Large shrubs for screening


Reclaiming privacy with screens & hedges

Screening off the neighbours; this has got to be one of the most common reasons behind any tree or purchase.

A uniform row of plants planted closely together, hedges comprise of any singular grouping of plants, whether that be three or 10. With so many greening alternatives to choose from depending on the situation, it is a good idea to consider purely and simply what you wish to achieve with a tree purchase rather than rushing out to buy any tree that appears to meet the bill. Try answering the following questions – how tall does the tree need to be – two, three or six metres? Does its structure need to be tight and bushy or can it be more open? Do you want it to be a flowering screen or only full at a certain time of the year? Hedges mean many things to many people, and understanding the need to hedge is important before choosing the right type of tree.
Formal versus informal
For a formal hedge it is recommended to select trees and plants with dense twiggy growth which is then constantly clipped to retain a regular shape. Clipping suppresses most of the flowers and fruits so the end result is a fluidness of foliage suitable for screens, walls and fences.
Semi formal hedges are a little more relaxed as trees and plants have been allowed to develop some flowering and fruiting wood. This type of hedge is not subjected to meticulous clipping like its formal counterpart and the end result is something that still does the job while retaining some of its own natural personality.
At the other end of the spectrum are informal hedges where the clipping of any tree or plant is done very infrequently. Great for driveways, large walls and fence lines, this row of trees is literally just kept tidy, allowing them to exhibit all of the natural branching and flowering characteristics of their species.
As most hedges are planted for privacy, the year-round green foliage provided by evergreens make a logical and natural selection. However, don’t underestimate the visual and colour interest created by a deciduous hedge line. The main advantage of using deciduous trees and shrubs for a screen or hedge is letting in winter light, but many exhibit different features in all four seasons; beautiful bare branches and twigs in the winter, flowers in the spring, a thick summer screen with shade and protection from hot winds in summer and the rustic charm of autumnal foliage.
Some traditional evergreen options to consider include:
Waterhousea floribunda ‘Whisper’
Acmena smithii ‘Firescreen’
Syzygium ‘Hinterland Gold’
Syzygium AATS PBR ‘Pinnacle’ TM

Syzygium SAN01 ‘Straight and Narrow’ TM

Cuppressocyparis ‘Leightons Green’
Pittosporum ‘Wonder Screen’
Photinia robusta
Prunus lusitanica
Some more contempory options are:
Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’
Magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ PBR
Elaeocarpus reticulatus
Callistemon ‘Dawson River Weeper’
The breadth of trees for this purpose is growing all the time (pardon the pun) as nurseries offer a greater palette and landscapers get more adventurous with use and selection.

Modern, fast growing plants for hedges and screening

Metrosideros ‘Fiji Fire’

This tough performer is excellent for hedges up to 3 metres tall. It is not fussy about soil and tolerates wind, drought and seaside conditions, including salt spray. It prefers good drainage and wetter conditions over summer for best flowering.

Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica)

This small, flowering shrub (2m tall) makes a beautiful, low-growing hedge. Sweetly-perfumed flowers appear in spring, followed by bluish-black berries. Handles difficult situations including drought, frost and seaside conditions. Prune to shape in summer after flowering.

Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum)

This hardy, fast-growing shrub is ideal for hedges 1.3m to 3m tall and will grow in full sun or part shade. Highly fragrant flowers appear in spring. Adaptable to most soils, but dislikes very heavy clay. Water well until established, after which time it will be drought tolerant. Tolerates light frosts. Plants can live over 40 years in good conditions.

Starry Night (Leptospermum obovatum selected form)

This fast growing, dense weeping shrub features fine, deep purple foliage growing up to 2.5m tall and 1.8m wide, perfect for hedging and screening. Snow white flowers appear in late spring and summer. Great for a cool temperate to subtropical climate and even second line coastal conditions in a full sun or light shade position. This native is adaptable in most soils but can be frost sensitive.

Acacia ‘Limelight’

Acacia ‘Limelight’ is a compact native shrub (60cm–1m tall) with outstanding lime green, pendulous foliage all year round. Dry tolerant and hardy, it will grow in full sun or part shade in most well-drained soils or pots. Feed with Searles Robust Native. Tolerates light frosts. Also look for the grafted version (right) for more formal applications.

Syzygium ‘Big Red’

Plant this medium growing Lillypilly for its large glossy

leaves, dark crimson new growth, excellent topiary and hedging properties. Hardy, frost and dry tolerant once established. Responds well to shaping. 4m H x 2.5m W. Plant in full sun to part shade with Searles Garden Soil Mix. Prune to shape during early spring to encourage dense habit.

Bambinos® Bougainvilleas

Bambinos® are without doubt the most versatile Bougainvilleas on the market, there are selections for any application most of them flowering non-stop. As garden plants, the displays are flamboyant and unbeatable. They can be grown as trimmed garden shrubs, as hedges and standards through pruning to establish the height you need, as pergola plants, espaliers and ground cover in larger areas where foot traffic needs control. Bambino have few pests and diseases. All Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders, Bambinos are the same. Feed with Searles Hibiscus & Bougainvillea Food for better flower displays.

Port Wine Magnolia (Magnolia figo)

This handsome shrub (up to 3m tall) bears small, but heavily scented blooms every spring with a delicious, ‘bubblegum’ fragrance. Its slow growth means it could take some time to reach the desired height, but it will also be easy to control once established. Give it full sun or part shade in a well-drained soil. Water well until established.

Cinnamon myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia)

This hardy shrub (to about 3m) is native to the dry rainforests of eastern Australia and bears a profusion of cream-coloured blossoms in early summer. A close relative of the highly fragrant lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), its leaves have a sweet, spicy fragrance when crushed. Water it well when young to help it establish and prune annually for a compact shape.

Photinia Robusta

This hardy and vigorously growing shrub can grow up to 5 metres, but if pruned makes a thick glossy hedge in full sun. Photinias deep fiery red new growth makes them an attractive choice for garden colour. Clusters of dainty white flowers adorne this shrub during spring. Frost tolerant.

Pittosporum Tenuifolims

There are many varieties of the evergreen Pittosporum tenuifolims which are ideal for creating dense hedging structures. Their small leaves varying in leaf shape and colours including variegated make them popular for fine classical hedges and garden colour. Popular varieties of choice for fast and hardy growing are ‘Silver Sheen’, ‘Ivory Sheen’ and ‘James Stirling’ all of which grow happily in a sun to part shade position. Tolerates coastal conditions.

They grow up to five metres but for a compact dense hedge, prune early and often is the best principle to keep their hedge appeal.


No-patience-needed plants

Gardeners need to be patient as they wait for trees and shrubs to bloom and hedges to grow. But do we really have to wait ages for a beautiful garden? The good news is there are fast-growing outdoor plants out there that can quickly fill up empty spaces.

Block out the neighbours

One of the first plantings most new gardeners need is for privacy. Fast-growing screening choices include shrubs, small trees and climbers, which provide the quickest cover of all and can be trained on a fence, screen or lattice. Training a climber over a small pergola in the garden can provide an area of privacy within an exposed garden while longer-term screening plants get growing. Climbers also cover unsightly structures such as sheds, walls and fences.

Size matters

Another fast way to achieve growth is to invest in mature plants. Mature plants that are already several metres high have already achieved several years of growth. Mature plants cost more than starting small but provide instant greenery. Investing in several large feature plants in addition to smaller plants gives a mature look to a new garden. As well as paying more for a large plant, it is important to be able to dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the root ball, manage the weight of a large plant and be able to care for it so that it gets established in its new location.

Plant choices

Evergreen perennial plants provide year-round leafy cover, while deciduous plants are bare in winter. Some plants are herbaceous, which means they’ll grow quickly from spring to summer but die down in autumn and winter. Annuals provide growth and colour for a season and need to be replaced, but can be the fastest and cheapest way to get instant colour. They are available as advanced plants in bloom but can also be grown from seed or seedling.

Here’s a selection of fast-growing permanent plants for almost instant coverage in your garden.

1. Star jasmine; 2. Wisteria; 3. Lilly pilly; 4. Port wine magnolia; 5. Pandorea; 6. Camellia sasanqua.


Climbing plants can cover several metres in a single season of growth. Most need a support to climb on and some need to be trained – that is, tied to a structure or directed to give coverage where it is wanted. Fast-growers include:

Bower of beauty (Pandorea jasminoides), wonga vine (P. pandorana)

These native evergreen climbers are among the fastest of all to cover a screen and have pretty pink, white or yellow flowers mainly in spring.
Sun requirements: Best in sun, but tolerate light shade.

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea Bambino Series, ‘Raspberry Ice’ and other dwarf forms)

This vigorous climber provides fast growth and vibrant colour. Large growers can scale high walls, but the compact forms are more easily managed and even grown in a container.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Evergreen, spring flowering climber with clusters of very fragrant white flowers and spot flowering in summer. Star jasmine can also be used as a groundcover.
Sun requirements: Sun or shade.

Other climbing options include jasmine, banksia rose, nasturtium (annual), wisteria, Clematis montana (cool climates only).


Tall shrubs (2-3m high and higher) can be trained as hedges or privacy screens and maintained by pruning. Shrubs take three to five years to reach full growth and are usually planted around 1m apart for hedging. Closer spacing gives a dense hedge faster, but requires more maintenance and watering.

Hedging bamboo (Bambusa multiplexa)

All bamboos are fast-growing, but select a compact clumping bamboo for fast but manageable growth.
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Lilly pilly, riberry (Acmena smithii, Syzygium luehmannii)

There are many named varieties of lilly pilly in several genera. All make excellent dense evergreen hedges for privacy and are fast growing. Prune regularly to shape and keep well watered for fast growth.
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Murraya (Murraya paniculata)

This fast-growing dense evergreen shrub has fragrant cream flowers in spring with spot flowering throughout the year.
Sun requirements: Best flowering in sun, also tolerates shade.

Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

This fast-growing dense evergreen shrub has red, pink or white flowers from late summer onwards.
Sun requirements: Best flowering in sun but also grows in part shade.

Other fast-growing evergreen options include photinia, pittosporum, port wine magnolia, dwarf conifers, sweet viburnum, hakea, grevillea and banksia.

1. Frangipani; 2. Purple fountain grass; 3. Groundcover rose ‘Flower Carpet’; 4. Lemon tree; 5. Myoporum; 6. Crepe myrtle.


The fastest groundcover of all is turf (lawngrass) but there is a range of evergreen plants to fill the bare ground between other plants as they establish. Mulch and weed bare areas until the groundcover planting is able to exclude weeds. These plants will quickly cover around 1m and many can grow bigger with time.

Boobialla, myoporum (Myoporum parvifolium)

Fast growth, fine leaves and small, white flowers in summer make this a good choice for a slope or to spill over a wall or beside a pool.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Convolvulus (Convolvulus sabiaticus)

A drought-tolerant mounded ground cover with silver foliage and small round morning glory-like flower. This is a good edging plant.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Groundcover grevillea (Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’)

This variety and other prostrate grevilleas give fast coverage of bare ground. Red flowers for much of the year.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Other fast growing groundcovers and perennials include ornamental grasses such as purple fountain grass, acanthus, Westringia ‘Flat n Fruity’, shore juniper and groundcover roses such as Flower Carpet.

Feature tree

Trees can take decades to reach maturity, but some fast-growing trees give impact, shade and some privacy in three to five years reaching around 3m high. Advanced trees are also available for instant effect.

Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indian Summer Series and other cultivars)

These deciduous trees have great garden presence with masses of pink, lavender or white flowers from late spring to autumn and autumn foliage.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Grafted flowering gum (Corymbia ‘Summer Red’ and other cultivars)

While many gum trees are fast growing, most get too big for gardens however there are compact named varieties which make rapid growth including grafted red flowering trees such as ‘Summer Red’.
Sun requirements: Full sun

Lemon tree (Citrus x limon)

All citrus trees are surprisingly fast growing and have the benefit of crops.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Other fast-growing feature trees include frangipani, native blueberry (Elaeocarpus reticulatus), wattles, native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum), banksia, evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ and other cultivars), weeping birch (cool climate only), ash trees, loquat, plums (ornamental and fruiting) and banana.

When fast-growing plants are a little too fast…

While it’s great to know that you can establish a garden quickly, this good news comes with a warning: Some fast growers can quickly outgrow their welcome, so balance fast growth with ongoing maintenance. Fast-growing plants that may become difficult to control after planting include those that sucker, spread by runners or cast lots of seed.

Top 5 Shrubs for Screening

Privacy is important in your yard or garden, and it’s great to enjoy the fruits of your labors, but you don’t always want the whole world watching while you do it! Luckily, you can plant your garden to serve as its own barrier, growing living fences around the border. These are our top 5 shrubs for screening.

1. Holly – Hollies are fantastic plants for border screens, particularly in snowy areas. Evergreen and hardy to USDA zone 5, hollies should stay green and full through the winter, also producing striking red berries. Many varieties top out at 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide, growing straight up in a way that makes a row of them perfect for a natural screen.

2. Camellia – This is an evergreen family of shrubs that can reach 10 feet tall and produces vibrant, spectacular blossoms. Camellia grows well in the sun or shade, and depending upon the variety will give you flowers in a wide range of pinks at different times throughout summer and fall.

3. Juniper – Another evergreen, juniper can grow very tall and narrow, with some varieties reaching 15 feet in height and only 4 feet in width. These plants are very drought tolerant and look great planted tightly in a row.

4. Bamboo – Although not really a shrub, bamboo is a very popular screen. Make sure to get a clumping, rather than running variety, or your screen will quickly expand into a thicket and beyond.

5. Red Twig Dogwood – This is another good choice for wintry areas. Planted close together, red twig dogwood shrubs can make for a beautiful opaque hedge as tall as 8 feet. In the winter, the leaves will drop and the hedge will thin, but you’ll be left with beautiful bright red branches all the way until spring.

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Privacy Trees and Shrubs

One of the top questions we get asked is how to use trees and shrubs to get more privacy without making your house and yard look like a fortress.

There are so many different challenges modern homeowners face, and plants can solve these problems in a beautiful way. Use plants and hardscape together to create your ultimate backyard oasis.

  • Do you want a fast way to completely screen out and block something ugly or a bad view?
  • Are you a little “too close for comfort” with a nosy neighbor?
  • Are you looking for a soft, breezy way to create a sense of separation, without sacrificing sun or sky views?
  • Do you dream of relaxing next to a live, flowering garden wall?
  • Are your guests being blown away by harsh winds at your backyard barbeques?
  • Do you live on a busy street or hear non-stop noise pollution?

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Search for Privacy Shrubs and Hedges

Hardscape Fencing Versus Plant Solutions

Hardscape fencing can be gorgeous and very effective at providing both privacy and wind protection. Of course, many HOAs and cities have ordinances that prohibit the height of fencing somewhere between 4 and 6 feet tall.

Sometimes, the best privacy solution may be a combination of hardscape and “softscape” – which means environmentally friendly live plants. Read on for details on solutions, selection, siting and spacing.

What Kind of Privacy Do You Need?

Evergreen conifers and broadleaved evergreens hold on to their foliage year round. If you have a large expanse of unsightly views, such as roadways, railroads, commercial sites, or parking lots, you’ll want to use evergreens in your privacy plan to completely screen them all the time. Adding an evergreen privacy screen in this case will add value to your property!

Evergreen plants display a huge amount of diversity in terms of form, shape and size – so study the Plant Highlight Facts on every product page to learn the height and “spread” (or width) of the plant. Evergreen trees provide wonderful color in cold weather. Evergreen trees are versatile and can be used as specimens, hedges, and privacy screens.

How can you actually use this?

In a short period of time, look what Green Giant Arborvitae can do for your property! This planting has only been in for a little over 10 years.

Even when the plants were smaller, they were trapping snow, blocking wind and unsightly views. No pruning was done. These Green Giant were allowed to grow naturally and why not? They grow to 50 feet tall and 18 feet wide with soft sprays of bright green foliage.

Now, you may want to create an effective outdoor room for summertime fun without sacrificing precious winter sunlight. In that case, use deciduous trees and shrubs, which lose their leaves in winter. These come in many varieties, and you can enjoy the added benefit of flowers which bring beautiful butterflies.

For an easy way to create an incredible outdoor room, plant ornamental trees in a row closely enough so they grow together. Crabapples, Ornamental Pears or Ornamental Cherry trees all would work to do something like this.

This photo shows a disease-resistant Red Jewel Crabapple. The homeowner loves the unbelievable pink bud-white flower cloud of bloom, followed by green and disease-free foliage all summer. Let’s not forget the ruby red fruits that are showy from late summer and persist all winter long. Show-stopping red fruit then feeds the migrating robins, cedar waxwings and many other birds in late winter and in the spring.

Plant these along a hardscape fence, or “underplant” them with smaller shrubs to achieve a complete screen from top to bottom.

Magnolias are another flowering tree that are often used as screening plants with their lower limbs allowed to fill in naturally without pruning. What a gorgeous spring flower to look forward to!

Selecting the Right Plant for Height and Width

Ok, this is a no brainer. When putting together your privacy plan, select trees that reach the right height to reach your screening goal when they’re full grown.

But here are some expert tips you may not have considered. If you’re planting along neighboring property lines, give the plant enough leeway to reach its full width without going over into the neighbor’s yard.

Please select carefully when planting under overhead power lines, or along walkways, driveways or patios. Don’t create more work for yourself! Choose the right variety that grows the right size for your space rather than having to regularly prune for size control.

Check with your local city zoning ordinances as you are planning your privacy screen or hedge to ensure you meet restrictions for height and setbacks from your property line. Special restrictions will apply to corner lots and along driveways.

Trust us, it’s not fun to finish installing a beautiful new living fence only to be told you have to move it back five feet from your lot line! It definitely pays to do your homework.

If you have specific guidelines to follow, do yourself a favor. Choose a variety that remains under the height requirements, or you’ll give yourself a lifetime task of regular pruning. Far better to work with the right plant in the first place.

Privacy for Narrow Spaces

Now, let’s say you have an upstairs window that overlooks a neighbor’s master bath. (Why do builders do that?) You might choose to selectively plant for privacy to simply block that window. Filter our plant offerings by height and width (spread) to find just the right option to solve your unique privacy challenge.

Modern plantsmen are now breeding columnar varieties that grow up tall, straight and skinny. You’ll also want something that grows fast, so a Theves Poplar or Leyland Cypress (which grows up to 4 feet a year!) may be a good choice for you.

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of room between houses. When space is tight, nice options include Sky Pencil Holly, North Pole Arborvitae or Blue Arrow Juniper. These beauties can be planted close together every two feet on center. Measure and dig the holes with uniform spacing so the center of each hole is the same distance between plant. These super skinny plants make superior privacy screens close to your patio or home with little care or maintenance.

Upright Castle Spire Holly shrubs can also be used with a seasonal prune for size control. If you are planting these in a somewhat tight space, these plants can be spaced as little as two feet up to four feet on center.

Best Trees and Shrubs for Noise Pollution

Did you know that live plants absorb sound? Plants with long needles, dense branching and lots of surface area can actually absorb a lot of sound and the ability to do so increases as the plants grow.

If you live in an area with winter snow and you’ll be planting along a road or highway, be sure to choose plants that can tolerate brackish – or salty – soil. Junipers can tolerate salt. Check with your local agriculture extension office to get their opinion on trees that perform well in your area.

How Far Apart Do I Plant It? Spacing Trees and Shrubs for Privacy

Are you looking for privacy up close to your patio, or do you need privacy for a large open area?

The amount of space you have will determine what kind of plants to use for that particular situation and the proper spacing required to get the job done.

First, look at how wide the plant you are considering using will spread.

A four foot wide plant at maturity means it will grow about two feet on either side of the main stem of the plant. Split the mature width listed on our website in half to know how far apart these plants can be planted before they would touch. If you want the plants to grow together to create a solid screen, then shorten the distance between plants by a foot.

Please note that you’ll also need to measure the width of the actual plants you are installing. If you buy larger plants, you’ll get a big head start on privacy, as you’ll plant them closer together when you first install them.

Arborvitae are excellent plants to use for screening because they can be planted closer together without the plants ruining each other. A row of tightly spaced Arborvitae become one solid mass of soft, feathery foliage from the ground up. They are very forgiving and can be pruned along the tops of the plants which will widen out the growth a bit and thicken up the quality of the growth.

Don’t Make These Mistakes When You Plant Your Privacy Fence!

You may feel a little like Goldilocks as you plan your privacy fence. Don’t plant too far apart, but don’t plant too close together, either. These Norway Spruce were planted too far apart from each other 25 or 30 years ago and they never formed a privacy screen. Instead, they appear as individual plants.

Sometimes people make the mistake of planting for privacy too far apart and the plants will never touch to form a screen of any kind. Then you would end up with a row of individual plants, not what you want.

Remember to carefully calculate half of the mature width to know when the plants would touch at maturity.

On the other hand, you’ll want to use care when spacing plants that you don’t overcrowd them. Give the plants enough room to “just” touch their neighbor. Planting too close together to an effort to achieve immediate privacy will lead to crowding between neighboring trees.

Spruce trees planted too close together will shade each other out and cause branches to die out. Ouch!

Far better to save up and spend money on buying the largest container size you can. These are older trees that have received expert care. You’ll get an immediate sense of the character of the tree and will see a big impact in your landscape. Win, win!

The Look of Uniform Privacy Fencing

If you prefer a formal look, create a privacy fence of a single variety planted in a straight line, evenly spaced. A straight line of plantings can help you to maximize the space in your yard while also giving you the privacy you desire.

You might choose to create a formal hedge using Boxwood, Yew or Privet which can be sheared every year. This works best on a level site.

Be warned, it’s going to take work to achieve perfection with this technique. You’ll need to prune regularly, and it doesn’t hurt to keep your fingers crossed that all the plants perform well in order to achieve a consistent look.

Mixed Tree and Shrub Borders Can Be Very Effective

For a more natural look, consider planting privacy trees in a slightly staggered row. These plants can also be planted a bit farther away from your home or outdoor space allowing them to attain their natural form. The space between the plants can be increased to accommodate the mature width of the plant.

Take a page out of a farmer’s windbreak by growing two rows of privacy trees. Plant fast growing trees in the back row and slower growing trees like the densely branched Spruce in the front row. When the slower growing trees reach the desired size, remove the shorter lived trees in the back row.

Use larger plants in back and include both deciduous and evergreens to make an interesting mixed privacy screen and windbreak.

Don’t forget to add color, flower and wildlife appeal in your privacy plan. Mix Lilacs in the cooler climates and Crape Myrtles in the warmer climates into evergreen fences. Birch trees have that interesting peeling bark, which shows up so well against evergreens.

Creating a “shrub border” mixed with privacy trees is a great way to create year-long interest in your yard – a perfect backdrop to fun outdoor activities. You’ll attract beneficial insects and birds with more diversity.

This is the same principle as those ancient British “hedgerows” of mixed varieties that contained livestock and delineated property boundaries.

Map out your design on paper first and use a repeating pattern for good results. Remember, plants look most natural in odd numbered clustered groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9. Look for opportunities to add interest that you’ll enjoy from your living room or deck.

Tough, Effective Windbreak Trees

Trying to cut down on wind? A quick solution to reducing wind and snowdrifts would be the addition of a natural, elongated planting on the north and/or west side of your property. A double row of White Spruce worked out well to screen off a property from a north facing windy location and a highway.

Live plants block winds and can act as snow fencing in colder regions. A windbreak privacy plan will protect valuable fruit trees and tender garden plants from prevailing winter winds. You’ll appreciate the extra protection inside the house, and save a little on energy costs, too!

If you have recently moved into the area or to your house, call the local airport to find out the direction of your prevailing winds. It’s usually either north, northeast or northwest. Plan to place your windbreak at right-angles to the wind and typically between 40 to 80 feet away from your house for best results.

Give us a call with any questions. Our “Plant Ninjas” love to solve customer problems. 888-864-7663

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