what happened to my garden?







i remember when my garden looked like this.
i cannot tell you how happy this photo makes me.




and this too...





with the name of my blog being the gardener's cottage you'd think i might know a little about gardening right?  wrong.  otherwise i'd have never planted 5 ferns in my garden bed.
how was i to know that 5 ferns would take over everything?



this is a photo of the day i planted the five of them.
i can actually see them and i wish i could go back in time and rip them out.

  i guess i could have asked someone at the garden center or maybe read up on ferns.  but no...i just planted them.
and so now i have a fern garden.
and it ain't pretty.

if that wasn't enough i threw a lot of neglect its way this winter.

and this is what it looks like now...






we had a water meter installed and so the lawn was cut up.
















the rest of the gardens don't look much better.  every bed has foot tall weeds.










this is the service area of the garden - covered in ground cover weeds.



i obviously have my work cut out for me.

i'll save pics of the yoga garden for another time.  it's bad too.

i did my best to stay on top of the rose garden.  i pruned them all on time.
thank goodness.





so here is my plan...
i've decided that the ferns that are taking over the front bed are just going to have to stay.
it's like fighting city hall.  if i pull them out it will be a year or 2 before i can even think about re-planting.  so why not let them do their thing.  i'll try to thin them and salvage anything i can that is hiding under them.
the other bed that runs along the driveway, well i'll definitely get rid of the ferns in there because they haven't taken over yet.

i remember when there was nothing here...


i may have been better off.

i welcome all suggestions at this point.

xo
janet

52 comments

  1. janet, what do you have against ferns? I think one day of clean up and your garden will be back to it's former glory. It's supposed to look like that this time of year. I'm going to try and tackle the vinca that has taken over my garden (I think you commented last year about how in CA it's a weed--well it's a weed if VA too) and I'm going to wage war on it as soon as it warms up a bit here.

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  2. Oh no. I'm not much help, green thumb I am not. I wonder if I could get Christopher to look at this post and offer some suggestions in a comment, I'll send him the link. Because when I have garden trouble I bribe him over here with a glass of scotch and he just spouts wisdom.
    If winter ever ends I'm planning to get a new rose garden in surrounded by lavender, I can't wait!
    Good luck Janet and go easy, don't hurt your back ripping out fernery!

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  3. Janet Hate to say it but weeds and ferns look good to me at least you can see green . Here in the northeast we are covered in snow and slush, which will be dirty snow tomorrow. Spring will be here soon and I'm sure you will have your garden looking lovely! I find gardening tricky ,YOu plant but have no idea what to expect so many elements can change your results. Some years better than others. Happy gardening!!!

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  4. Arlene in MissouriMarch 19, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    Sometimes it is better with nothing. *heavy sigh* I will take a little effort but you'll get it back looking like you want. We are still waiting for spring here in Missouri.

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  5. Ferns! A few years ago I joyfully took home some ferns from my parents woodland, country home. I planted them in one of my flower beds and was so happy until...they took over! Each year I pull out as many as I can, and it is at least under control. Never will I plant another fern. I understand your misery. However, you have such a lovely spot. I am certain that with a few days of weeding, you will be good as new. Make a pitcher of iced tea and enjoy the fruits of your labor! I can't wait to see some of your gorgeous roses.

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  6. I had a similar problem with gout weed, which is sold in some nurseries. It took over the entire garden and buried other plants. I have never sprayed my lawn with chemicals and hate the idea, however the gout weed started to spread around the neighborhood. When we had the back yard redone, most of the gout weed was hauled away (you cannot pull it out as the roots go for yards under ground). I went to the nursery and they said "for heavens sake buy Roundup and kill it" There is a ban on Roundup here and the nurser said you can use it for invasive plants only. So I did. Shamefully spritzing the garden when no one was looking (I had the been the "au Naturel" gardener of the neighborhood) and finally I am rid of it. If you hate the ferns you should get rid of them. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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    1. Raz, I have the same problem with that awful plant. Roundup was my weapon of choice too. Janet, all I can say is yuck on the ferns.
      xo

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  7. I'll admit it looks a tad shaggy right now but it's early yet even for CA. A good raking and a bit of grass seed will do wonders for the lawn area. Edging the borders, a sharp spade driven down vertically 4"-6" all along the edges, will stop the spread of the lawn into the borders and help give them a clean, crisp, defined look. And now for the tough part.........I'd rip out every last one of the ferns in the front flower borders. Nothing against ferns in general. They're a great plant that can create a lovely cool, tranquil effect but are perhaps better suited in your yoga garden. If I read between the lines of your post correctly, you really would rather have the garden back the way it looked in the first pic. Ripping the ferns out will be a lot of hard work, but remember how liberated and light you feel after getting rid of other things in your house and wardrobe? The same holds true in the garden. After the raking, edging, and ripping the ferns out, just cut everything else left back a bit and let it do it's thing for the rest of the season this year. You can always mulch or add a pot of annuals to the empty spots. I think you'll be surprised how the other plants will fill in once they don't have to compete with the ferns. My two cents anyway. :-)

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    1. such great ideas. you are right...i really do want to rip them out. and i didn't know that about the spade stopping the lawn invading the borders. thanks!
      ps - is your last name stewart? :)

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    2. lol Not at all. I do garden but my borders actually look worse than yours. Last summer was so hot and humid here on Cape Cod that I ended up sitting in the shade way more than I gardened. The borders are SUCH a disaster. The only plus side (for the moment anyway) is that they are covered with snow so I can't see the mess. As far the edging goes, they make tools for such things that you can find here http://www.gardentoolcompany.com/lawn-edger-with-wood-handle-by-dewit-tools/ They're a bit easier to use than a spade but it works just as well if you already have one. It slices the roots of the grass which tend to spread horizontally a few inches below the surface. It's best done 2-3 times per season. Of course I'm lucky if I can get my husband to do it once............

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    3. That first comment was by me also. Published under my "real" name. As you may guess, I'm kinda new at leaving comments and blogging.

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    4. Fiddlestyx,
      I live on the Cape too. ;)

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    5. Fiddlestyx,
      I live on the Cape too. ;)

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  8. Interesting, my ferns have stayed where they are for about 130 years, your climate must be making them thrive.
    It looks good to me, it's all green and bushy, I'm looking at muddy clay soil, and bare everything.

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  9. It's so interesting how different out perspectives are. I simply love photo number four with your clumps of ferns. I adore spreaders in my garden and embrace plants with a strong will to live. Plants that thrive on my neglect and no water and a delight. But it's a lot like curly hair versus straight hair. Women with one kind always want the other. One idea might be to expand the current beds. Dig a trench or place a rock/edger barrier between the ferns and other plants that you rescue from under them and place out in front. This way your ferns would make a pretty green backdrop to your other plants. Best of luck!

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  10. Dear Janet,

    I agree with Martha. Ferns are pretty in pots, but they will keep getting bigger and become more and more of a problem. I say take them all out. To make the task less daunting, try tackling one measured off section per week. Get it completely cleaned out, then move on to another section. The beautiful colors you had in your first picture put a smile on my face.

    Another idea about controlling the edges of your lawn is to install the flexible edging that comes on rolls. You make a groove with a flat nosed shovel, then insert the edging down into the ground and only a rolled edge remains visible. We have used this in our yard and it works great. Do it on a warm day so that the sun can soften it up and then it is easier to unroll.

    If you want to speed up the process of the grass filling in where the water line was installed, just sprinkle some rye grass seed and in 10 days you'll have grass popping up.
    We just bought a 40lb bag at Home Depot for 40.00.

    All the best,
    Caroline

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  11. I can't tell what type of ferns these are, but some are invasive ( like the dreaded goutweed). If you have an area you want to eliminate them from, try yanking them up or trimming them down, cover with a lot of newspaper ( like 10 sheets deep) and then cover with some suitable mulch. You can put pots of annuals on top for the season it will take to eliminate the unwanted foliage.

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  12. Well I would love to come over and help - I love weeding! My garden issue was planting mint in the ground. Insidious weed, though I still love it...

    You have had such a busy winter, that it is not wonder, so be gentle with yourself!

    Thought of you this morning, made my son a vegan chocolate cake for his birthday with beets! It is yummy! now off to find a vegan frosting recipe!

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  13. Your garden still looks way tidier and more inviting than ours does after a week or backbreaking work! Not that there's any chance of that, it's March and it's still snowing! x

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  14. I feel your pain. It looks a bit daunting but I am in the camp of digging out all the ferns salvaging what you can and starting again.
    My BFF got rid of pesky weeds by spraying them with a solution of pickling vinegar and water. Not toxic to the environment but it burns the weeds. Because it is so early in the season if you get to this job soon you will be delighted to see what a beautiful garden you'll have in a few months.
    I also suggest that you hire some strong students and have a work bee so you do not hurt your back.
    Container plants can be widely used as fillers so that you can be happy when you look at some bare spots. I used hydrangeas this way when I had some very large overgrown bushes removed. I am very fond of the lime lights as they are a soft shade of lime and creamy flop top heads.

    Good luck Janet!
    XO

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  15. Hi Janet,

    I know it kills me too seeing my yard the way it is right now...talk about overwhelmed! I too got my roses pruned and was just getting ready to divide some Cannas and Alstroemeria that were taking over my flower bed when all hell broke loose around here with my in-laws. Our front yard looks pretty good but we have almost an acre so in the back and along our driveway there are weeds everywhere.

    Today I finally have a day at home, and I spent 2 hrs. this a.m. just pulling weeds out of the cracks in the asphalt in front of our house! Now I have to go out and put Round up on those cracks. On top of that I was even pulling my neighbors weeds because they are huge and have gone to seed and right up against our property!

    My husband and I went for walk the other day and I saw so many homes with weeds in front so I came home feeling much better! :)

    Hope your time in Utah has dwindled down and your son is doing well, and that you can resume working on your garden. I know you will get it back in shape very soon.

    Linda
    xo

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  16. It is amazing how that long growing season in California can really take over...I have no doubt that it will be looking beautiful again in no time. I know this is a time when we wish we had the powers of Samantha (or Bewitched), but since we don't ....I guess the process is part of the enjoyment. I say this because I have quite a little project ahead of me which is currently resting under a bed of snow from last night storm. Keep us posted as you go along!
    xo
    annie

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  17. My entire front yard is an explosion of Shasta Daisies every Spring and then I have perennials planted everywhere for color throughout the seasons. I was given Goose Neck plants which I thought were so lovely and adored their white flowers UNTIL they invaded the whole yard. So last summer I dug them all out. Then, I suddenly couldn't stop. I dug up everything and moved all the plants to the single bed running along side the driveway. I want GREEN, I want simple.
    I can see some plants struggling to emerge that I obviously missed and I plan on killing them with vinegar. If vinegar doesn't work, I'll head out for some Round-Up. I agree. I want my yard to reflect my goal of simple and clean. Good Luck!

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  18. hi girlfriend! It is snowing as I type- looks like the farmhouse is in the middle of a snow globe! 14" so far! I think after this I might? be ready for spring, but for now I am loving it- so pretty! Now, to the ferns... dig 'em up. They will only continue to spread until your entire yard is ferns. You'll be pulling ferns forever if you don't, and they'll win;) A rock border or an "English" edge (which is the simple 4-6" trench between the lawn and the bed will NOT keep them from taking over and please NO plastic anything in the yard:)gasp! Not all ferns are bad- look for "clumping ferns" and you won't have this problem. There are a lot of plants (like liriope for example) that have both clumping and spreading varieties and it is so important to buy the right kind for your garden. I once heard that a weed is any plant you don't like! If you don't like them, don't let them live there! I bet you'll have it whipped into shape in no time!
    xxoj.

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    Replies
    1. i know i'm gonna have to dig them up. i just know it.

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  19. One more thing...I noticed your pretty tree roses. Our neighbors that passed away across the street had beautiful ones in the front yard. The house was gutted recently and so were the roses. A neighbor even told the construction workers beforehand that they would be happy to take them since it appeared they were going to be removed. They just threw them out anyway! How wasteful.

    Linda
    xo

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  20. I did not have a good experience with ferns either...I planted them along both sides of the front walkway and after a couple of years, they grew into each other and covered my sidewalk. I got a letter from the city demanding that I remove them. I dug about 5 of them out and ended up paying a lawn service to do the rest. They had the strongest roots I had ever seen! But I like the look of yours. But they do keep spreading. I'm just envious that your yard looks that good. After 6 months of snow mine looks tortured. I'm sure you will get that yard looking beautiful and weedfree in no time. :)

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    1. sarah i'll prob have to hire someone to help me too. boo.

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  21. Shape the lawn & beds. Stronger geometry, aka historical, is better with your cottage.

    Use mostly evergreen flowering shrubs & evergreen groundcovers in repetition.

    Site your focal points on axis with main views from inside the house, or the peak of the gable.

    Where do you want to sit in the bench and look back at your perfect cottage? With a glass of wine at dusk and the lites on inside.

    Your garden is a Faberge egg of perfection. All of the above seems boring except history proves it true repeatedly, plus if you are honest about wanting low maintenance it also holds true.

    Pick a trinity of evergreen shrubs for different seasons of flowers, pollinator habitat is crucial too. And most of your canopy/understory trees, ceiling, seem to already exist. The evergreen shrubs will be your walls, the groundcovers your floor. Now accentuate the entries, foyer, living room in the garden design.

    You have some really good looking hardscape items already.

    I adore small gardens but know 200 acres are easy in comparison.

    Your front garden is probably already in a picture in one of the books inside your cottage.

    One client had a collection of French prints inside her upstairs landing. Exactly what I used for the pattern of her back garden design. She was thrilled. So was I. Easy to nail it !

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

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    1. i was hoping you'd chimme in dear tara. when you say shape the beds to be stronger what do you mean?

      and flowering evergreens are def what i'm going with.

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  22. hmmm...
    i really like the lush, unruly beauty of those ferns.

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    1. my giant puppy is busy digging the holes for me to plant them! : )

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  23. Such a beautiful garden, I'm sure you can restore it to its former glory. You certainly have your work cut out for you Janet, although I would give plenty of money for the opportunity to garden anywhere right now. It is still a couple of months away here and everything is under snow. I kill dandelions on the brick walkway with boiling water, perhaps you could take that to the ferns. Very easy, low cost and environmentally friendly. Except for the ferns environment of course.

    When I am gardening I often remember your post about pruning roses, that it is "meditation in motion", or something like that. It's a very pleasant thought.

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    1. you know today i kept thinking that. where would i rather be at this very moment? i couldn't think of any better place. gardening is a moving meditation. thanks for that reminder. xo

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  24. In total agreement with 'for the love of a house'...til them up, pull out each and every one of them...they are beast and they will overtake everything...I would rather have fresh bare beds with new mulch in them, than and overkill of ferns...But it must be done now...You can do it...with a bit of help, of course. Good look! You won't regret it.

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  25. Ahhh this is an opportunity, not a death sentence :) funny with plants how weed/invasive/adored change from gardener to gardener. What if you 1) mow the shit out of the ferns 2) cover them with heavy layers of newspaper, then mulch. [newspaper is a great organic way to choke out weeds/rogue ferns and adds a lot of carbon to the soil] 3) move around a few containers to sit atop the mulched-over ferns and enjoy some annuals in containers this season while the ferns lose their grip?

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  26. I have the opposite situation. All my ferns have died. Perhaps we could merge, and emerge stronger:). I have faith in your skills.

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  27. Hi Janet, I know exactly what you are going to have to go through. When I was in high school, here in the OC, my mom had the most beautiful cutting garden...until...she planted sword fern. They multiply by runners that are like wires, they travel in and out, over and under EVERYTHING. They can only be contained in a separate pot. They have to be destroyed by Round-up or Fire. You can get a flame-weed tool and try to burn them out if you don't want to use toxic material. You will never be able to pull them out to any satisfaction. I have had a couple of older homes that had them in raised planters and I just left them in those areas and interspersed them with potted seasonal color like azaleas or calla-lilies.
    They should come with a big warning label! I think they are prehistoric, like cockroaches but vegan!
    I with your garden well...xoxo, Chris

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  28. In favor of ferns. We planted one five gallon container of ferns on our huge hillside The ferns have now taken over the ivy and the whole hillside is covered in ferns. It's acutally quite beautiful.

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  29. I loved your garden back in the day!!! But I agree- you can't fight them- I have learnt to just go with it these days.

    What with all the rain and pestilence...I've had to adapt. !

    My kid turns 2 on Friday CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?????

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  30. also you probably don't love poison as much as I do, but it's always an OPTION.

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  31. You did not deserve this state of mess. Who eats fern? Maybe a pet with fern on its diet is an option?

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  32. Hi Janet, rather than using Roundup, try a "natural" herbicide...horticultural vinegar, available in most "boutique" garden shops (have never found it at Lowe's or the big box stores, but I try to patronize the mom and pop shops). Some vinegar has molasses added as an extra insurance that it will stick to the leaves of the unwanted plant. If you get at least four hours of sun, the vinegar should do the trick. I also spray or drench the mound of particularly pernicious weeds. You are not adding a chemical to the soil that way and the vinegar will not cause the toads to mutate into hermaphrodites...which is what Roundup has been proven to do to amphibians. Good luck.

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  33. Where is the gardener that lives within that cottage?
    pve

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  34. I am just like you. Mine is so bad I don't know where to start. If you find a secret (like little elves that come in the middle of the night to do all the work) please let me know. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

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  35. N.B. I don't expect this tome to be posted.
    I found your blog because I am so depressed looking out at the yard/garden. Leave it to me to have saved the photographs of the yard and garden as it was at it's glory to s small size so that I can barely see them. but I can see them well enough. This is more of a True Confessions sort of post than anything else.

    I do not take care of things. Many lawn decorations, including tables, planters, benches, did not get stored properly. I had gotten them for free. (That's not why I didn't take care of them). Those items are irreplaceable. You can't buy them - well, you could buy them, or have them made, for a whole lot of money.

    Naw - I don't feel like adding more misery. Factors that played into the mess: Neighbor tree grew and cast a lot of shade on much of the garden. I've been moving those plants out into the sun every year, but not far enough; they're staying short. They had been magnificent. The earth's axis tilted. Well, it did, and it made a difference. I'd also like to blame the installation of Smart Meters. Not on this home, but everywhere else, with a transmitter on a pole nearby. I know about the bee disease, but the garden had been full of honeybees and bumblebees, and now I see maybe 3 honeybees on the first warm days and then they're gone. Bumblebee population is down, too, even though they happily live in the walls of this old shingled house.

    Every wildflower that is native here has been allowed to grow. Plenty of naturalization. Plenty of pollen. (Also, the birds have left). I was growing big and many pumpkins from seed in a patch where I had thrown spent kitty litter. With compost, I can get perhaps three small pumpkins.

    The metal arbor I'd purchased very cheaply, for $10, self-destructed. This is a yard that needs an arbor. What a difference it made. (I see you have one, too). Unbelievable difference without it.

    Self-seeding non-wildflower plants stopped reseeding. Not even marigolds will grow well now. No calendulas. No Echinacea. And I made sure those seeds went into the soil. It isn't as if the spaces went unattended. Organic material was put into the soil. It is as if it is dead to anything but the wild asters. I don't get it.

    I also messed up by making the one garden plot larger. It wasn't big to begin with, but I had a sense of what it would look like. That's the other thing: it is as though all creativity has vanished. To say the yard and garden are reflecting my state of mind and heart would be too easy, although there isn't much separating the two.

    Also lost was a small florist business but the fellow also grew plants and sold them very inexpensively. How many plants does one need to be able to choose from? What he had was just right, and right for the region. Everything worked. He retired. There is a huge nursery/garden center down the road a ways. Everyone goes there. I tried. I thought I'd lose my mind for all the varieties - and the expense - and the place isn't even decent enough to offer coffee - even for sale - anywhere. (I think they want to punish customers for buying from them? I mean - set up a water cooler or a tap to drink from at least).

    Anyway, I look at your original garden and see how the placement of things made it work, and how with the new addition, something was thrown off. The "rightness" of it was thrown off. That's what happened here, too. In your case, you wouldn't think that it was the addition of the ferns that did it, and I don't think it was.

    Well, it is three years later. I hope your garden has righted itself.

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    Replies
    1. in regards to my garden, it was the ferns. they are invasive and overtook everything. i've made peace with them tho and i'm happy with the way things are. nothing stays the same right? thanks for you comment and i hope you find peace and wellness with what is. xo

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kindness is never out of style.

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