Growing flowers in a field in Paris is not very common...
Masami Lavault: I am the first in the capital to grow flowers in the ground! The land is 1200 square meters, it belongs to the town hall of Paris who rented it to me in 2016 for 10 years, as part of the call for Parisculteurs projects. I share the space with two associations: a neighborhood nursery and a structure that promotes integration through green space workcamps.
Do flowers like it in the city, or do they live better in the country?
Masami Lavault: My flowers are very happy here, in the 20th district of Paris, a stone's throw from the Belleville cemetery. I'm the one who has to adapt to this urban environment. You have to take into account the buildings around, which can change the sunlight. And there are also cold air swirls on the west side, because the land is right at the foot of a huge water reservoir with a high stone wall. Making a planting plan here is a real headache.
What varieties of flowers can be grown in Paris?
Masami Lavault: All those that can withstand a temperate climate. It can be as low as -10°C in winter and +42°C in summer. I therefore sow all year round, taking into account the temperature amplitudes and the particularities of the different areas of the land. The possibilities are immense, as long as you do a lot of planning beforehand. This year, I will grow more than 80 different varieties and species. Tulips, dahlias, roses, mint, basil, ornamental beans... And even weeds, which can give very beautiful flowers.
Who do you sell to?
Masami Lavault: To florists in the area, whom I deliver to by bicycle. They find flowers sold at Rungis, but also rare varieties, whose names I will not mention to keep my little secrets. I also sell a lot to individuals, who can contact me on my Instagram account, pleinairparis (External link) . Several times a year, on Saturdays, my flower farm is also open to the public during a flower market. The entrance is at the end of the main alley of Belleville Cemetery, on the right. Visitors choose their flowers with me, and I cut them in front of them. It couldn't be fresher! They leave with their bouquet, held by a simple rubber band. Here, no plastic wrapping, no paper, no aluminum.
Do we need special insecticides to fight the little beasts in Paris?
Masami Lavault: Absolutely not. My plants are not labeled organic, but they grow without any chemicals. Before settling here, I worked abroad in farms specialized in biodynamic agriculture. I was able to bring back strains of bacteria from Asia, which I grow at home. These micro-organisms, I make a kind of cocktail, a probiotic solution for the soil and the flora, which I diffuse in the irrigation system.
You used to work as an industrial designer in London. What a lifepath change!
Masami Lavault: This job made no sense to me, it was in contradiction with my values. I was born in Paris, and I've known salaried workers, but today I'm very happy to live outside, in the open air, free. Nature is not submissive, it does not understand subordination. No matter how much we think, how much we plan, flowers can do as they please. Sometimes they bloom later than planned. Or choose a different colour than the one expected.
Going to Masami's flower farm in Paris