November 12, 2016
Recently I had a local nursery install several plants at the back of my condo in Russellville, consisting of Sky Pencil Holly, Soft Touch Holly, Knock Out Roses, Camellia, a Teddy Bear Magnolia, a Japanese Lace Leaf Maple along with some Encore Azaleas and Distylium. My question is, should I fertilize these plants now, if so what type of plant food would be best. Thank you.
Never apply fertilizer this late in the season. You want the plants to go dormant, not put on new growth as they head into winter. Do pay attention to water needs, we continue to be quite dry. Pay particular attention when it does get cold. If plants are too dry heading into a hard freeze they are more prone to winter damage. The key for you is to get the roots established this winter, and worry about fertilizing when they are kicking into new growth next April or May
September 1, 2016
I have some shrubs that I would like to move in my yard. Can I go ahead and move them now, or must I wait? I have a few hollies and a rose bush that are in the way.
It would be best for the plants to wait for cooler weather. November would be an ideal month, but if you can wait until at least October it would not be as stressful to the plant. September is often hot and dry, which will take a toll on the plants. Depending on the size of the rose bush, you may want to wait and move it when you prune it in February, so you won’t have as many thorns to deal with. We don’t recommend pruning in the fall, since it exposes the plants to potential winter damage if we have a cold winter.
June 11, 2016
I saw this red bush, which has fluffy red poofs at the end of the branches. Do you know what it is?
The plant in question is a purple smoke tree (Cotinus). It can be grown as a large bush or a small tree. They have been quite showy this spring. There are green leafed forms but by far the purple foliaged plant is the more dramatic in the garden.
February 6, 2016
We recently moved to the Leawood neighborhood in midtown of Little Rock. Our home faces north. The person we purchased the home from had recently removed all the overgrown landscaping, so we have a blank slate to work with. In your opinion, what should we consider planting in the front of our home for maximum curb appeal? We like azaleas, gardenias, hydrangeas, etc. And do you have any recommendations on who to use?
All of the plants you mentioned would do well on a north facing home. There are many choices including: camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, hollies, boxwoods, loropetalum, abelia, gardenias. I don't recommend people, but I would suggest you get a bid from a variety of places. You can also plan to attend the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show Feb. 26-28 to get ideas and talk with nurserymen, designers and us at the Extension booth. I too live in Leawood. It is a great neighborhood, but awful soil!
In March, my daughter & I dug up a Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea. I kept it on my patio in Cleveland County until Aug 8, when I took it to GA, where my daughter moved. What do we do with it now? Do we wait until the fall to plant it or try to plant it now? It is in a giant pot, but the plant is so large, that it only has adequate dirt and has to be watered frequently?
Plant it ASAP. The sooner it gets in the ground, the sooner it can start getting its root system established before winter sets in. This will make your life easier too, since it won’t be AS water needy once it has more room to grow in. Give it full morning sun and afternoon shade if you can.
Can you tell me what is wrong with my mugo pine? A few months ago it turned brown at the front, but did put out new growth. It continues to turn brown, and then attempt to recover.
It is possible your mugo pine has some winter damage along with all the other plants that are struggling. Give it a couple of weeks to make sure this winter is over then prune out the dead branches. Then see how it begins to grow this spring. I think the recent winter precipitation helped actually put moisture back in the ground, which was lacking so much this winter.
I dug up a yucca plant in my yard and thought I was done with it. Now I have noticed a lot of small yucca plants beginning to sprout. How do I keep these plants from coming back up? I do not want any more yuccas.
Yucca plants are tenacious and will re-sprout from any roots or crowns left in the ground. You can try digging up more of the plants and try to get as much of the underground portions as possible. Then be diligent in cutting them out as you see new sprouts. Spot spraying them with a Round-up product or a brush killer can also help, but you still need to monitor the area for a few years to make sure you have no surprise visitors.
I have a couple of encore azalea plants that I would like to move to different spots in my flower bed. Is now the time to transplant them or is there a better time? I've heard that fall is a good time for planting but I didn't know about transplanting. The azalea bushes have several years’ growth on them so they are not new plants. Also when is the best time to prune azaleas?
Fall is a great time for planting hardy trees and shrubs, but more tender plants I prefer to wait until winter weather is over before transplanting or moving. If the site they are in is really bad for the plant, I would take my chances and move them. If you just need to relocate them, I would wait until spring. Azaleas can struggle in a particularly cold winter, and will be hardier with an intact root system. If we could only look in the crystal ball and know what kind of winter we will have, it would make life easier. Last year they would have thrived with a fall planting since we had no winter, but you just never know.
When should we stop watering trees and bushes in central Arkansas?
There is really not a cut off date for watering. It all depends on weather conditions. If you remember back to the horrid drought of 1980, we actually had more drought damage on trees and shrubs, because the drought continued all winter, and people quit watering. We have been fortunate to have rain every few weeks lately, so additional watering isn’t required unless you are planting new shrubs, trees and winter annuals. Then you will need to water a bit. Most plants will do fine without additional water for two to three weeks at a time in the winter months, but container plants will still need to be watered, especially prior to a hard freeze. Dry plants will be more sensitive to winter injury.
I have two Compacta holly bushes on each side of the steps leading up to our front door. They have been there for 14 years, so they are well established as are the shrubs around them. They are almost square at about 3'x3'x3' Over the last 2-3 years they have become sparse of leaves at the bottom and sides. Is there anything I can do to restore them? I know it will be difficult to replace them.
When evergreens are pruned into hedges, whether they are tall or short, the top of the plant should have a slightly narrower profile than the bottom. If the top is the same size or larger, it shades out the base of the plants and they begin to lose leaves. In late February to mid March next spring, cut them back hard—possibly to 1 ½ - 2 feet and lightly fertilize. They should get the burst of new growth and fill back in, hopefully having foliage throughout the plant. Instead of pruning them into future squares, let them have a more natural shape, but keep the tops narrower.
I have a ten year old hydrangea that I have never pruned. It used to bloom beautifully at the top, but this year, most of the blooms were at the bottom. When should I prune and how? Do I need to cut off the old flowers as they fade?
If you are planning on pruning your hydrangea, you need to do it soon. Hydrangeas bloom in the summer, but turn around and set flower buds for next year in the late summer or early fall. Remove up to one third of the older canes at the soil line—this should reduce the size, but still leave plenty of growth for blooms for next year. As to removing the spent flowers, that is a personal preference. Some gardeners like the look of the dried flowers, while others think it looks bad. Do continue to water, since hydrangeas are not drought tolerant plants.
I live in Bella Vista, Arkansas and I have a question about my hydrangeas. They were absolutely huge and loaded with blue flowers this year — I use coffee grounds on all my acid loving plants and they thrive. This year I had about 60-75 flowers and we got a big rain. All the flower heads were bowed over. Now I have a lot of bent branches. I know they set their flower buds on last year’s growth, so if I prune all the bent branches, I probably won’t have any flowers next year. I would have to cut about two feet off of each branch to get to straight limbs. Any suggestions on what to do?
Actually, the time to prune hydrangeas is immediately after they bloom. Instead of just cutting two feet off, try thinning the plants out and remove up to 1/3 of the limbs at the soil line. Cutting hydrangeas at the tops of the stems will encourage branching. Each branch on the stalk can produce the large flower heads which can make them top-heavy and not able to support the blooms. Pruning now will allow the plant to recover and you should still have flower buds set this fall for a bloom for next summer. Hard, cold winters often take a toll in the NW part of our state, but our lack of winter this year has given us quite the hydrangea show this year.
Can you tell me what this bush is called? We saw it near the lake @ Heber Springs. Reminds me of " Gum Balls" !
The plant in question is commonly called buttonbush — Cephalanthus occidentalis is the Latin name. It is a wonderful wetland plant and does attract butterflies as well. The white ball shaped flowers have tiny spikes sticking out all over them which makes them quite interesting.
About a month ago my rose ground cover bushes (which are about 3 feet tall) had a beautiful bloom. The bushes were covered with miniature roses. When they all bloomed, I deadheaded the bushes and now nothing---I can't see any new roses even coming out. I don't know the name of the rose bushes but the flowers are an apricot color that fades to light pink. Do you think this is the type of rose that only blooms once in the spring? If so, is it safe to cut them shorter at this time?
Most miniatures and the flower carpet groundcover types are re-blooming roses. That being said, if you didn’t get around to pruning them as needed this past February and they are large, you can go ahead and prune them back even more now. This will get them in the shape needed and while it will delay new blooms, they will eventually rebound and begin to bloom. Because of the early start of our spring, many people failed to prune roses, butterfly bushes, and other summer flowering plants. If you have blooming plants, and don’t want to lose flowers, I am suggesting cutting every other stem as they finish flowering to get them pruned, and then when those cut stems rebound, cut the other half. If not pruned at all this season, these plants will be large, unattractive plants by late summer.
I am removing nandina around the foundation of my house. They are probably at least 20 years old and have spread all along the bed behind the azaleas. I have to use a pick ax to uproot thick clumps of roots. Then I hand pick out the long running roots extending out every direction. My question is will I need to sift through to get all the little bits and pieces that this destruction is creating? There are fat white runners and brown woody runners. I'd like to not have to do this again in another 5 years.
Nandinas are tenacious plants and it is possible they will sprout from the roots that are left behind. The key is to monitor the garden and if you see sprouts weed eat them down or cut them off. Eventually you will wear them out. I don’t think you will get 20 years worth of regrowth from sprouts versus established plants. I like nandinas, but I know many gardeners do not.
About 5 years ago I planted a hedge of wax myrtles around my house, spaced about two feet apart. My problem is that I have not kept them trimmed and they have grown quite tall and haven’t filled out well, you can see through them. If I trim them back to about 6 feet tall and keep it there, will they start thickening?
Pruning your wax myrtles should help them fill out. If left to grow un-pruned, they will continue to grow taller. The top buds on the branches have dominance, so growth continues upright unless the top buds are pruned out. Once the top buds have been clipped, energy can be directed into lateral buds which will help them get fuller. Try to get the pruning done fairly soon so you can catch the burst of new spring growth and they can fill out more quickly.
I have a large landscape azalea on the south side of our home that is about 5 1/2 feet tall. It is about 35 years old and blooms beautifully every year. We lost one bush next to this one last year and had to cut it down. We have a bird feeder about 25 feet from the bush . The birds eat and then fly into the azalea and leave their drippings. Is there any way we can protect the azalea other than remove the bird house?
If you feed them, they will come! I don’t really see how you can prevent the birds from taking shelter in plants near a bird feeder. If you really think this is an issue, I would suggest moving the feeder to a different part of the yard. You might also avoid certain types of birdseed. Sunflower seeds can have what is called an allelopathic reaction to certain plants—that is why you often don’t see a lot of growth directly under a bird feeder. Allelopathic reactions occur when a plant such as sunflower gives off a substance via its seeds and roots, which can inhibit the growth of other plants. I have never known it to kill an azalea bush.
In the winter months plants go dormant, similar to bears hibernating for the winter. Evergreen plants retain most of their leaves, but they basically shut down their systems for the winter. You will see no new growth, but moisture is in the plant to buffer the leaves from freezing temperatures. When frozen, you may see some evergreens that look wilted or deformed. This is especially noticeable on larger leaved plants like aucuba or gold dust plant and winter annuals like pansies. As soon as they thaw out, the leaves return to their normal shapes. When frozen, leaves are brittle, so you should try to avoid much contact with frozen plants, or leaves or branches can snap off causing permanent damage. Evergreen plants can be more susceptible to ice and snow damage, because of the added weight of the winter precipitation on the foliage. Deciduous plants are those that lose their leaves in the fall or early winter. Bare branches can shed precipitation more easily than those with leaves or needles. You have all seen pine trees bending low with a heavy coat of snow or ice. If you have landscape plants that you can easily reach, lightening the load of snow with a broom or rake can help, but don’t touch the plants if they are covered in ice. When shifting snow, use a gentle motion from the underside of the plant. If it is snowing, chances are temperatures are below freezing, so you want to avoid damaging the plants trying to reduce snow weight. If you do experience winter damage, don’t be too quick to prune. Broken limbs or branches should be cleaned up as soon as you notice them, but burned foliage can actually serve as added protection. Wait until spring to see where new growth begins before pruning.
I have a bunch of Encore azaleas that have bloomed every year since I planted them 2-3 years ago. The problem is they haven’t thrived. I took a cutting to a nursery and a guy there told me that the leaves were burnt. Is it possible that these azaleas are planted too close to the white siding of my house that the afternoon sun is being reflected onto these azaleas and burning them?
Encore azaleas can tolerate more sunlight, but they do like water. Last summer took its toll on many plants. If they weren’t watered well, they could have been burned. Winter damage can also cause burned leaves. Wait and see what happens this spring as they start growing, then assess the damage and prune them then. Make sure they are mulched and watered, and fertilize them after the first bloom and see how they do.
We have a "bridal wreath" (sorry I do not know the official name for it) which we pruned after it bloomed this past spring. Since then it has grown "dramatically" and has some tall shoots on top. It is quite large and located in our front yard near the street. Can I prune it NOW for appearance and not affect its blooms next year? We "inherited" the plant when we bought the lot on which we built our new house and I have no experience with bridal wreaths.
Bridal wreath is the common name for the white blooming spring spirea. Pruning now WOULD affect the flowers for next spring. Flower buds are set for all spring blooming plants now. The time to officially prune is in the spring after bloom. Don’t just prune it to the size you want it to be, because any new growth would then make it larger. Prune it by at least 1/3 more to allow room for new growth. If you have a few wild shoots, taking them off now would not impact your spring display all that much.
Have the wholesale growers all stopped growing the traditional azalea varieties? (I mean things like Hino, Snow, Coral Bells, Formosa, etc.) All I have seen at local nurseries and stores the past two years are the "Encore" azaleas which are three times as expensive as the older varieties.
No, most nurseries still carry a fairly good collection of azalea varieties. They often push the Encore types in the fall because of their rebloomability in the fall. In the spring, when the azaleas are all in bloom, you should see a huge selection of varieties, including the old standbys. Spring is a much better time to plant azaleas anyway, in case we have cold weather.
I am having landscaping done on my property in Bentonville. We have picked out a Winter's Star Camellia. It has already formed fruit seed pods and I am wondering if it is a true Winter's Star? Is this likely something other than Winter's Star?
I would be very surprised if it already has bloomed. Seed pods are still on many camellias from last year’s flowers and the flower buds are set for this year. Winter Star is not a japonica type--they typically bloom in Feb-March time period and would not be as winter hardy. Parents of Winter Star are Camellia oleifera (the tea oil camellia) x Camellia hiemalis 'Showa-no-sakae'. There are quite a few of these cold tolerant camellias now that should do well in NW Arkansas. Even if they possibly had already bloomed (which I doubt), it would not have had time to set a seed pod.
I was wondering when is the best time to trim an arborvitae shrub? I have one that is pretty tall and wide and I did not know the best way to trim it to keep from hurting it.Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn't appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don't prune any branch too severely as they don't sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.
Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn't appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don't prune any branch too severely as they don't sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.
My daughter and her husband were fishing from the bank of a lake and saw these vines growing nearby. Sure would like to know what they are. Thanks for any help you can give us
The plant in question is Kerria japonica pleniflora--the double flowered form of the Yellow Rose of Texas. This is one plant that will bloom in even the deepest shade. Commonly grown in the shade, the flowers fade fast in full sun. The doubled flowered form will bloom off and on all summer. It is deciduous, but the stems stay green all year. It can begin to spread a bit when it gets established, but it is a tough, old-fashioned shrub.
I have a pink azalea bush. Usually it is loaded with beautiful blooms every year. This year, it only had four flowers on it. I have a red azalea right next to it and it's full of blooms. Wonder why the pink one didn't bloom this year and the red one did? I've talked to others and they have the same problem.
Last year, many folks did not have a great azalea season, since our winter was extremely dry. This year, we had more than enough rainfall, but we did get some low temperatures and some parts of the state experienced some ice and winter precipitation. I have had several folks tell me their plants look a little peaked. Some varieties of azaleas are more winter hardy than others, so your pink one may be less so than the red ones. Check to see if you have flower buds on the plant. Some may have set that simply failed to open. Allow all your plants to have a chance to bloom, and then prune out any dead wood or extra growth as needed. Fertilize with an azalea fertilizer and apply new mulch, making sure you don’t pile the mulch up next to the trunks. Water as needed this summer and see how they grow. One or two bad years may occur due to weather related issues, insect attacks or disease. As long as you give it a little tender care this summer, it should bounce back and return to good blooming again next spring.
What can I do for my plants that were cold damaged?
The question on most gardeners’ minds this week is what if anything can I do for my plants that were cold damaged. Damage reports are quite variable statewide, with central Arkansas seemingly reporting the least damage, while northwest was just devastated. But even in central Arkansas, we can’t be certain what lies ahead. There are several factors which will influence the amount of damage. The unseasonably mild March weather had most of our plants a good two weeks ahead of schedule. In a typical spring, crape myrtles would have had small sprouts if any new growth. This year, new growth was up to a foot or more in length. This new growth was very sensitive to cold on many plants. Azaleas were in full bloom in some parts of the state, and some varieties had already past their peak. The duration of the freeze and how low the temperatures got is also a factor. In some reports from Northwest Arkansas, they said they didn’t get above freezing for the day, and had 17 or lower for 10-12 hours. Some areas only got to 28 degrees and had a breeze. Damage is reported on what we expected—azaleas, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, etc., but we are also getting reports of damaged maple trees—both red and Japanese, tulip poplars, and hardy shrubs such as hollies and viburnum. Another factor is the level of soil moisture. If the ground was very dry, there was less protection for plants. Again, Pulaski county and several surrounding counties got good rainfall a few days before the cold. Other parts of the state were dry. Where you live is also a factor. If you live on a sloped yard with good air circulation, damage may be less than if you live in a low lying area where the cold air will pocket. Covering plants to protect them from late frosts, usually only offers 2-5 degrees of protection, depending on what is used. In some parts of the state, they needed 10-15 degrees or more of protection, so damage occurred even where protection was offered. Covering fruit trees or other ornamental trees is next to impossible. So now it is assessment time. Cut off the visibly damaged areas where the leaves and shoots are black or brown, then wait and see what happens. It may be a week or two before new growth begins to emerge on damaged shrubs and trees and then we will know how much more pruning is needed. In some instances, we may see new growth returning from the tops of the plants, in others it may be from the soil line, and in some cases we may have to replace the entire plant—but don’t be too hasty. We can always hope for the best. Check thin barked plants such as azaleas, Japanese maples, and hydrangeas. The sap was up in the stems and it may have frozen. This can lead to outer bark splitting. Where this type of freeze damage occurs, death may not occur to the damaged stems immediately, but you should prune it out when you see it. Plants that are damaged by the cold may be more stressed this growing season. Stressed trees and shrubs are more susceptible to attacks by insects and diseases so try to give them a little extra tender loving care. Don’t forget about watering all season and pay attention to any changes. If you had annual bedding plants or warm season vegetable transplants already planted, get ready to replant. However, that should be the least of our concerns, since they are easy to replace, unlike our trees and shrubs.
We have a six foot Needlepoint Holly planted last fall by a landscape company. It has lots of berries but no new growth this spring. The leaves that it has are at the tips and not near the trunk. Can fertilizing it bring out new growth near the trunk? Or, should we insist that it be replaced?
Sometimes a holly will set copious amounts of fruit, and when it does, it directs all of its energy into the berries, and not into new growth. It is also its first year of growth, so it should be getting acclimated and setting out roots. I never judge a plant in its first full season in the ground. Also, be aware that the buds at the tip of the branches are dominant, so that is where you will see new foliage. If the end buds are cut off in the spring, it should direct energy into the buds further along the stems which should encourage new growth within the interior of the bush. A light shearing now of the tips could encourage more sprouting within the interior of the bush, but we are in the beginning of the hottest and driest days of the season, so new growth may be at a minimum. At this stage in the growing season, I am not so certain I would do much pruning. Keep it watered for now, and do some corrective pruning next spring.
I have several red tops along with some holly bushes against the front of my home. I lost one red top this summer and I dug it up completely and made a circular flower bed where I planted summer annuals. It was pretty this summer but now with winter coming on I need to put something more permanent in to balance things out. I would like some evergreen, holly or something that stands about five feet high. Is it too late to plant hollies now? I saw one that started with an F, but I can’t remember what it was.
It is not too late to plant. Fall is an ideal time to plant hardy trees and shrubs. Red top photenias have been dying across the south for years now with the leaf spot disease, or the weakening of the plant. Replacing them with tougher plants is often a good idea. By all means, you can still plant now. Keep in mind that many of our plants are container grown these days. Container grown plants can actually be planted twelve months out of the year, as long as you water. Fall is much better than summer in my opinion, so plant away. You probably saw a Foster Holly.
A few years ago I planted a mock orange, Philadelphus virginalis it says. Although it is still living, unusual for things I plant, it has never bloomed. Will it? Also, there is this plant around Fayetteville that resembles honeysuckle but is a woody shrub rather than a vine. It grows like cancer, so without constant whacking it takes over the yard. Any way to get rid of it?
How much sunlight does your mock orange get? It needs at least 4-6 hours, and will do great in full sun. It should bloom every year in late spring. It sets its flower buds in the fall, so don't do much pruning after June. They are usually pretty reliable. As for your honeysuckle plant, there are shrub honeysuckles, but they are not usually invasive. You may want to take a plant sample to your county agent. The best way to kill plants is to get as much of the original plant dug up, then spray any remaining sprouts with a glyphosate (Round-up) product. The larger and woodier the plant, the harder it is to kill.
The front of our home faces southwest and receives full afternoon sun in the summer. There is a raised bed that contains a crepe myrtle surrounded by compacta holly. I recently removed a Japanese maple the previous owner had planted in the same bed. Size wise it was dwarfed by the crepe myrtle and temperature wise it baked all summer. I considered another crepe myrtle but wanted something evergreen to provide some winter color / interest and shelter for birds. There is good but not deep soil in the bed and it is irrigated. The plant would be in front of a brick wall that radiates heat from the summer sun. I would like something that would grow to 15 to 20' and not more than 10-12' in diameter. I have considered several tree form hollies. Is there a particular variety you would recommend or some other type of ornamental tree / shrub that thrives in full sun and heat?
You were wise to move the Japanese maple. They don't thrive in afternoon sun, especially during a particularly hot summer. There are several options for you. A multi-trunked yaupon holly can be nice, or the deciduous holly--while not evergreen, the berries give good winter color. A Little Gem southern magnolia is a nice smaller evergreen plant with fantastic white summer blooms. If left unchecked it can grow taller, but it is a slow grower and quite compact when young. A large shrub which if left to grow could become tree-like that is gaining in popularity is the Loropetalum. It is evergreen with purple foliage year-round, loves the sun and has bright pink spring flowers.
I am worried about losing my hydrangea flowers this summer. The plants are really beginning to bud out now with all the warm weather we have had. Is there anything I can do to prevent this budding out? I live in Cherokee Village and am sure we will have more cold weather this season.
Pray! Unfortunately, many of our shrubs, perennials and trees are beginning to grow statewide. Watch the plants closely and cover if cold weather is predicted. We have a long way to go until spring is officially here and many plants are ahead of schedule. There is nothing you can do to keep them from sprouting when the weather continues to be mild. Water if it is dry, and use extra mulch around low growing plants, or sheets and blankets on larger shrubs if a hard freeze is predicted. A large cardboard box works well too.
My tulip magnolia had quite a few open flowers and many buds showing color before it finally turned cold. Now they are brown. Should I prune them off and if so, how far back should I prune. Do you think it damaged all the flower buds?
I was worried this was going to happen! Many plants were moving ahead of schedule. Do not prune any damaged growth off yet. We may have more cold weather to come, and we want the extra protection. Any buds which were still tight should be fine. I expect to still have flowers this spring, and hopefully the weather will cooperate. Wait until after the plants have finished all flowering before pruning later this spring.
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