My garden under a big pine

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I hated the English Ivy.
Finally ripped it out in spring 2013, hired neighbors to help. What a job. It was also infested with Bindweed (they call it Morning Glory here).

I wanted a garden that would do ok with minimal watering and care. The spot is quite dry all summer, but it really does rain for 8 months here. Soil clay and rocks, but sloped so water does not stand there. Mostly shady of course, but the tree was 'limbed up' a bit so cars and trucks could get under it. About 250 sq ft. I did not want anything very tall, so as not to hide the house. I did not care much if it looked good in the dead of winter, as it is so dark here anyway, and winter is very short.

I spent the winter reading, trying to figure out what would survive in dry shade but soaked all winter. Color scheme of yellow, violet-blue, with orange accents, which looks good against my house. Main season of interest to be spring, with a bit of color in summer too.

After ripping out the ivy, I bought a truckload of "planting mix" from a local company, and spread it 6" deep over the whole thing. It was easy to plant in, and the tree has been fine (I worried I could smother the roots). Since initial prep there have been very few ivy sprouts or Bindweed, and these are easily pulled out. I patrol about once a month for resprouting. It takes 3 minutes.

#1 looking north to neighbors house
#2 looking east
#3 looking south to my house
#4 looking west up hill
#5 truckload of 'soil' half for here, half for another new garden.

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I read a lot (It gets dark by 4 pm here in winter).
Making the Most of Shade by Larry Hodgson
The Complete Shade Gardener by George Schenk
Planting the Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice

I also scoured the internet PNW mail order nurseries, for advice on dry shade plants.

What I planted:
Dryopteris tokyoensis (Tokyo Wood Fern)
Tellima grandiflora 'Forest Flame'
Iris foetidissima var. lutes
Hosta 'Great Expectations'
Iris cristata 'Abbey's Violet'
Epimedium pinnatum ssp colchicum
Hemerocallis fulva 'Flore pleno'
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride'
Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'
Geranium phaeum 'Lily Lovell'
Polypodium scouleri
Digitalis lutea
Digitalis trojana
Hellebore Winter Jewels strain, 'Golden Sunrise'
Alstroemeria 'The Third Harmonic'
Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Midsummer Nights Dream
Bergenia 'Winterglow' added 2014

Most were planted April/May.
The iris were added in late summer when I got them by mail order.
The Bergenia were added 2014

I watered at least weekly the first summer, but things hardly grew at all. I finally decided to fertilize in August, then growth began. Possibly this was a mistake, to cause soft growth late in the year. I should have fertilized right away, maybe with Osmocote slow release fertilizer.

Fall 2013 I put some limestone chips around some of the Hellebores, as I had read they like lime. I will watch snd see if those plants do better. I had bought the Hellebores in January befor I make the garden, so I could see them in blood at the nursery. They lived in pots in my pot ghetto until planting time.

#1 planted in April
#2 Iris cristata bloomed in May
#3 June
#4 Bindweed leaves mimic Epimedium leaves.Could be long-term problem.
#5 August, still looks sparse

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

This year, things are growing pretty well.

Tokyo wood fern- lost 4 of 6, I think I should have planted Dryopteris felix-mas. It rains in the summer in Tokyo. Unlike here. I lose many Japanese plants that want more summer water.
Tellima- lost one this summer. Not bright red in fall. The tiny flowers are nice. not spreading much.
Iris f. var lutea- lost 7 of 10, the others made tiny late sprouts this year, they seem fine. No flowers yet. I hope they make it.
Hosta- lost 1 of 3, clearly it died of dehydration. Others slow growth, but alive.
Iris "Abbeys Violet'- Edelweiss Nursery was correct. It loves dry shade! Groundcover!
Epimedium- All lived. Slowly spreading. Flowers bigger and a much brassier yellow than I expected. Bloomed a long time this spring. Leaves look like Bindweed.
Daylilly 'Flore pleno'- I got from pfg in trade, could not find a source to buy it. It is doing great, has been blooming all summer. Will monitor for possible invasiveness
Heuchera 'Autumn Bride'- all survived, looks like it wants a bit more water. Flowers are pretty but fall over so looks messy. Not sure it was worth the $
G. 'Samobor'- All survived. Looks like wants a bit more water. Blooms not very noticeable, too dark and small, but bees love it. Dark patterned leaves a bit lost in the shade.
G. 'Lily Lovell'- All survived, looks a bit better than 'Samobor', flowers a bit brighter.
Polypodium fern- all survived. Native. Spreads Slooooowly, but I knew this already. 6" tall evergreen. Tough.
Digitalis lutea- tough, bloomed long time, Will look great when has spread a bit, but flopped. Worth staking. Blooms very small and soft colored, but in the shade against tree bark it is quite noticeable.
Digitalis trojana- died first winter.
Hellebore- Tops! bloomed winter till late spring. Bloomed so long it clashed with bright yellow 'February Gold' daffodils. Can't wait till it fills in more. Lights up with afternoon sun through the blooms when I come up driveway. I picked this one also because although flowers face down, the backs of petals also yellow so it looks good from above too.
A. 'The Third Harmonic'- Annie's Annuals said it tolerates dry shade in N. Calif, so I tried it. Survived! Fabulous blooms, short bloom early summer, back in bud again now. Flops, worth staking. Will monitor for reported possible invasive tendency.
Int bearded iris- Survived, not doing great, no blooms yet.

Bergenia added 2014, surviving. I put them in to get ground covered after Comcast dug up part of my garden. Spring magenta flowers not part of The Plan.
Planted fall 2013 Erythronium 'Pagoda' bright yellow blooms in spring. Put in driest spot, might not survive. But it is sort of native and summer dormant.

#1, #2 Hellebore in March
#3 Tellima in April, before blooms
#4 Erythronium 'Pagoda'
#5 Epimedium is really bright like the daffodil

So far weeds have not been much of a problem. Yay!

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

May photos:
#2 shows tiny flowers of Tellima.
last photo shows Sedum 'Angelina" which grew back from a sprout previously there. Bright green, easy to rip out but could take over the world.

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)


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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

The daylily looks good when driving up hill, against the Cestrum "Orange Peel' in blue pot, and Ceanothus tree which still has some blue blooms.
Everything that came up this spring seems to be doing all right. I am still watering (Goal is little water once it is all established).
Still few weeds sprouting. The pine needles mulch it all, naturally!

I will keep reporting back occasionally, as time passes. We shall see what worked here, and what does not. Especially as next year I plan to water only occasionally.

Other really short things growing well in my yard in dry shade, I could have put here include encrusted saxifrage, Tiarella trioliata, Potentilla neumanniana, Globularia cordifolia.

#1, #2, #3 looking up hill at daylily
#4 Globularia. Flower is stronger violet -blue than photo. Very tough.Cute!
#5 Potentilla groundcover, a nice nest, bright green (last year, Jake has passed away).

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Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Wow, mlm! Thank you for the show/tutorial/info. It's starting to look luscious, and I think it's fabulous that you kept a pictorial record. It will be very helpful to me as I start my garden beneath the dougfir. It's like getting a boost along the way. :~)

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

mlm - you always astound me with your knowledge and excellent record keeping! I think your garden looks great. Thanks for sharing all your info and your beautiful garden.

13Turtles - I'd love a show of your dougfir garden, too. Make sure you take "before" pictures. That's the really hard part to remember to do, taking pictures of nothing, so to speak.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Mimi, everything looks wonderful! What a terrific project! Wonderful choices, love the color scheme and progression of blooms throughout the year.

That Daylily is tough as nails, but in my garden a good shovel prune once in a while keeps it in line.

Looking forward to more updates as it all grows in.

Seattle, WA

Bye, bye, Jake. You got the garden off to a good start.

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

I, too, appreciate all your knowledge about plants and willingness to share the garden in process!! It is going to be fabulous when it all fills in, and it looks pretty darn good right now as well. I have never seen Globularia before, but I'm all for planting tough and cute plants.

I'm so sorry about the loss of your kitty, Jake. He looked like a natural part of the garden.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Jake loved working in the garden with me, I think it was his favorite thing to do. Even when he got really old, he would hang out with me in the yard, and go say hi to anyone passing by.
mhf, I might have to mail you a chunk of Globularia. I suspect the part growing over the rock path is trying to root, but I have never tried to help it along. It has the cutest blue flowers. They look like they should be prickly, but are soft. And weeds do not sprout in it. Now I remember why I did not plant it under the pine- I thought the long pine needles falling on it would overwhelm it, and require more grooming than I hope to do.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Just checking out your thread and it looks like you've done a wonderful job! Everything looks so beautiful :) Sorry about Jake :( it must have been great to have a furry gardening companion.

Do you have a pic of the potentilla in bloom?

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Sequoia- I can't find a photo of the potentilla really blooming. Truth is it doesn't bloom much for me. I have always assumed that is because it is in a rather shady spot. The bloom is late spring, early summer. I got it from Bluestone, attracted by the advertised sun-or-shade, clay-or-sand, evergreen info. Here it is in July this year with just a few scattered buds left, not visible in thumbnail, but if you enlarge it they can be seen (right click to do this). Another nice thing is unlike some of my groundcovers, what flowers there are shrivel up and fall off quickly, without leaving a plant that must be sheared to look ok. I have never done that even once. The flowers are very very small, but so BRIGHT brassy yellow they are quite noticeable, and you need to be careful they do not overwhelm nearby colors. the photo at bluestone made them look bigger than they are. You can occasionally step on it without damage. I do not know how it would do in PA, but here it is quite nice. The area in the photo was 2 plants from tiny pots, about 4-5 years ago. It seeds a bit into cracks in the brick nearby.

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Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Do you have the name of it? I like it.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Potentilla neumanianna.
Still sold at Bluestone Perennials I think.
If you get it let us know how it does there.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b) all that just from one plant or many?

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I just went and looked, I got 3 little plants from Bluestone 4/2009. This patch is the spread from 2 of them, so it is 5 1/2 years growth. I planted them very far apart, but they just gradually grew like this. Once or twice a year I go along the brick with a grass clipper. They do not bother my conifers or Azaleas that grow there. Likely they could be pulled up and divided twice a year, to cover a large area fast, if one was so inclined..

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Interesting. If you didn't live 3000 miles away I'd ask you for some. I think I'll put it on my list for spring of 2015. I've been looking for a couple ground covers for under a few of our young trees. Obviously when the trees grow it will be mostly shade but looking at yours, it looks to be fine.

South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

Thank you for this post mim! I have quite a few spots under pines and cedars that I didn't know what to do with when I get them cleared. I will be pouring over your recommendations!

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

lynnala I will keep you updated on how it all is working. Let us know how your choices work. I suspect you might get a bit hotter in summer, but maybe you are near the ocean? I don't get too much wind here-it could be a problem for you? Also I have mostly clay-what is your soil like?
Here are thoughts on plants I have in other shady spots, that seem to tolerate neglect:
I got some Globularia cordifolia seeds I will try to sprout this year. My little patch is still green and perfect, and has not been watered in 5 weeks during a dry summer. I will try it in other places in my yard.
I have two other Epimediums elsewhere in dry shade that are doing well. E. davidii and E. x warleyense.
If you are looking for shrubs for dry shade, Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata, both the species and 'Sundance' are amazing, and amazingly easy. The books say they want sun but I know they are wrong!
Paeonia lutea survives in dry shade, but is a VERY large shrub. Mine is ?5 years old, 6 feet tall an much wider, still growing, and only started blooming this year. But the huge leaves are green and fresh looking with only very minimal watering. Mine is under a cedar tree on the north side, and clearly is leaning out of the darkness to try to get a bit more light. I planted it from a tiny 6" tall start.
Last fall I planted Dryopteris felix-mas elsewhere in dry shade, it is looking much better than the Tokyo Wood Fern.
On a whim, last year I planted a little native called Tiarella trifoliata in dry shade-we have a winner! It bloomed all summer nonstop, and still looks good despite neglect. It has not spread, and is still small. I think I may try to find more, it might be the best thing for a groundcover with little foamy white flowers floating over the leaves. Maybe I could find seeds. It looks better than the Heuchera and the 2 Geranium phaeums listed above. Those all look a bit thirsty now.
I ripped out Potentilla anserina var. Pacifica last week Oh god it is too happy, sprouted runners everywhere like my arch enemy creeping buttercup. I don't care if it is native I can't have it here.
I planted Hellebore argutifolius (Corsican Hellebore) this spring and it looks very nice, is growing better than the yellow ones in my planting above. We shall see how it does next year.
Strangely, Sedum 'Elsie's Gold' looks nice in a shady spot, just a bit of morning light, I planted more this year. Sedums are supposed to like sun but this does fine. Does not sprawl.
Carex 'Ice Dance' is a tough survivor in dry shade under cedars, VERY easy I might move some to my pine tree garden.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

I love your thread, mlm. I'm glad you're having so much success!

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Yes, thank you from myself as well. I agree with you about the geranium phaeum, as well as the heucheras. Mine are not looking so lush. Awful, actually.

Riverhead, NY

Thank mlm. I just found this thread (through the garden design link), and although I'm not in the PNW, I am certainly likely to return to this as dry shade is among the banes I deal with on the northeastern end of Long Island. Here the dry comes largely from the sand, and the added complication is the deer. Yet, that said, you have inspired me and given me food for thought. I'm thinking "Our Difficult Sites" might be a good thread to start as there are a few of us who deal with such that are not so easy to categorize.

Peace to you and cheers to your continued success.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Rev- I lived for some years on Lon Giland (yukyuk), Stony Brook-Setauket area, so I remember the sand well. I was in a series of rentals, in college and after, so did not garden there. Just some houseplants. At the time, the major thing I recall growing well was the potatoes, which of course did fine in the sand. I also recall the year the Gypsy Moths ate every leaf on the island.
Yah, about where to put threads like this, I did consider Garden Design, but it did seem like a more regional thing. The folks on the Garden Design forum are really nice, and very helpful, so I put the link in. The Shady Gardens people also, but most are from very different climates than mine. You might start a dry-sand-shade-deer-thread on Shady Gardens and see what people say. The Graham Rice book might be more helpful to you, as he gardens nearby.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

The Northeast Forum might be interesting, too. There are some terrific gardeners there, and they know the deer problem all too well.

mlm, I just planted a white flowering, 'flat,' Potentilla under a Hydrangea. I have the sneaking suspicion that it may be related to the one you pulled out... Sure hope not!

Riverhead, NY

Mlm and Pfg, thanks for the tips. I'll be sure to check out the forums and the Rice book. Have a great day.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

pfg I have grown a lot of Potentillas, both herbaceous and shrubby, this was the only one that made long runners. It did not flower before I ripped it out.
#1,#2 are the P anserina var Pacifica
#3 Potentilla atrosanguinea var argyrophylla, in the sun, with a daylilly and Achillea.. This one has lovely furry silver notched leaves, in a nice clump, then sprawls all over the place with flowers for about 3 weeks. When its done I just cut it off and it grows up as a clump again. I need to take a photo of the leaves.

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(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Mine doesn't!'t look like either of yours. I forgot to take a pic today, but here's the one from the day I planted it. The tag was missing, so I don't yet know exactly what it is.

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Update on the Dry Shade Garden in a REALLY HOT and DRY summer (photos from today)

Neglected late last summer due to home repairs, could not water my garden.

Dryopteris tokyoensis (Tokyo Wood Fern)-DIED, replaced with Lady Ferns Atherium felix-femina

Tellima grandiflora 'Forest Flame' Doing OK, they almost all survived, I have one volunteer across the driveway.

Iris foetidissima var. lutea- touble establishing, lost many, but a few made it. I sprouted some from seeds (2 year process) and planted them, plus another purchased. No blooms yet. This year they look established.

Hosta 'Great Expectations' pretty much dead now.

Iris cristata 'Abbey's Violet' spreading! blooms!

Epimedium pinnatum ssp colchicum this is the best groundcover for under the PIne-needles drop through foliage. Tough as nails.

Hemerocallis fulva 'Flore pleno' Doing fine, blooms off and on all summer.

Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' Always looks kinda disheveled, survives.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' Eaten by powdery mildew this spring, I doubt any will survive. The blooms were hard to see, but the bees liked them.

Geranium phaeum 'Lily Lovell' prettier, sturdier than 'Samobor' but struggling, I will probably transplant elsewhere.

Polypodium scouleri- not tough enough, drying up in our beastly hot summer.

Digitalis lutea- I really like it, I planted more. Lights up the dim spot, always looks nice.

Digitalis trojana-died

Hellebore Winter Jewels strain, 'Golden Sunrise'-lovely, tough. I really like it.

Alstroemeria 'The Third Harmonic'. Surviving, not thriving, repeat blooms. I really like it, if it dies I will buy another and put it in a better spot!

Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Midsummer Nights Dream-thriving in the sunniest spot there, bloomed July, but blooms are too dark, not very noticeable there.

Bergenia 'Winterglow' added 2014- doing OK, no blooms yet.

Erythronium 'Kondo' is doing fine, it goes dormant in summer.

Angelina sedum was already there, likes to spread , could be a thug but it always looks good and I can just rip it up.

I planted some little sedges this spring, and a Euonymus fortunei 'Kewensis' a tiny little one inch tall groundcover, so far so good.

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

It's the dog days of summer, so everything is a bit toasted. The only things blooming are the orange daylily and orange Alstroemeria, but it is nice to have a bit of color!

So far-the MOST bombproof plants there are the Epimedium and Sedum 'Angelina', daylily, digitalis lutea, Hellebore, and Iris cristata.
If you were planting under a conifer and plan not to water beyond the first year plant either Angelina or the Epimedium.

Jury still out on others not yet well established like the Iris foetidissima var lutea.

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South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

Thank you for the update Pistil; gosh, everything is still alive with all those pine needles! Looks good!

South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

Oh gosh; I just now saw your reply to me up in the thread! I was re-reading the thread because next spring I will be working on my shade garden under pines. Putting in an art studio and it will open to the shady area. In answer to your questions, we are about 500 feet from the ocean and it doesn't get too hot here, although 70 feels hot to me! But it doesn't get higher than 75 usually. It does get quite windy too, but this area will be sort of protected by the art studio I think. The soil is fairly rich, not clay; someone had a garden here many years ago and also the one good thing the years of blackberries did seems to be that they enriched the soil, or perhaps all the roots kept it aerated. There are already quite a few ferns in the spot, and like you had, ivy. I'm thinking maybe using potted plants too. I'll take some before pics to document.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

oooh, an art studio!
The spot sounds lovely. You will have a few differences from mine-better soil, and oceanic influence. Please post some 'before' photos, and keep us involved along the way.

South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

Ask and you shall receive. :-) Here are 'before' pics.

1.This from our house looking at the area where the studio will be. (we let our native Oregon tall grass grow wild this year)

2. Foreground is the studio site. This was the site of an old filled-in well with walls of flagstone and years and years of salal growth. Hubby is clearing it out. He says this was harder than any of the blackberry roots he's dug up because the salal roots went way, way down.

3. Looking north under pines

4. Looking south under pines.

5. This is our outdoor bedroom that a local fellow made. We are having him build another for the art studio. We're making payments so won't get it until sometime next year, but I can at least have the shade garden started!

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh what a fun project. You can make a lot of progress before the Big Build occurs.
My thoughts at random-
What is the tree with the light bark?
I am drooling over your big flat flagstone rocks. What are you going to do with them-walkway? Raised bed?
You already have a nice statue to incorporate into the design.
I looked at the pines, and thought "I would first cut (prune)the branch stubs and it would make the whole yard look better even before the rest of the work". Then I remembered doing exactly that on my pine when I moved in at this time of year-sap bled all over the place. I just looked it up in my pruning book, and it says for conifers the preferred time is autumn through mid winter. I had also done a bit in late winter once,but the sap was already rising so it dripped all over my car...
I have to say, your outdoor bedroom looks suspiciously like a future greenhouse- isn't that a translucent roof?
The ivy looks way less problematic than mine, which was trying to eat the tree. Maybe ivy is less of a problem where you live?
Anyway, keep us posted occasionally on your project.

South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

The tree with the light bark is a California Wax Myrtle. And yeah, the flagstones! We have TONS of them, they came with the house. Piles everywhere. Some were in a retaining wall which we took out for the wood fence, some around the well, but mostly just piles and piles of them all around the property. We are going to build a patio and fire pit for one thing, and then another patio around the art studio, and then who knows? Maybe a fountain. We have so many!

I'll remember your suggestion about pruning the pines. This area has been completely neglected as we had so many other areas to clear on the property. That ivy is just this year's growth, hubby had pulled it all out last year. And yes, it was eating the tree, that's why so many dead lower branches. So I'll have to always deal with that. Between ivy, salal and blackberries, he is one busy little digger! Fortunately, he likes it.

The outdoor bedroom does look like a greenhouse, doesn't it? But it's our bedroom. (I have been doing starts in the windowsill) But another project is a greenhouse which will be next to the art studio. Let's see, I'm 58 now, I should have this place the way I envision it by the time I'm 90!

This message was edited Aug 14, 2015 5:37 PM

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Calif Wax Myrtle, sigh, I think they are beautiful, did not realize the bark of youg trees was so light.
I bet you could sell some of the flagstones-those thick ones sell for $$$ at the rock stores around here. Use the $$$ for your projects!

South Beach, OR(Zone 9a)

Hmmm, good idea! We do have a ton of it. I don't think the Wax Myrtle is very young, but it was completely engulfed by blackberries for years, so it's now breathing a sigh of relief. Along with everything else on the property! Every day I swear I hear all the plants thanking us for releasing them from the years of bondage.

By the way, see that huge vine along the left side of the pine in pic #4 (the one with the statue)? That was the ivy. You can see another one hanging off the tree to the right. Completely cleared out last year and it's back with a vengeance!

This message was edited Aug 15, 2015 9:51 AM

This message was edited Aug 15, 2015 9:53 AM

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh yeah-your ivy was worse than mine. However, a few years later, I find just about 5 minutes of ivy patrol about once a month in the growing season is enough to remove sprouts. I also have to patrol like this for zillions of sprouts of the hideous volunteers of the neighbors' out of control Laurel hedges. At this point, the Laurel is worse than the ivy!

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