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Neighbours lodge complaints over overgrown plants

Nature lover's forest of plants outside her HDB flat occupied a 5m stretch and were a source of irritation and a nuisance to her neighbours. -TNP
Bryna Sim

Wed, Jun 15, 2011
The New Paper

To Ms Daphne Tan, the forest of plants outside her HDB flat is a source of joy and a botanical representation of heaven on earth.

But to her neighbours downstairs, the overgrown plants - clusters of red roses, trumpet flowers, gardenias, pomegranates, vines and climbers - were a source of irritation and a nuisance.

They complained that the overhanging greenery attracted flies, intruded into their space and claimed that it made their corridor dark.

Her plants are so numerous that they occupied a 5m stretch; from the recess area and all the way across the common corridor to the lift landing.

Before they were trimmed, the plants grew about 3m beyond the external facade of her flat. For about two years, the plants hung in the way of a harmonious relationship between Ms Tan and her neighbours at Commonwealth Crescent.

But last month, Ms Tan, a customer service officer in her 50s, finally gave in to the complaints and allowed her plants to be trimmed by officers from the HDB.

Still, she wasn't happy to do so.

"My plants have been hacked bald and are in pain," she exclaimed to The New Paper, when we visited her at home last Thursday.

Ms Tan, who is single, has been living alone in her three-room flat at Commonwealth Crescent since 1987.

The nature lover said she purchased the recess area outside her 10th storey corner unit for about $2,000 to grow her plants.

"The plants help me to feel at peace when I come back after a hard day's work," she said. To her, the more plants, the merrier.

Not to her neighbours though, who have made numerous complaints to the HDB since August 2009. Mr Jeffrey Tan, 49, who owns the unit directly below Ms Tan's, said he has made many complaints to HDB about the plants because they caused him much inconvenience.

He said he found himself constantly having to remove dry leaves and insects from his flat.

Mr Tan, a security officer, added: "It smells like a forest every morning, it obstructs the light and there are green flies which bite. I've to keep burning insect coils to get rid of them."

But Ms Tan refuted these complaints.

She said indignantly: "What insects? There are no bees or worms. It's not true."

The HDB spokesman said that for the past two years, they had sent many letters and reminders to Ms Tan to trim her overgrown plants, but to no avail.

She also refused to open the door during HDB's house visits.

As such, HDB workers would trim the overgrown plants periodically from the lower floor units.

But Mr Tan said he got fed up of that and stepped up his complaints in April and May this year.

Ms Tan received the HDB reminders, contacted HDB on May 12 and agreed to let the workers enter her flat to trim the plants on May 14 at 9.30am.

She said: "I thought I'd just put an end to this problem once and for all."

The trimming gave much relief to Mr Tan and other lower-floor neighbours.

Mr Tan said he "felt better now".

Agreeing, a retiree who wanted to be known only as Mr Ng, who is in his 60s, said: "There used to be a green curtain of darkness outside. Now, I see the light."

But it's Ms Tan's turn to be unhappy.

She claimed she has been so affected that she could not go to work the past month.

She estimates that the dead plants and flowers were worth about $3,000.

"I took care of them and nurtured them. Things like that, money can't buy," she said.

But following the trimming job, she went promptly to her usual nursery to buy new plants to help her cope with the loss.

Ms Tan intends to restore her garden to its full glory.

In the meantime, she said: "All my dead flowers can be used to make a wreath."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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