There’s a secret garden on rue Burq. It’s cool and fragrant, and as colorful as an artist’s daydream. “I absolutely think flowers should be a part of everyone’s daily life,” says Majid Mohammad, the force behind the ever-changing, ephemeral garden, Muse, a neighborhood flower shop in Montmartre.
Once upon a time, Iranian-born Mohammad was an accountant. But some time in his mid-twenties, he changed tack to tend the seeds of a passion he’s had since as long as he can remember. “We always had flowers in my house growing up, especially in my room. I always had two or three blossoms on my desk,” he says. Seventeen years later—seven of them spent managing a floral boutique in the Marais—Mohammad shares his artistic vision in his own shop, where he designs bouquets and arrangements for every occasion and budget. If you think flowers are an expensive luxury, think again. Mohammad can create a subtle floral statement for as little as five euros. After all, not every occasion calls for a full fragrant outburst.
In addition to arrangements for neighborhood customers, Mohammad designs displays for hotels, restaurants, and fashion clients, including Maison Margiela, Mr. John Galliano, and jeweler Nuun. Walking into his tiny shop, it’s clear that he is not like the majority of florists in Paris who are essentially flower resellers, or who follow a very rigid vision of floral design. Here, dahlias stand bright and poised, sweet peas dip languorously, and sandersonia dangle their lantern-like blossoms. There is not a stiff, glossy rose in sight. “You must feel that a flower has a soul. Most of the roses you see are stiff, barely open; they may last two weeks, but they’re artificial,” he says.
The reason for this is that most flowers on the market are grown on highly pollutant farms in South America or Africa by giant foreign companies, who then import them to Europe and elsewhere. It’s hard to see the soul in many of them. Mohammad, on the other hand, sources his flowers from small producers in the Île-de-France and Provence regions. He picks them up from Rungis three times a week and sells them within a few days, as you would with any fine produce. “This rose is going to fade in four days or so, but that’s normal. Flowers are meant to be ephemeral,” he says, caressing a dusty pink rose blossom. Its perfume is sweet and complex, the same way a blackberry picked along a forest path in full afternoon sun has more flavor than one grown in a greenhouse.
The quality and beauty of a bouquet depend on thoughtfully cultivated flowers, but also on artistic vision. Mohammad’s goal when he started Muse was to offer something different, something that stood out. “A florist’s craft touches on design, art, and architecture… all the arts really,” he explains. He finds inspiration in everything from fashion to food to nature, and he loves every aspect of being a floral stylist, even the less glamorous parts. “I even enjoy cleaning and prepping flowers for styling,” he says with a laugh.
The next time you are wandering Montmartre, duck into Muse and take home a little inspiration for yourself.
- Rather than simply throwing your wilted floral beauties away, why not consider adding them to your compost? We explore the idea of compositing in Paris over two posts: Part I & Part II.
- Spend the day perusing Montmartre with help from Susan Hutchinson’s roundup of the hill-top quartier.
- For more beautiful Parisian florists, check out Lobster and Swan’s top 5 picks.