It’s still dark outside. People are shuffling around in their puffy jackets, caffeine in one hand, leaning over at the hip to page through petals with the other. Familiar greetings are exchanged between regulars. The cold concrete floors are covered in neatly arranged rows of plastic buckets filled with flowers as far as the eye can see. Bundles of flowers wrapped in newspaper on wire racks taller than me are being pushed in all directions, headed to elevators, parking lots and back. While most residents of Los Angeles are still dreaming, the Los Angeles Flower Market is up and at ’em.
Flower stalls and suppliers cover more than two city blocks, not far from downtown’s Skid Row. Some local growers specialize in seasonal flowers like dahlias and ranunculus. Other vendors fly in premium product from Holland and Japan. The number of local growers has dwindled over the past decade as trends in agriculture shift and refrigeration makes it possible to fly in flowers from anywhere around the world within 48 hours.
At my favorite stall, Raul trucks in foliage, branches and oddly textured things that look like a piece of Narnia, but, really, they are just from Oregon. I visit my usual vendors who know I won’t give them a hard time if my order doesn’t come in, and they don’t give me a hard time when I bring my scruffy little dogs into the market. I can’t help but add a few more bunches of this new variety of chrysanthemum that has shorter, rounded white petals, and a pencil-thin outline of lime green around a dark center — a very ’70s vibe. I do a quick lap around the nearby stalls just to make sure I don’t miss anything exceptional and rare. I do run into a florist friend who takes 10 minutes to let me know he just got the call to be on the latest flower competition TV show. I don’t tell him that I also auditioned but didn’t get called back.
I use the somewhat secret market entrance to slip into the back of the new coffee shop that just opened across the street. I treat myself to a caffeinated latte (with oat milk, of course, because this is L.A.). I haul my newspaper bundles of flowers back up the freight elevators that are large enough to store a car and roll them into the back of my car. I dangle my florist badge to the kid at the parking kiosk and drive back toward the 110 Freeway, back to my studio.
Natasha Nguyen M.A. ’13 is the owner and lead designer at Rosewater, a wedding and event floral design studio in El Segundo, California,, and a coach for small businesses. Some of her clients include Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.