Les Fleurs

My French may be pretty poor (although I notice it gets better the more vin blanc et vin rouge I drink ... you see it is happening already), but I pride myself that I can spot a good flower shop at 100 metres - whatever the language. So, how happy am I to be in Paris with some good friends on the sunniest weekend of the year, with time aside to explore the street-side cafes and les fleuristes. It does not get much better than this.
As I only have a relatively short amount of time, I decide on this occasion to leave nothing to chance and take some local advice from my friend Cecile who used to live in Paris. When she visited London we flower shopped together in Notting Hill (August blog) so I feel confident she will know just what I like.
First stop is the flower market near to the banks of the Seine at Place Louis-Lepine (Louis was the policeman who introduced truncheons to the police force, and he was known as 'the little man with the big stick'. Who said the day that you learn something is never wasted?!). There has been a flower market here since 1808 and on Sundays the flower sellers are joined by additional stalls selling brightly coloured birds.
As we pass down the shaded alleys between the stalls, the stone underfoot is cool from recent watering. At the edge of the market are the ornate green water fountains that you see on many Parisian streets. I wonder if these are used to water the flowers, but my french is not up to asking this. Or maybe I have just not had enough to drink yet!
For me, one of the greatest pleasures of a weekend away is strolling through unfamiliar streets day-dreaming about what it would be like to live here. I decide that rather than buy an imaginary house in Paris I will choose an imaginary apartment that my daughter Libby can live in when she works for French Vogue. I can see the balcony I will help her fill with flowers when I visit and I even find her a car ...or maybe she would rather have a scooter ...
As we approach one of the flower shops that Cecile has recommended, I get a glimpse of more flowers, another garden, another imaginary life through an open doorway.
Agenes Valverde's shop Ephemere is situated at 133 Avenue Pamentier and today displays a gentle mix of cream, pale pink and lilac flowers - in perfect keeping with a warm late spring day.
Inside there are splashes of cerise pink, added from the stock and peonies that Agnes is using to make up hand-tied bouquets for customers.
Flower prices are chalked on to grey slate tiles, the names appearing so much more romantic in French.
Agnes worked for a number of top Parisian flower shops before starting her own business. Eventually she gained confidence to open her own shop, encouraged by her mother and grandmother, both of whom were great plants women.
There are more streets to explore, and one turn taken at random finds us in a small square with a 'Mr Tumnus' lamp post and an almost hidden garden.
This is a secret garden that is simply full of roses.
A wonderful place to just sit and enjoy the sunshine.
But for now I have more flower shops to visit. Including Merci (111 Boulevard Marchais), which has to be one of the loveliest stores I have been into in a long while.
Oh, thank you Cecile!
To start with, as you step into the courtyard in front of the shop you are greeted by a very jolly, very red car which is decorated for the season, after which you emerge into an airy, vaulted world of interiors, clothes and flowers.
Merci was started by Marie-France and Bernard Cohen who c0-founded the clothing company, Bonpoint. Wanting to give something back, they donate the profits from the store to help a young women's cooperative in Madagascar.
The couple has also encouraged other designers to follow their lead and many of the items are sold for a lot less than the normal margins.
So now I am not only day-dreaming about a Paris apartment, but I am mentally decorating it as well.
There is so much to love about this shop; from the second hand book section, that is also a cafe, to their range of exquisite pottery vases.
I tear myself away (before I start to fill my hand-luggage) and we head towards the restaurant where we are meeting our friends for lunch. This is a prelude to the rugby match that we have all come to Paris to watch. At least I think it was the main reason for the trip for the boy ... but I am not so sure about the girls...
After the fun of the Stade de France it is back into Paris for a late supper, window shopping and people watching around the bustling St Germain sector.

From paper to perfume
With an eye out for flowers, naturellement!

Who Wants Diamonds Anyway?

He may never be able to buy me diamonds, or pearls, and certainly not clothes (he calls skirts 'frocks'), but he was thoughtful enough to buy me www.sallypage.com and build me a website which includes my books and all my paintings. The truth is, since I ran The Paint Ball (Feb & March blogs) I haven't been able to put my brushes down.
I am hooked!
So, thank you Billy Kelly.
"I would rather have roses on my table than diamonds round my neck"
Emma Goldman
I'll settle for the roses and Billy Kelly any day.

Spring with The Spriggs

The last time I photographed the Spriggs' family flower shop in Petworth, was for my Flower Shops & Friend's book, as they feature as the December flower shop (such a good name for florists I've always thought ..Mr Spriggs the Florist ...Mrs Spriggs the Florist ...Master Spriggs ...).
I thought those of you who got to know them in this book might like to hear how they are getting on.
I sit in the surprisingly warm spring sunshine in the courtyard opposite the shop, very happily consuming several cups of coffee and catching up. All is well. The shop looks as good as ever. Now a mix of late spring and early summer flowers and plants. I do think there is something missing though and kick myself for not asking Miss Spriggs to stand in the doorway!
It is clear Master Spriggs and Miss Spriggs have been very busy. Matthew has been asked to design the flower displays for several parties and corporate events (but still finds time to give the hanging baskets outside the shop a terracotta twist). Whilst Samantha has taken a leaf from my book (literally!) and has created a book of their wedding flowers so she can give brides a better idea of what the Spriggs' family can do to help them.
When I was here in the winter I could not resist exploring and photographing Matthew's walled garden which stretches out behind the shop.
The garden is now looking very smart for the spring, with new paving, and the borders packed with helibores, tulips and forget me nots.
Matthew dips into the garden when he needs unusual foliage or herbs, and recently, was also very pleased he had planted such smokey coloured helibores. Hydrangeas were in short supply for a wedding due to the flight ban and these made a perfect substitute tucked in amongst some dusky pink roses.


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