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Bouquet Basics & Floral Inspiration From 'The Arrangement' Winner Tenley Young

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The professionals make their way to the Southern California Flower Market in Downtown Los Angeles early in the morning, often in the pre-dawn hours, but if you wait until a little later, us regular folk can make the most of the city's floral hub. It was on a recent morning we met up with floral designer Tenley Young, winner of the LOGO network's first season of The Arrangement. Young took us on a tour of the flower market, offering tips for putting together your own bouquet, and talking about her design philosophy and her intriguing latest projects.

We met up with Young at one of her favorite vendors, Mayesh, where the pert young Burbank native was finishing up her shopping for a photo shoot where she would be creating lingerie from flowers. A daunting task for some, perhaps, but Young was invigorated by the challenge, and was working with equal parts plan and the wide-open spirit of seeing where her creativity might take her. Those dual forces seem to be what make for a successful artist, and Young is most definitely an artist, with flowers, leaves, stems, and unusual objects as her raw materials.

Drawn to a multitude of flowers on any given occasion, Young says she is consistently enamored with orchids, roses, and calla lilies, but will pull towards different flowers depending on the task at hand. Today it's a mix of tropicals and flowers with petals and shapes that lend themselves to being molded over the curved surfaces of the human body--she's making lingerie out of flowers, after all. Working from a list, her shopping is infused with inspiration based on what is in season and up for sale at her favorite vendors.

The Flower Market, with its wild color and boisterous crowds of floral pros, can be intimidating for someone who doesn't shop there three times a week like Young and her colleagues do. Young suggests getting a map online to help navigate, and to come to the market with a plan for what you are looking for, whether you are bravely doing the flowers for your event DIY-style, or assembling a bouquet for your special someone for an occasion like Valentine's Day.

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Fresh flowers get the big time mark-up right before February 14th, especially roses, and other flowers in the pink and red tones. Young hopes intrepid and thoughtful bouquet makers think outside the traditional box and put together something with unexpected colors and textures. "I really feel for the guys at Valentine's Day," laughs Young. "Flowers are pretty much double the price, and there's so much expectation."

Those pinks and reds and purples, though? If you can pass on them for her V-Day bouquet, Young urges you to go for it. "Go with her favorite color," suggests Young. "Find out what her favorite flower is. Just do something that's a little more personal." You can go this route if you're ordering a bouquet, too, and have an advantage this time of year: "Shops do the 'assembly line' approach for Valentine's Day, but if you call them up and ask for a specific color, they're going to have to put something together original for you."

And speaking of non-traditional, there's no need for flowers to just be given from guy to girl. "I always go the safe route," says Young, when it comes to putting together flowers for a man, "and I go with green. There are tons of options for using green in a bouquet, like with succulents, mosses, leaves, or kale. You can put something really simple, but masculine together, using a few cream colored flowers, or things like sticks or driftwood."

"The thing is, anyone can put together a nice, simple bouquet, but it's really how you accessorize it, or what container you put in, that sets people apart," she explains as we pass by a vendor whose shelves and rows are stocked with driftwood sculptures, moss, and corals.

Stuck on inspiration for a floral design? Young suggests using color as a starting point: "Pick color. It's not really a matter of copying something you've seen, or, being inspired by, maybe fashion, but actually using the colors you love." In fact, you can narrow it down to a single color, and be perfectly in step with the trend right now in floral design. "What's really cool right now is monochromatic," Young explains. "For example, if you take orange roses, orange orchids, and orange calla lilies, and do three clusters of things it's absolutely gorgeous. It's super elegant, super clean--you don't need to hide the stems in the vase, just set them right in. It's easy and beautiful."

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Catch the 'three flowers, three clusters' bit? That's the "rule of threes," to which Young says she typically subscribes. "You don't want to get too crazy, otherwise it's too chaotic, and you can't really see anything."

Choosing not only the right flower for your project also means knowing which flowers at hand are the freshest. Young offers a few tips: "You can tell that if the stems are yellow, that flower is about to poop out. And of course, unless it's a brown flower, well, if it looks brown," she finishes off with a laugh. But not all flowers are DOA if they look a little wan at the Market. "Tulips, for example, might look a little limp right now, but don't be discouraged--you can clip the stems at the base and they will perk right up."

Knowing when to go to the Market helps, too. Professionals cluster in the Market's aisles before the sun comes up during the weekdays, but Young suggests waiting until the public hours after 8 a.m. during the week, or hitting the Market on a Saturday morning when it's busy, but more welcoming for the average shopper.

If you're not brave enough to hit the Market up and put together a bouquet of your own, you can always ask the vendors for some help. If you're planning an event, from a wedding to an art opening to, yes, a lingerie shoot, Young is available. In fact, think outside the box, too, for what occasion merits flowers: "There's a way to incorporate something living into whatever you do," says Young, who is more than happy to take on creative or unusual commissions, and create a one-of-a-kind floral arrangement: "I do everything to order. Because I do everything fresh, and I want to go to the market, and do something super cool, super awesome, something nobody has ever seen before."

You can see Young at work this weekend, as she'll be doing innovative arrangements for the Austin Young "Your Face Here" gallery show curated by Lenora Claire [LAist Interview] Saturday night on the venue patio. Life after The Arrangement means that Young is able to give her career a boost, and prep her Downtown studio and showroom for a February launch. "I still want to keep my business kind of low key, but...I want to do everything," she says with a big smile. "From fashion to accessories to giant events to art...I love it all."