The Flowers of Paris
Did I mention I'm a ex-florist and flower addict? That when I first moved to Paris, I had no idea it was illegal to pick even a single bloom in parks or on roadsides, and even though I've been repeatedly reprimanded by locals and even police, I still continue to pluck the odd flower when I think no-one's looking?
That when I lived in Byron Bay, I used to keep secateurs in my car so that whenever I spotted some irresistible roadside blooms, I could easily snip a few armfuls for myself?
When I first moved into my Frenchman's apartment, the first thing I noticed (besides his Star Trek-sized desk covered in computer parphernalia, which I call "Command Central") was a lack of any plant life. Since then I've convinced him to populate every room and our three terrasses with geraniums, lavender, chrysanthemums, herbs and palms.
What is it about flowers that captures us? I think it's our desire to be seduced. First and foremost by the eyes, then our sense of touch and smell. When I see flowers, I experience an emotional and physical response. I can be just as lost in a single bloom as I can in a room full of blooms.
While I was a florist at Passionate Flowers in Byron Bay, a gentleman who had recently bought a holiday cottage in town ordered enough roses from us to fill the entire abode, before his wife arrived to stay for the first time. We set up vase after vase of luscious roses of all colours and scattered fresh petals throughout. I imagine how she must have felt, turning the key and walking in to see pure a couple of thousand dollars worth of decadence and delight.
The flowers of Australia are wild, raw, textural and robust, arranged in unstructured, natural styles. The flowers of Paris are lush, soft, feminine and intimate, gathered together as if straight from a garden.
Upon moving to Paris, the very first thing I did was go to my local fleuriste at the marché and buy a potted phaelenopsis orchid to brighten my tiny 20 square metre apartment.
Since then, I've taken hundreds of photos of flowers in all kinds of florist shops, both humble and haute couture, in parks and on sidestreets, in markets and castle gardens.
My favourite roses are at Hotel Costes, where the window displays have me lusting, staring and standing outside for ages trying to take the perfect picture of the abundant, massive blooms. Step inside the actual hôtel and you will experience sensual bundles of roses in subdued, intimate, chandelier-lit spaces.
Local marchés are a more affordable and personal way to purchase blooms, as they are sold en masse and displayed in rainbows of colours. Peonies, tulips, roses, ranunculas, hyacinths and so, so much more, making me giddy with their perfume and loveliness.
The parks and gardens of Luxembourg, Sceaux, Chantilly and Versailles are out of this world. Structured, formal and utterly luxurious. Cherry trees by the hundreds in springtime, rose gardens that make me want to get my secateurs out and start snipping, swathes of daffodils in early spring and gold and yellow chrysanthemums in autumn.
Perhaps the most seductive garden of all is Monet's Garden at Giverny, where I passed several hours alone during the first spring I experienced in Paris. Swooning over water lilies, wild flowers and cottage style gardens, I could barely bring myself to leave. My very first date with my Frenchman was at the Musée Orangerie where I experienced for the first time a panoramic style immersion in Monet's waterlilies, something I'll always remember.
Five star hotels like The Ritz are a luscious immersion, where it's easy to pass an hour or two wandering from garden to hall to terrasse to lounge area ... to soak your senses in the formal, innovative and large scale arrangements of peonies, roses, hyrdrangeas and arum lilies.
I've swooned over the blooms on three French islands I've visited - Groix, Île de Ré and Noirmoutier. Hollyhocks, lavender, hydrangeas and oleanders festoon every whitewashed maison and are planted to match the colour of the painted shutters, or vice versa ... I am never quite sure which came first!
If you visit Paris, make sure to look up and admire the jardinières that many Parisians place in their windows, spilling over with brightly coloured geraniums, adding even more charm to the already most charming city in the world.
10 EASY WAYS TO make YOUR BLOOMS last longer
Upon returning home with your flowers, re-cut the stems in between nodes, with a sharp knife or secateurs, on an angle. This allows a greater surface area through which the flower can drink.
Add the flower food provided by the florist to the water, or a teaspoon of sugar and small splash of white vinegar and bleach, to feed the blooms and clean the water.
Strip the stems of any foliage that will be below water level, so as not to pollute the water.
For tulips, my Frenchman's maman swears by a few copper coins in the water to keep the stems straight. They do continue to grow towards whatever light source is in the room, making them bend elegantly over which can be lovely anyway.
For gerberas, use only 5-10 centimeters of water.
For hyacinths, do not cut off the bulb, but leave it intact.
For oriental lilies, once each bloom opens, gently pinch off each furry stamen tip, to prolong flower life and to avoid the stamen staining what it may land on. Wash fingers well afterwards.
Re-cut stems and change the water every day, if possible.
Keep flowers away from drafts and direct sunlight.
Avoid displaying flowers near fruits, as they release ethylene gas that causes flowers to wilt.