The door code reveals a tiled hallway. The hallway leads to a door. And when you push that door, a friendly gray cat appears in the soft light. Behind the cat: an extraordinary garden. We could be in the south. Not in Montmartre. The shock is big. David had warned us and we are not at the end of our surprises. Right now, it is 4PM, and our meeting shouldn’t last more than an hour. But things do not always turn out as expected. At 9PM, we’ll happily be drinking on the highest terrace of Paris at sunset. But first things first, let’s get through the door …
Cats live here and their owner like attitudes tell us they are here at home (hi Poupette) among the most exclusive Ile de France chickens and Stakhanovist bees who toil in their hives with the obstinate aim of beating their 2013 record: 47 kilos of Montmartre honey. The amazing garden, because it really is amazing and huge, unfolds on two levels, like an oasis in the middle of buildings, like a too good to be true mirage under the Parisian sky.
Naturally, we imagine stories. An abandoned house has something to say: yes guys, Montmartre before the tourists was the countryside, fields, crops. On the door, a plaque reads “High quality Mules.” This small two-story house built in the mid-nineteen hundreds was bourgeois and was used to trade mules. A century later, their heirs could not agree on the house’s fate, it fell asleep for 40 years until David took over the business at hand and cleaned out the garden.
Now let’s talk about David, the founder of Les Mauvaises Graines, because there is a lot to be said. With the stature of an actor, Newman blue eyes, out of the ordinary energy and charisma, he enters the scene accompanied by two adorable and smiling women. Hello Annick, hello Camille. To get a good feel for things and people, today we are comfortable and everyone smiles the entire time.
“I designed this garden as a jardin de curé. It is a wild garden.” A humble garden composed of plants that look like the gardens from his childhood, that of his grandfather, a railroad worker in Vesoul. Returning to the roots in Paris …
His worst enemy? André Le Nôtre, Monsieur garden-à-la-française. Originally, the French garden was not drawn to the square or with a compass. While we make small twigs crack in the shaded walkways, David talks about Charlemagne and Capitulary of Villis (around 800 AD) who ordered a hundred different species of plants, fruit trees and herbs, systematically cultivated in the gardens of the royal domains. We are very far from the spirit of Versailles. Blueprints? Neat partitions? No, thank you, none of that here.
We find within David, Montmartre that is a summary of his universe: overflow of rock & roll, eclecticism, anti-conformism. It’s simple, it’s beautiful. Are we convinced? Obviously. And it didn’t take us more than a minute. Truth: we are easy targets.
David is the brain (and hands) behind the concept store black & green Les Mauvaises Graines. He isn’t only a gardener or a horticulturist, he is also a planter. Let’s be precise: on his business card his profession says, “Rock & roll planter”. That afternoon spent in his company, persuaded us that prior to being a gardener/stylist (falsely) wacky and expert in urban growth, David is primarily a poet who dreams of a life in green and in prose.
The poet loves all plants (except maybe Granny geraniums and stilted orchids), he also appreciates the neighborhood cats frolicking with confidence in his (Rock & roll) Eden, the hens who live with him, the insects, the sheep and the goats installed in his country-like house, the stories, the games.
“Get your cameras out, as soon as I open the barn door, they will run.” We are ready. 1, 2, 3. It’s open. This is Big Bertha (the most beautiful hen of the group) and behind is Gisèle, the star of hens who poses for all the pictures and goes to sleep later than her counterparts because in her head, Gisèle thinks she isn’t actually a hen. David pulls out of the straw a warm egg (note: delicious) explaining that he makes his own humus behind the barn and that neighbors sometimes give him their scraps. His countryside Paris dream is to locally produce many of the plants he sells in his shop. That is a reality that smells of good straw and damp soil.
We rejoin Annick and Camille on the large patio table under an ancient tree. From here the abandoned house is a bulwark against the bulwarks and all around the buildings are like roadblocks. But the house resisted, strengthened by its garden. This is not only a small crooked house, or an adorable garden, we are in tune with something invisible and powerful that needs a physical place to express itself and talk to us. And this thing is the “soul” of Paris. If there are ghosts (and there are ghosts!), they need regular haunting places. Where will our ghosts go, how will we talk to them…, when the last workshops, “vintage” shops, painted gables and urban fallow without historical value disappear? There is real emotion to see that this still exists. But it is a joyous emotion, not a nostalgic one at all.
In his garden, David is in fact a conservative of this Parisian soul. Luckily, he has the spirit of sharing. A lot of people come here. We will not hide behind his little finger; David is the planter of the stars who flock to him in order to make their terraces sing. Doe has eaten here. Oh wow, okay. Some older neighbors have tea here while chatting in the sun. Oh wow, okay. David loves the energy of meetings. Life is about that, he says. “What are you doing tonight? How about a little alfresco dining? ” We don’t want to impose. “Of course not. There will also be Laure and her sons. It will be in the spirit of campaign.” Nice! What does the mini-chicken installed on his knees think? “She follows me everywhere, she’s like a real dog.” The mini hen is a big favorite whose sweet name is Barbie, Barbie the Bearded from Antwerp (a rare species that deserves to be known).
How can we resist these free hens from Montmartre? It’s impossible. Each cackling coquette has her own little biography. When we read this on these ladies’ facebook page, we thought it was funny and well imagined. But then, after two hours face to face with them, we are not really sure that it was all invented:
Gisele, after a difficult childhood, went from home to rehabilitation centers never finding comfort or stability. She eventually joined the “free hens of Montmarte” club after meeting Monique during a protest against polygamy. She found in this former activist a spiritual guide enabling her to channel her inner energy and revolt.
Time always goes by too quickly in good company, as the saying goes. A formula that is extra true since meeting enthusiastic Parisians on this blog. It is now time to take a look backstage of the Les Mauvaises Graines boutique.
But before, David has a surprise. “I saw pictures you took from Victoire’s rooftop, Place des Vosges.” Suddenly, we are like children with stars in our eyes. “I’ll take you to see the view on the highest terrace of Paris.”
The highest, was confirmed. And we cannot thank David enough for making us discover this exclusive bird’s nest. It is not without a certain pride that we publish here the most breathtaking 360 ° panorama of the capital (light wind today that can blow up to 130 km / h). I’m going to plant a tree here, says David. “A sofa here, sheltered from the wind, and then break the wall here, and there…“.
From the terrace to the Les Mauvaises Graines store, there are only a few hundred meters to go. Large beetles as big as turtles, pop culture chicks, Elvis Christ and Jesus Presley superstars, another nice chat, seeds galore, an office desk notoriously overgrown by vegetation, a little afternoon sun blowing up the greens, a motorcycle, we assume with a full tank… David’s store looks like a cabinet of curiosities.
Because we (unfortunately) do not all have the chance to enjoy life with a terrace, but that (almost) all Parisians have at least a windowsill, folky herb kits are waiting to be installed behind-these so-called windows. In our home on the first floor Pixies are going to chlorophyll the living room. And that’s cool.
And the dinner in the garden? It going to happen. Each has his own mission. Annick, Camille and Laura are responsible for bringing the cheese, meat and wine. We bring enough bread for an army. This moment will remain a great memory. A 9PM, David marks the end of recess. The sunset is now! The merry band leaves the potholes for the eagle’s nest.
A sacred movie monster from before the war (and a little after) lived here. No, it is not Louis Jouvet (too bad). The last owner was a Mexican artist. She left, as a souvenir, small South American sculptures that seem to watch over the city like totems. From up there, Paris is a Monopoly board that invites reverie, lost between immensity and abundance of details. In fact, this is Mount Everest.
Under his powerful, cool air David is a man of convictions and concrete commitments. By listening, we understand that Les Mauvaises Graines are not a play on words or a concept store for Parisians to whom life was rather successful. He spends part of his time home schooling children. Giving them a taste of the garden, land, labor and patience.
We keep thinking back to his grandfather’s garden in Vesoul. At first kids are reluctant but in the end they enjoy it so much. “The garden is always associated with old age. But it is just the opposite. ” In nature, there are no bad seeds that inherently would give bad plants. With a little care, even in the depth of the woods, where the light almost never passes, we managed to grow seeds and realize that everything is part of everything. Life is not a French garden; there are no pre-drawn lines. Grafting, hybridization, anything is possible, starting from scratch, starting from the root. And this is a man who knows what he’s talking about. Three years ago, at forty, David left the world of fashion after a brilliant career to become a rock & roll planter who greeted us so well. “I was wrong.”
We have one regret, just one. Having met David just a few days before the arrival of Gilbert. Who is Gilbert? An amazing parrot. Where does Gilbert live? Sometimes in David’s jacket. Sometimes in a large bright orange cage in the shop.