“I grew up in the Mediterranean,” says Saheer. “So for me, having olive trees, lemon trees, grapes, and jasmine is what brings the smells and the flavour of home.”
But the climate in the UK isn’t usually suitable for those species.
So Saheer, with characteristic determination and patience, spent the better part of two decades creating the conditions in her garden for those plants to not only survive, but thrive and bear fruit.
“It took me 15 years to create microclimates in my garden,” she explains. “I planted evergreens in a sort of a circle, which creates within that space a reduction of the exposure to the environment. And then I put a pomegranate tree in the middle, and an olive tree next to that. They survive by being protected by plants that can deal with the cold winter.”
Every year, she harvests an incredible bounty of impossibly Mediterranean fruit, which her family (and the local bird population) have come to appreciate as both delicious and normal.
The foresight, dedication, and ability to think outside the box demonstrated in her global garden is a reflection of Saheer’s professional attitude to what others might consider “impossible.”
“I started the first genomic service for public health surveillance in 2012 — almost 10 years before COVID-19,” says Professor Gharbia. “But it was seen across wider public health as additive rather than as essential.”