April 23, 2008

Welcome to Texas Gardener's Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail as the sending address is not monitored. See the bottom of this newsletter for information on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editor.


  Seeds celebrates two years of publication

Two years ago we planted this seed. Today, with readership growing faster than we anticipated, we continue to visit your in-box every Wednesday with a mix of gardening news, practical information, humor, and gardening tips from your fellow Texas gardeners.

We hope you've enjoyed the first two years and that you'll be with us for many more.

(If you've missed any issues, you'll be happy to know that they are all available on-line at www.texasgardener.com/newsletters.)


U.S. seed banks grow in importance with food prices, war, economic woes

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension

In an economic era focused on food prices, war and housing foreclosures, Dr. Peter Bretting turns to seed. Without seeds that support human existence, Bretting notes, few other issues would matter.

"It's important to the United States," Bretting said, "because pecans and sunflowers are about the only edible plants that originated here. We need to continue to gather and maintain these resources in gene banks for future supplies."

Bretting, national leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant genetic resources, was keynote speaker at the spring Distinguished Floriculture Lecture sponsored by the Texas A&M horticultural sciences department's Ellison Chair in International Floriculture.

From his office at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service in Beltsville, Md., Bretting oversees more than 20 seed banks in the nation — from a facility in Palmer, Alaska, that maintains samples from arctic and subarctic plants to the cotton and pecans in College Station and ornamental plants in Columbus, Ohio. More than 484,000 samples of about 12,400 plant species are kept, he said.

Worldwide, the plant gene bank system includes some 1.5 million unique samples.

"We have large collections of the major staples important to the United States and world agriculture," Bretting added. "More than one-fourth of these are grain crops."

Most of these seed were collected over the decades as U.S. scientists traveled on expeditions or traded with counterparts from other nations.

"We've done extensive collecting in past years through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, for example, because that is where apples originated," he said.

As a result, the huge collection maintained by the U.S. is continually drawn on not only by the nation's seed and crop breeders but also other countries.

"Developing countries are dramatically increasing their requests for materials," Bretting pointed out.

The gene banks share collections with those who are trying to breed plants throughout the world. He noted that the plant genetic resources maintained in the U.S. are those parts of the plants such as seeds, cuttings, bulbs and pollen by which a plant propagates. Currently the system does not include storage of materials at the DNA level, though that might develop over the next 10 years, he added.

Bretting expressed concern that the history of sharing plant materials throughout the world has become less cooperative than in decades past.

"We're finding it more and more difficult to collect plant materials," he said. "Some countries have already closed the door. That day of free information exchange will never return, but hopefully the treaty (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) will help."

The treaty is under the auspices of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Bretting said the Internet, with its capability of using high-resolution photos and detailed databases, also is helping keep the supply-sharing system healthy.

He sees as a potentially threatening trend the static U.S. funds for operating gene banks and increasing costs for the labor intensive process that require plant materials to be grown to reproduce under a variety of specific conditions.

However, Bretting also said the increasing demands for the materials and "remarkable technical advances" will help keep the gene banks accessible.


Salt-tolerant gene found in simple plant nothing to sneeze at

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension

Whether a plant withers unproductively or thrives in salty conditions may now be better understood by biologists.

The cellular mechanism that controls salt tolerance has been found in the arabidopsis plant by a Texas AgriLife Research scientist collaborating with an international team.

Complex-N-glycan, a carbohydrate linked to a protein in plant cells, was previously thought to have no helpful function for plant growth and to cause certain allergies in humans, according to Dr. Hisashi Koiwa, lead author of the study in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"This gene has been considered non-essential or even a nuisance," Koiwa said. "People thought it was an allergen and couldn't find anything good it was doing in plants. So, it was thought of as not necessary for the growth or development of a plant."

However, the team discovered that this carbohydrate may, in fact, be responsible for a plant's ability to contend with salt water. The team's finding "significantly clarifies" the role of the gene and could lead to the development of food crops and other plants capable of producing well in areas with salty water, according to the science academy's journal reviewers.

Almost one-third of nation's irrigated land and half of the world's land is salt-affected, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department's Agriculture Research Service. Salt left in the soil after the water evaporates, the research service notes, means plants don't grow as well and, therefore, yield less.

The study used arabidopsis, a plant commonly used in labs because it grows quickly and has a relatively simple, well-known genome.

The researchers applied salt to the growing plants and then examined sick plants, or those that appeared salt sensitive.

"We had to study the diseased status of the plant to understand its health," Koiwa said. "We looked for sick plants in the lab to find out why they were that way."

He said the finding may help plant breeders look for this gene as they cross plants in order to develop varieties less affected by salt.


El Paso selected to host statewide Arbor Day celebration

Texas Forest Service

Trees in El Paso? To the outsider, this may seem like a reasonable question. But El Paso natives have long known that the desert is home to a unique variety of trees and they are ready to show the rest of the state they are "Tree Amigos."

El Paso has been selected as this year's host of the state's official 119th Arbor Day celebration on April 25. The day will begin with a ceremony at 10 a.m. at Veteran's Park. James Hull, state forester and director of the Texas Forest Service, will be Master of Ceremonies.

"Arbor Day is the day we set aside to celebrate the value of trees and the positive ways they contribute to our communities and environment," Hull said. "El Paso was selected as this year's host city to honor the tremendous advancements in its urban forestry programs in recent years."

During the celebration, El Paso will be recognized as a Tree City USA for the first time, a designation made by the National Arbor Day Foundation. In addition, the state winners of the 2006 and 2007 Arbor Day Poster Contests, reigning from the same El Paso elementary school, will be honored.

The West Texas Urban Forestry Council, located in El Paso, is "Bringing Back the Green" to the El Paso region by encouraging residents to plant trees, which specifically benefit desert environments by providing shade and helping conserve water. Individuals interested in planting trees in El Paso or in any location across the state can go online to the Texas Tree Planting Guide at http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/ to find the types of trees best suited for different areas of Texas.

"It's not just about beautifying yards and streets, but just as much about teaching people how to strategically use trees to improve air quality, reduce erosion and reduce energy consumption," said Oscar Mestas, El Paso's urban forester for the Texas Forest Service. Communities across Texas can recognize Arbor Day by celebrating the ways that trees enrich our lives and the environment. For information about ways to celebrate Arbor Day in your community, visit the Texas Forest Service web site at http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu.


Gardening tips

If ants are a pest in your house, scatter catnip flowers on windowsills and other entry points. While cats may be attracted to the fragrance of catnip, ants are repelled by it. Obviously, this isn't a good idea if you are allergic to cats.

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will send you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did You Know...

In olden times, honeysuckle was planted by the front door of houses where it was purported to repel fevers and bad spirits, planted by the barn it protected the livestock. It was considered a symbol of womanly love and brought luck to lovers. Mistletoe had similar qualities and was also considered a symbol of fertility and a potent healer. Many country people kept a sprig of mistletoe indoors all year believing "while mistletoe stays in the house, love also stays."


Upcoming garden events

Tyler: The 10th annual Tyler Men's Garden Club "Spring Fling" plant sale is scheduled for Saturday, April 26, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the East Texas Fair Grounds in the East Pavilion (Farmer's Market Shed). Many "hard to find" plants are featured. For more information, including a list of plants for sale, visit http://users.dishmail.net/tmgc/tmgc. There is no admission charge.

Galveston: Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society will host the Earth Day and Oleander Festival at Moody Gardens on Galveston Island April 26-27. The Oleander Festival is an annual event dating back to 1921 that honors the beautiful flower and educates guests about the history of the oleander on Galveston Island and throughout the world. Area plant societies, clubs, and vendors are invited to set up booth space to display and sell their plants. There will be a floral design competition were professional, amateur and child participants can display their work to be judged. Earth Day celebration activities by Moody Gardens and its community partners will include arts and crafts, entertainment and presentations great for the whole family. "We are pleased to bring these two events together here at Moody Gardens in Galveston," said John Zendt, General Manager of Moody Gardens. "We are excited about promoting the environmental conservation missions of both Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society and inviting the public to have some fun while learning about global and local environmental issues." Admission to the Earth Day and Oleander Festival is free to the public. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardeners will hold their 6th Annual Home Garden Tour, rain or shine, on Saturday, May 3 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Five private gardens in Tyler will be showcased on the tour. Tickets will be available April 1 and are $8.00 in advance. They can be purchased from The Smith County AgriLife Extension office at 1517 W. Front St., Suite 116, Tyler, TX 75702 or by mail from Andie Rathbone, 13270 Oak Hill Lane, Flint, TX 75762. Tickets will also be available on the day of the tour for $10.00 and can be purchased at any of the gardens on the tour. For more information, visit http://grovesite.com/mg/smg.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold its annual "Hidden Gardens Tour" Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Arrive at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport, and get your tickets and maps for this one-day event. Receive maps to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. This event is open to the public. The cost is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets or for more information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

San Antonio: Comal Master Gardeners and Antique Rose Emporium will present An Herb Affair, an herb festival with demos, crafts, samples, and info for growing, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., May 3 at the Antique Rose Emporium, 7561 E. Evans Road., San Antonio. For more information, call (210) 651-4546 or visit www.antiqueroseemporium.com/event.

El Paso: Visit five private gardens in El Paso through The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 10. At the Wiseman Garden — La Casa Que Canta (924 Cherry Hill Lane), features include a unique blend of native desert landscaping mixed with mounds of lush green grass, a Colonial Spanish courtyard with an Old World fountain, and a breathtaking view of the Franklin Mountains and Coronado Golf Course. The lush and textural Duncan Garden (500 Thunder Crest Lane) overlooks a huge arroyo and includes city views, Xeriscape gardens with more than 100 different kinds of plants, and a 50-foot waterfall. The Enriquez Family Garden, at the base of Franklin Mountain (553 Canyon Springs) includes a children's play space surrounded by fruit trees and greenery, a grotto which invites meditation, and a gazebo used for entertaining family and friends. The must-see Nash Gardens (269 Fountain Road) includes a variety of gardens on one-and-one-half-acres. Visitors will meander through rose, water, tropical, traditional, topiary, and Xeriscape gardens. At the Ventana Garden (5500 Ventana Del Sol), enjoy the views nature has provided of the Franklin Mountain arroyo, and admire the large outdoor fireplace and man-made waterfalls and ponds that attract colored finches, doves, and sparrows. Visitors may begin the tour on May 10 at any of the participating gardens, all open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to each private garden is $5, Open Days are rain or shine, and no reservations are required. Discounted admission tickets (5 for $20) are available at Nash Gardens, 150 East Sunset Road. For more information, call (888) 842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org. A portion of the proceeds collected at each garden will benefit the El Dedon Verde Garden Club and Master Gardener Association.

Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club will host its annual Spring Garden Tour on Saturday, May 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour, which makes a great Mother’s Day activity, showcases eight lovely gardens in the Sugar Land area. A wide variety of styles and designs will be featured including a Monet-inspired theme; cottage, topiary and tropical styles; and an Asian garden with a Koi pond. Club members will be available at each location to share gardening tips and to answer questions. Tickets are $10 for the entire tour or $2 each for a single garden, and are available for purchase at any of the gardens on the day of the tour. For recommended starting locations or a map of the gardens, visit www.sugarlandgardenclub.org or call (281) 565-4658.

Denton County: The Denton County Master Gardener Association presents the 2008 Walk Through the Gardens Tour of private gardens in Southern Denton County on Saturday, May 10, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, call (940) 349-2883 or visit http://www.dcmga.com.

Amarillo: The Amarillo Area Master Gardeners will present The “how-to and with what” of container gardening, 10 a.m. to noon, May 17. Bring your container (minimum 12-inch diameter), buy items from their plant collections and create a beautiful, original container garden. Soil is provided. Class will be held at the Potter County AgriLife Extension Office, 3301 E. 10th (Tri-State Fairgrounds), Amarillo. To register, or for more information, call (806) 373-0713. Registration deadline May 9. Limited enrollment. Cost $10.

Austin: Learn how to creating a Tropical Paradise by attending a free seminar featuring speakers are from the Travis County Master Gardener Association and Natural Gardener Nursery staff, Wednesday, May 21, 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin. Perennial Tropical Plans for Central Texas covers many of the tropical plants that can tolerate/thrive in the local growing conditions. Plant this selection once and enjoy the look for a long time. Tropical Plants for the Interior discusses the conditions preferred by the plants to remain healthy. Many varieties that favor interior living are included. Time will be spent on problems and pest that are common to interior tropical plants. How to Grow Ferns to create a lush look. Discover the varieties of ferns and conditions necessary for successful growing ferns in our local area. Integrating Tropicals with Natives for a Tropical Look discusses using tropical plants as annuals as well as in pots along with perennials to create that tropical feel. Bring samples of diseased, bug eaten, sick plants to the Plant Clinic. Experts will diagnose the problem and offer possible remedies. The seminar is sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the AgriLife Extension, Travis County. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Nacogdoches: The Stephen F. Austin State University Pineywoods Native Plant Center will host the 4th Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference May 28-31 in Nacogdoches. The conference will be held on the beautiful SFA campus, which is home to the Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, as well as the 40-acre Pineywoods Native Plant Center. Join a unique blend of naturalists, horticulturists, nurserymen, landscapers, and gardeners to hear talks ranging from rare plants to conservation and propagation. Complete Conference Package, which includes all meals Thursday-Saturday, Thursday field trip, Friday through Sunday conference, Saturday program/dance; and proceedings — $250 May 7th or before; $300 after May 7th. For additional information, visit http://pnpc.sfasu.edu.

Santa Fe, N.M.: The 12th annual Santa Fe Botanical Garden tours will take place Sunday, June 1, and Sunday, June 8, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Featured gardens include Xeriscape, shade gardening, hearty perennials, roses, great estates and an historic compound. $35 per person per tour; $60 for both tours; under 16, free. Tickets on sale May 1 through the Lensic Box Office, (505) 988-1234.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Greater Fort Worth will present a Natural Urban Living Symposium June 21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, 3220 Botanic Garden Drive, Fort Worth. Presentations include "Rainwater Harvesting," presented by Pam Daniel, Rainwater Solutions; "Natural Home Cleaning," presented by Larry White, That Orange Stuff; "Nutrition & Aromatherapy," presented by Judy Griffin, Ph.D.-Nutrition; and "Organic Gardening," presented by Coleen Thornton, Heaven Sent Produce. The symposium is free.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association in partnership with the Travis Country AgriLife Extension will present a seminar on pond building at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin, from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, June 7. Among the topics covered will be small pond construction, pond plants, fish selection, and general pond maintenance. Although the seminar is free, the Austin Parks Department charges $3 for parking. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk or visit www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Georgetown: Junior Master Gardener Specialist Training will be presented June 11-12, at the Williamson County Extension Office, 3151 SE Innerloop Road, Georgetown. For additional information, contact Donna Colburn, at (512) 943-3300 or dmcolburn@ag.tamu.edu.

Blanco: The Blanco Chamber of Commerce will host the fourth annual Blanco Lavender Festival June 14-15. The entire town of Blanco and the surrounding countryside will be bathed in lavender during the Lavender Festival. The Lavender Market, on the grounds of the historic Blanco County Courthouse, is always a must-see highlight of the festival. Selected vendors and artists from across the Hill Country will offer lavender-related pleasures and treasures from the finest craftsmen. At the courthouse, speakers give lavender-related educational programs. Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market will be part of the Blanco Lavender Festival tour each day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Events at the farm include lavender crafts, pick-your-own lavender, live music, picnic lunches, lavender lemonade, lavender peach tea, lavender goats milk ice cream, lavender products for sale and more. For more information about the festival, visit www.blancolavenderfest.com/festival/index.php. For more information about Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market, visit http://www.texaslavenderhills.com/.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold a "Fall Plant Sale" Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much-wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. This event is open to the public. For additional information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas — Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas Cooperative Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary's Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.


Wish you'd saved them?

Are you missing an important issue of Texas Gardener? Or, perhaps, just tired of thumbing through stacks of back issues looking for the tips and techniques you need to make your garden grow? Two new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006) and volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007)*.

$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

*Other volumes will be available soon.


  The newly revised Organic Manual, a natural addition to your gardening library

Around the world everyone is talking about environmental issues and the concept of "going green." Natural organic gardening and landscaping are among the most important parts of the movement. Some proponents only say to stop using chemicals. Howard Garrett, in the Organic Manual, explains in details what to do instead.

 $20.23 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of April and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

$30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)



Texas Gardener's Seeds
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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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