World plants collection saved

Mrs Elshamy with her plants that are now in a caged cart outside her flat in Sandstone Place N19.

Mrs Elshamy with her plants that are now in a caged cart outside her flat in Sandstone Place N19. - Credit: Archant

A “priceless” collection of plants gathered from the four corners of the Earth over 40 years have been given a last-minute reprieve, thanks to the intervention of the Ham&High.

Green-fingered globetrotter Lula Shami has collected cuttings, seeds and bulbs from everywhere from Tanzania to the garden of King Farouk of Egypt for her prized collection.

The 25 rare plants, set against a specially designed mosaic on the balcony of her home in Dartmouth Park, became a much-loved feature of the housing estate in Sandstone Place and she was often approached by other gardeners for advice.

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Mrs Shami, 59, who works for the government, said: “Everybody loved my plants on my balcony. At the time of flowering you could smell them from miles away and it looked beautiful.

“People used to come and ask me for advice and some people wanted to buy them, but I always said no.”

But there were fears the plants could be thrown on the rubbish heap after a four-year spat with the town hall resulted in them being thrown in a lock-up for several weeks. “Some of them are yellow, others are very dry,” said Mrs Shami. “Like Prince Charles I talk to my plants and I instruct them.

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“There’s a very long relationship between me and my plants; they are like my kids and when one of them is under the weather I ask them, ‘What’s wrong my darling?’.”

In 2009 council workers removed the plants and put them on the street to carry out major repairs on the council estate.

But after the work was completed Mrs Shami, who has serious back problems, was told she must carry the plants up to her second-floor flat or they would be thrown out.

After a two-week stint spent in the near darkness of a council garage, they were moved by the council to a cage on the ground floor.

Mrs Shami, who claims her back problems stopped her from carting the plants back up to her balcony, had been given until Friday to move them back or they would have been destroyed.

But after being contacted by the Ham&High, the council agreed to pay for the plants to be returned.

A spokesman said: “We are sorry that the situation has been difficult to resolve. We have now agreed she can use her own contractor to move the plants and we will reimburse her costs.

“However, we do need to talk to her about moving her existing plants from around the stairs as they are a potential health and safety problem.”