

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I know the butterflies are free, and freely fly from our garden to another.  In the next yard, they may meet up with deadly chemicals sprayed by the lawn company our neighbors hire.

No matter how organically we manage our garden, the environment remains full of pesticides used by others, and barren of many of the native plants they seek to raise their young.  We don’t plan to string up netting and keep our beauties safely here.

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July 2014, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys the Echinacea.

July 2014, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys the Echinacea.

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At some point, most of us wise up and live with ‘The Serenity Prayer’ in mind.

And in accepting those things we can not change, we think carefully and courageously about the change we can instigate… both in ourselves, and in others.

And so here are the simple things we can do, and we have committed to do:

1.  Refrain from the use of pesticides and herbicides.  Find organic controls for problems of infestation.

Tiger Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed, July 2014

Tiger Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed, July 2014

2.  Leave parts of our property ‘wild’ to provide shelter and habitat for a variety of animals.

3. Allow many ‘native’ plants, which provide food and habitat for pollinators and birds, to grow on our property.

4.  Select most ‘new’ plants we bring to the garden for their value to feed and sustain wildlife.

5.  Provide sources of water.

A butterfly shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee.  August 2014

A butterfly shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee. August 2014

6. Leave end of season clean-up until spring, so wildlife may continue to use available resources through the winter.

7. Learn as much as we can about the wildlife who visit our garden in order to better care for them.

 

“Everything takes time.

Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”

David Foster Wallace

We hope that by offering a safe and supportive environment, pollinators and other wildlife will find safe haven in our garden.

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Parsley offers nectar when it blooms, but many butterflies lay their eggs on parsley, also.  It is a good host plant to sustain caterpillars.

Parsley offers nectar when it blooms, but many butterflies lay their eggs on parsley, also. It is a good host plant to sustain caterpillars.

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For every generation of butterfly and bird, bee, lizard, turtle and dragonfly that we can allow to grow here, we will contribute in some small way to their continued survival.

This is a tiny effort, but many of us all making this tiny effort can partner to preserve these beautiful and ecologically important creatures for another year; another generation.

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These catmint plants attract many pollinators when they bloom.  By cutting them back, they can be kept blooming for several months.  Our cat believes we plant them just for him....

These catmint plants attract many pollinators when they bloom. By cutting them back, they can be kept blooming for several months. Our cat believes we plant them just for him….

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We look forward to each spring and summer when our garden is filled with the buzzing of bees and the ballet of feeding butterflies once again.

And until then, we will continue to celebrate and appreciate each individual who finds their way to our Forest Garden.

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June 18, 2015 bees 022

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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June 27, 2014 garden 005

For more information, please explore:

Pollinator Week June 15-21, 2015

‘June Gap’ in butterflies explained, by Butterfly Conservation

Our Pals, the Pollinators, by Tina Huckabee

“Miss Huff” Perennial Lantana

Perennial Lantana, 'Miss Huff'

Perennial Lantana, ‘Miss Huff’

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One morning last week my neighbor called to ask about the plants blooming along the street at the very front of the garden.  My neighbor is an artist and a gardener.  He and his wife have filled their bit of forest with Daffodils, Rhododendron, Azaleas, Magnolias, and lovely tall trees.

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September 8 2013 lantana 002

“Miss Huff” growing below Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera.  The Wax Myrtle branches are covered in berries, nearly ripe for the birds.

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He had noticed our bright orange and yellow flowers, and wanted to inquire about them since they were untouched by our shared herd of deer.

As you might imagine, few things make me happier than someone inquiring about beautiful plants.  I was happy to tell him all about our “Miss Huff” Lantana, and invite him to stroll about the garden to see the rest of our Lantana shrubs.

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"Miss Huff", growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

“Miss Huff”, growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

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We ended up going to Homestead Garden Center the next day and filling the car with nearly a dozen gallon pots of blooming Lantana for his garden.  The Pattons had all of their Lantana on the “end of season sale”, and so for a small investment my neighbor bought all the Lantana camara he could plant.  I’m looking forward to next summer when the beautiful golden orange flowers extend across the front of both of our properties.

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Bandana White Lantana.

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Most Lantana plants are treated like tender perennials in Virginia, and the tags generally say they are hardy in Zones 9-12.  “Miss Huff” is a cultivar reliably hardy here in Zone 7B.

Now, Lantana would be well worth the price and effort if they were only annuals.  They form dense, woody shrubs absolutely covered in flowers from mid-summer late into the fall.  They are the hubs of activity in our garden, attracting a constant stream of butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, bees, and song birds.  The birds find secure cover inside them and love the little berries which form once the flowers fade.

Even better, Lantana thrive in full, hot sun.  They require very little water, even in their first year.  Once established, their roots grow very deep into the Earth, keeping them well-supplied, even in drought.

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Nothing seems to faze them.  I’ve never seen one with any fungus or disease.  It is rare to even see a tiny hole in a leaf.  In fact, the leaves are toxic to most animals.  This has created a problem in tropical areas where Lantana camara has naturalized, as livestock who graze on them frequently grow ill and die.  South Americans have found ways to use the leaves medicinally to treat ulcers, and extracts made from the leaves are antibacterial and are used to treat other conditions as well.

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Bandana "Cherry Sunrise" Lantana

Bandana “Cherry Sunrise” Lantana

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I learned about Lantana many years ago when I first planted them in my Virginia Beach garden, on a bank at the front of the yard in full sun.  Once the leaves finally fall off in early winter, the woody skeleton of the plant is left. The birds dart in and out of the branches and peck at the remaining seeds throughout the winter. That first winter I didn’t know what to expect from them, but left them in place.  I trimmed them back to a few inches when the daffodils bloomed, planted some sort of other annual around their stumps, and didn’t give them much thought…. Until, one day I realized there was new growth coming from the stump and branches.

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Several years old now, these "Bandana" series Lantana grew to over 6' last summer. They definitely exceed the 24" of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

Several years old now, these “Bandana” series Lantana grew to over 6′ last summer. They definitely exceed the 24″ of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

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Within a few weeks the stumps had disappeared beneath vigorous new branches, and by mid-June they were blooming again.  Lantana are actually grown as shrubs further south, and grow larger and more vigorous each year.  In some tropical areas of the world, Lantana camara are considered an invasive species.  Their seeds are spread far and wide by the birds who feast on them.  This has not become a problem in the United States, although they have naturalized along the Southeast and Gulf coasts.

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Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

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Moving to Williamsburg, one USDA Zone colder than Virginia Beach, I was concerned that I’d lost the joy of perennial Lantana.  When I talked to Andrew Patton out at Homestead, he assured me that “Miss Huff” had proven reliably hardy here in Williamsburg.

The front edge of our property is a very tough spot to garden.  The dirt is hard packed and poor.  The deer graze freely.  There is only a narrow patch of dirt between the road and a thick hedge of Japanese Boxwood and Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, with established roots which soak up what water and nutrients nature might provide.  It is a long hike with a watering can, and too far for the hose.  Whatever grows in this strip must be mostly self-reliant.

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Lantana, "Confetti"

Lantana, “Confetti”

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So I bought enough “Miss Huff” plants, in little 4” pots, to plant in all of the open spaces between the shrubs along the street.  It was more an attempt to protect the little Camellia bushes I’d planted the year before from the deer’s grazing than a serious effort at flower gardening.  It took quite a bit of digging to break up the soil enough to even plant them, but I did, gave them a little mulch of compost, watered them, and waited to see what would happen.

That first year, the answer is, “Honestly, not much.”  They did bloom, but didn’t put on much growth.  Every year since, the “Miss Huff” Lantana have gotten bigger and more colorful.  All they get from me is a little topdressing of compost from time to time, a sprinkle of Osmocote or Plant Tone in the spring, and a little water in drought.  I cut them back hard when the daffodils come up and then wait for the show.

Our first spring in this garden, I ordered starts of Lantana from The Garden Harvest Supply Company for our new butterfly garden and the main flowerbed in the front yard.  I ordered for color and size, not for hardiness, and frankly I expected them to die over the winter.  I just wanted something drought tolerant that would fill the bed, attract some butterflies and require very little care during the season.  That first year I ordered some of the Carolina Series and some of the Bandana series plants.  At a little less than $3 per plant, they were a huge bargain.

The following spring, I tried to “pull out” some of the dead looking plants in the front bed to replace them.  Well, that was a huge problem.  You see, in just one summer, the roots had gone deep and wide.  It was like trying to dig up a tree with a trowel.  I got one or two out, then gave up.  In just a few weeks… You guessed it… there was new growth on the remaining plants.  They weren’t supposed to survive here, but they did.

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This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

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Lantana leaf out relatively late in the season.  Patience is required.  The woody stumps aren’t beautiful in a springtime garden.  I’ve learned to plant bulbs around them, and to fill in with Violas, snapdragons, and other spring flowers and with perennial herbs like sage or thyme.  About the time it gets too hot for the spring flowers, the Lantana will green up and begin to take off.  Eventually you realize they have taken over the bed.  I tried to establish lavender in the bed with the Lantana, but have consistently lost the lavender by late summer because they can’t compete with the Lantana for light and air.

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Lantana, 'Sunny Side Up' is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as 'Miss Huff,' one of its parents.

Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as ‘Miss Huff,’ one of its parents.

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Since then I’ve planted Lantana of different varieties all over the garden.  Anywhere there is full sun, and I need something big and bright, in goes another Lantana.  I’ve stopped even reading the tag for hardiness.

There is a trailing lavender Lantana good for hanging baskets or ground cover that is especially pretty.  It is more reliable in the ground than overwintering in a basket.  There is also a lovely creamy white Lantana I like in pots.  I’ve even discarded a seemingly dead white Lantana from its pot, only to find it blooming a few weeks later where the root ball was “planted” to fill a whole in the yard somewhere.  That plant has come back consistently for two years now.

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"Carolina Cream" Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

“Carolina Cream” Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

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If you decide to plant Lantana, just keep in mind that you might not get a huge amount of growth the first year.  The tags predict growth of about 18-24”, with usually more spread than height.  You need to water regularly until the roots have a chance to grow; and fertilize, whether with compost, Osmocote, Plant Tone, or Neptune’s Harvest.  Plenty of food and water in the first year gives you the best display of flowers.

If your Lantana over winters, its roots have established and it will be much more drought tolerant in the second and subsequent years.  Cut back hard and feed in spring.  Lantana bloom on new growth, so it is fine to cut them back to 6-10” and then let them grow new branches.  Give the plants a few inches of fresh compost, and maybe a sprinkle of Plant Tone or Rose Tone.  After that, they’re on their own.  If you need to prune them during the season to give a nearby plant a chance at survival, you won’t hurt the Lantana.

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Last August we marveled at how high our Lantana grew in the front.  We could stand beside the bed with Lantana branches towering over our heads.  We are both tall, so the Lantana grew to more than 6’ in one season.  Our blissed out butterflies don’t even mind when we come close to enjoy them.  The hummingbirds gather to share the feast throughout the day, but fly off if we approach.  Lantana brings so much life to the garden, I’m happy to introduce them to my friends.

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August 20, 2015 butterflies 011~

All photos by Woodland Gnome

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