In the French tradition, it is customary to offer lily of the valley on the first of May. Does it originate from King Charles IX who offered some to the ladies of the court in 1561? Or does it replace the wild rose, symbol of strikers' demands? May it be linked to the Celtic celebration of the summer season? Or is it a throwback to the buttonholes of white-wearing men and women dancing during a “Bal du muguet”? The origins of the tradition remain mysterious, but it is nevertheless a widespread custom all over the country. Also considered to be a lucky charm and symbol of happiness, you're likely to find it for sale on every bit of pavement, being picked and prepared by amateur florists beforehand.
On this occasion, we shed a light on the current best craftsmen and plunge you behind the scenes of an exceptional trade.
Gilles Pothier, flower monarch
Awarded the Best Craftsman of France title in 1994, Interflora World Champion in 1997 and Officer of the agricultural National Order of Merit in 2007, Gilles Pothier travels through the years but his talent remains intact. In his little shop of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, flowers and plants are plentiful and give out a particular scent onto the avenue Raymond Poincaré. Depending on seasons, the florist shows a creative mind worthy of the great French botanical artists. With May 1st closing in, choose Gilles Pothier's skills.
97, avenue Raymond Poincaré
+33 (0)1 40 67 71 71
Mickaël Rault, the young genius
A young floral artist from the Morbihan in the south of Brittany, Mickaël Rault wins flower competitions with astounding ease. In 2010, he won the National Florists award and became national champion, before going on to conquer the rest of the world five years later and earn a gold medal at the World Flower Forum. He now covets the 2019 Best Craftsman of France award.
Owner of the Art & Végétal shop in the town of Pontivy, Morbihan, Mickaël Rault creates exceptional flower arrangements that will cast a spell on the first of May.
Art & Végétal
10, rue Lorois
+33 (0)9 66 04 18 24
Isabelle Minini, provider of emotion
She ranks among the most awarded women florist of the country and she makes her city proud. Winner of the Hermès d'Or for a competition in Fréjus in 1995, Best Craftsman of France and Ukraine Rocsolana Prize winner in 1997, Isabelle Minini has been raising the profile of French flower arranging for more than twenty years now. From her shop located in the Antiquaires district in Dijon, Bourgogne, she applies a true artistic vision to the ephemeral and emotional values of her work. As she overshadows every competition, Isabelle Minini retains her creative freedom to happily arrange for you a lily-of-the-valley-based flower arrangement for this symbolic day.
30, rue Chaudronnerie
+33 (0)3 80 68 03 56
La Maison Lachaume, Parisian excellence
Maître-fleuriste since 1845, Lachaume is an institution in the capital. Located on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the shop offers a multitude of sprigs of lily of the valley and bouquets of red roses and country flowers. Curious people and passersby will revel on these bewitching scents, just like Marcel Proust did more than one hundred years ago, when he would make his daily stop to pin a flower to his buttonhole. Timeless, warm and yet secretive, La Maison Lachaume was awarded, among other distinctions, the First Prize of the 1889 Paris World Fair as well as an Honorific distinction in St Petersburg in 1899.
103, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
+33 (0)1 42 60 59 74
Julian Tonnellier, romantic elegance
Only a few steps away from the Eiffel Tower, Julian Tonnelier's shop is quite the hit with Parisian media outlets. And for a good reason: he won silver at the Olympiades des Métiers (World Skills) in 2005, was awarded Best Florist of France in 2010 and Best Craftsman of France in 2011... This flower arrangement expert ties in technique and creativity to make up his own style. If your passion for that brunette or handsome blond guy gets the better of you on May 1st, call on the services of this romantic setting mastermind.
Julian Paris 7e
15, boulevard de la Tour Maubourg
+33 (0)1 45 51 36 58
Jean-Michel Mertens, the refined expert
Multi-awarded artist Jean-Michel Mertens won the Coupe de Paris in 1973 and Best Craftsman of France in 1976. As the founding member of the Art Floral group, he was the first French florist to win the World Champion of Florists title in 1979. Also a photographer by trade, the florist has a knack for putting colours together with elegance and masterful arranging. As an aside, he was decorated by former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. So do not hesitate, you can blindly ask this incredible artist for a bouquet decorated with lily of the valley!
207, avenue du Général Leclerc
Stéphane Chapelle, country luxury
With clients ranging from Chanel to the Comédie Française, Stéphane Chapelle flowers streets and hearts at once. In his former 17th century bookshop turned flower shop, the florist uses all the tricks Christine Ovier, Jean-Michel Mertens and Christian Tortu taught him before. With decoration projects, onsite meetings and creative drawings, passionate artist Stéphane Chapelle rigorously cherishes flowers. He arranges bouquets with subtle eccentricity. Just like designer houses and palaces, get your share of “Chapelle touch” with sprigs of lily of the valley for your close ones. They'll bring them luck!
29, rue de Richelieu
+33 (0)1 40 20 97 63
Frédéric Dupré, a passion for green
Follow the scent of flowers leading you in the centre of Bourges. Designated Best Craftsman of France in 2011, Frédéric Dupré will welcome you with a big smile on his face. Fervent defender of his trade, the young flower craftsman makes a point of honour to take all your wishes into account. On May 1st, you'll have the chance to discover his observant and creative skills, driven by his love of green art.
71, rue Barbès
+33 (0)6 07 08 60 38
Jean-Louis Amice, aesthetic mastery
Let's keep our exploration of flower arranging with yet another master in this field: Jean-Louis Amice, a florist and decorator who won the French Florist Champion title in 1993 and was designated Best Craftsman of France in 2000. Far from the cramped up Parisian workshops, the craftsman specialised in the “land art” technique in Montélimar, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. This contemporary trend consists in using natural frames and materials to charmingly integrate them in the creation. Jean-Louis Amice adds his exceptional artistic flair to the proceedings in order to combine aesthetics and refinement. Excellence will be the key word for all your bouquets on May 1st!
Jean Louis Amice
15, boulevard Meynot
+33 (0)4 75 51 12 13
Debaulieu, boldness in a flower
In order to round off this flowery day smelling like lily of the valley, here is another choice address in Paris: between the Saint-Georges and Pigalle neighbourhoods, the Debaulieu shop flowers and decorates the most renowned designer houses. The style, at once classical and contemporary, of its founder Pierre Banchereau is bold, for it dares marrying birds of paradise and old roses. It dares being spontaneous, in a way French singer Henri Salvador would have sung: I would like some green sun / Laces and teapots / Photos of seasides / In my greenhouse.
30, rue Henry Monnier
+33 (0)1 45 26 78 68