An Old Montreal in…artificial flowers

The European trend delights Instagrammers, but also raises its share of concerns


Posted at 1:33 a.m.

Updated at 5:42 a.m.

Proliferating in recent years in major European cities, artificial flowers are reaching Old Montreal. This trend, driven by social networks, is raising concerns, particularly in the French capital, where elected officials are considering banning them.

What there is to know

In recent years, artificial flowers have been multiplying in restaurants, cafes, hair salons and florists in major European cities.

Faced with the proliferation of floral decorations on facades, the Paris Council wishes to regulate this practice, criticized for its environmental impact.

With the arrival of spring, this trend is transported to Old Montreal, where arrangements of artificial flowers have appeared outside several businesses.

On Saint-Paul Street, in the heart of Old Montreal, the flower arches that adorn a dozen businesses attract visitors who stop there to strike a pose. Several of these photos will be found on Instagram, to the delight of merchants who have invested several hundred, even a few thousand dollars, to brighten up the front of their café, restaurant or store.

“The number of people who come to have their photos taken in front of my door is quite intense,” notes Ann-Marie Hamel, owner of Maison Margan, a boutique selling body and home products, located on Place Royale.

There are photographers, brides and grooms who take their photos here. It arouses great interest.

Ann-Marie Hamel, owner of Maison Margan

As recalled The Guardian in an article published in 2021, artificial flowers are no longer the object of contempt. First adopted by trendy London restaurants, which made the wall of flowers and faux foliage a popular backdrop for self-portraits, these decorations have spread to businesses across the UK and in several major European cities , sparking criticism about their environmental impact. Because although some flowers are made of silk, like those chosen by Maison Margan, the majority are made of plastic.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Pangea, rue Saint-Paul Est, has also opted for artificial flowers.

In Marseille, the installation of artificial flowers in real trees recently aroused the indignation of the organization Clean my Calanques due to the risk of them ending up at sea.

Find alternatives

Last February, faced with the proliferation of facades decorated with fake flowers – the Parisian Urban Planning Workshop counted 325 in April 2023 – the Paris Council adopted a wish requesting the drafting of a charter on these installations. “The idea is not to ban these decorations for traders, but rather to find alternatives,” said Figaro Councilor Boris Jamet-Fournier. To justify this measure, he cites reasons of fire safety and hygiene and an ecological concern, the City of Paris having committed to a zero plastic approach.

Faced with a trend which, in Montreal, is only in its infancy, the City says it has not yet taken a position on this issue. “However, we are aware of the environmental concerns raised by this practice, particularly with regard to plastic waste,” Béatrice Saulnier-Yelle, press secretary in the mayor’s office, said by email.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Artificial flowers adorn the terrace of the Vieux-Port Steakhouse, in Old Montreal.

As for the fire risks raised in Paris, the Montreal Fire Department indicates that even if artificial flowers are more flammable, they are not considered a fire risk as such.

In the Ville-Marie district, the town planning regulations do not specifically prohibit the installation of artificial flowers on facades. But if a complaint were made in this regard, it would be evaluated according to the provisions of this regulation, specifies the public relations officer at the City of Montreal, Camille Bégin.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

The Tommy Café on rue Saint-Paul Ouest opted for green and yellow artificial plants.

“It is certain that the mentality must evolve and we must absorb it, but we are at the beginning of all this [à Montréal] », argues the co-owner of Florilège Jardinerie Urbaine, Rosanna Sanfilippo, whose company is behind the installation of three floral arrangements in Old Montreal, in addition to the one that adorns the front of her store, in the Saint- Henry. “The sets that were made in Paris are enormous. It has nothing to do. »

We want to bring back tourism, we want people to go out shopping so as not to kill local commerce, I think all strategies are good. What we can do for the environment is to reuse them until they are obsolete.

Rosanna Sanfilippo, co-owner of Florilège Jardinerie Urbaine

The florist says she hopes that her floral decorations, which are stored in winter, can last four years, even if it means replacing a few damaged items.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

The Saint Paul creamery also followed the trend of artificial ornament.

“We want an authentic Old Montreal”

Opting for natural flowers for this type of installation would require a lot more maintenance and would be more expensive for traders, she argues. And the effect is less impactful.

  • >Real plants can be found at the door of Chez Mère Grand, rue Berri.>

    PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

    Real plants can be found at the door of Chez Mère Grand, rue Berri.

  • >The same goes for the Saint-Laurent Market, opposite Place d'Armes.>

    PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

    The same goes for the Saint-Laurent Market, opposite Place d’Armes.

  • >The first floral arch created by Chantal Royer in Old Montreal took four years.>

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY CHANTAL ROYER

    The first floral arch created by Chantal Royer in Old Montreal took four years.

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“If we want real things, we sure can’t have vibrant colors unless we dye them,” confirms Chantal Royer, a botanical artist who is behind the creation of several natural arrangements in the neighborhood. . “It’s my hobby horse to prove that we can have something real outside. » One of its first installations is still in place after four years.

Believing that a certain aesthetic must be respected in a heritage sector like Old Montreal, she nevertheless believes that artificial insertions should be possible, “in just the right amount”.

“When you cover a building entirely with plastic foliage, it becomes problematic,” observes Dinu Bumbaru, policy director at Héritage Montréal. “We don’t want a disguised Old Montreal, we want an authentic Old Montreal. »

Banished to the cemetery

Reflection on the environmental impact of artificial flowers is also reaching cemeteries across the province. An article published on May 8 in the daily newspapers of the Coops de l’information indicated that certain cemeteries advise against, or even prohibit, artificial flowers on their grounds. This is the case of the Granby Catholic Cemeteries, which adopted regulations to this effect last fall.

“We have just banned artificial flowers because they are not compostable and not recyclable,” explains Élyse Champagne, director of the Granby Catholic Cemeteries. With the wind, the rain, it ends up on the ground and there is a lot of it. Every week, you have to go around to pick up these flowers which would end up with neighbors, notably the Granby Zoo. »

The risks posed to the machinery by the metal rods present in these arrangements also explain this decision.

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