feature designs

Sympathy Designs: Expressing Emotions

Color trends lend a wealth of creative possibilities for stunning tributes.

Florists have a weighty responsibility when tackling sympathy orders—to translate the love and respect that family and friends have for the deceased into a piece of floral art that loved ones can cherish in their mind’s eye long past the public memorials. Such a tall order calls for creativity and perhaps more attention to detail than with other arrangements.

Few other venues give such a wide audience an up-close look at your work. In addition, these pieces must withstand added handling because they often are displayed at multiple ceremony sites.

Taking cues from the California Cut Flower Commission’s (CCFC) American Floral Trends Forecast, designer J. Keith White, AIFD, has created a range of designs—from traditional to trend-setting—in each of the four themes: Rose Hip, Hydroponic, Gatherings and Infusion. For more information on the CCFC’s 2006-2007 trend forecast, visit Floral Trends 2006.

Guest Designer: J. Keith White, AIFD, is partner and design director for AANDK Productions in Houston, Texas, a special-events company for retail, corporate and trade clients. He is involved in the Texas State Florists’ Association and the Allied Florists of Houston, which awarded him Member of the Year in 1996. Mr. White is a member of the FTD Education Team and the California Cut Flower Commission Education/Outreach Team. Other members of the FTD Education Team are Jeffrey Corbin, AIFD, AAF, PFCI; Deborah De La Flor, AIFD; Toomie Farris, AIFD, AAF; John Klingel, AIFD, AAF, PFCI; Ian Prosser, AIFD, AAF, NDSF; and Tina Stoecker, AIFD.

This sympathy design feature and Mr. White’s work on it were sponsored by FTD Group, Inc.

rose hip
This sumptuous palette of spicy and earth-toned hues allows the interplay of exotic and traditional floral elements. At its heart, the look is organic and celebrates nature’s bounty. These arrangements honor a person of sophisticated tastes.

sleek solace

Bundles of bamboo stalks anchor this casket piece
in a cross formation while sponge mushrooms and
lichens provide an organic backdrop. Ingredients from the mesh fabric to the callas create a flowing effect, using the natural draping of the flowers and foliages to accentuate the lines. Pairings are used for dramatic effect here, with two large Anthuriums framed between the two pairs of callas that arch across. Even the Philodendron selloum leaves direct the eye toward the center of the piece.

MATERIALS: Never-Wilt® Single Casket Saddle from The John Henry Company; Mesh Fabric from ArtMesh; bamboo, angel vine, brake fern (Pteris), sponge mushrooms and moss from Knud Nielsen Company; lichen balls from Schusters of Texas; ‘Milva’ roses, Anthuriums, pincushions (Leucospermums), miniature callas, Asiatic lilies
and Philodendron selloum leaves sponsored by FTD
Flower Exchange.

This modern palette is clean without being sterile and has the natural favorite green among its centerpiece colors. This verdant palette creates sympathy expressions that are ideal for either a man or a woman and appropriate for any season.

nature’s edge
The intricate detail in this nontraditional square wreath form is achieved with simple style. Amid the clusters of white and yellow-green ingredients, loops of Banksia foliage bind the form. Their naturally saw-toothed edges appear hand-cut and intricate, adding value to the piece. Wire-bound bundles of steel grass also add interest and direction to the piece. ‘Green Goddess’ callas swoop through the wreath’s center, breaking up the hard edges.

MATERIALS: 18” Mâché Square Wreath and Silver Metallic Wire from Smithers-Oasis; Cymbidiums, ‘Super Green’ roses, ‘Green Goddess’ callas, carnations, Dahlias, Banksia foliage and steel grass sponsored by FTD Flower Exchange.


The Gatherings theme is all about celebrating one’s eclectic style—personalizing arrangements to an individual’s tastes and interests and reflecting their worldly experiences. It is particularly suited to incorporating props and themes, so be sure to ask families about favorite hobbies, travels and colors.

vision of love
This massed collection of sumptuous florals is joined
by pink balls of eyelash yarn, which are picked into
the wreath form and blend beautifully with the feathery pink Proteas as a foil for the spiky artichokes and sleek Anthuriums. Showy English garden roses are a prized addition—while their shorter life makes them less used in arrangements that must last for days, for sympathy work, their blooms are spectacular. This wreath would be particularly appropriate for gardeners and those interested in needlework, but use your creativity in customizing such designs to each family.

MATERIALS: 24” Mâché Open Heart from Smithers-Oasis; wooden easel from The John Henry Company; ‘Juliette Droues’ and ‘René Goscinny’ English garden roses from Flower Transfer, Inc.; ‘Super Green’ and ‘Sahara’ roses, ‘Super Nova’ Eryngiums, Proteas, artichokes, Hydrangeas, Hypericums, waxflowers,
rice flowers (Ozothamnus), Veronicas and jasmine
vine sponsored by FTD Flower Exchange; yarn from
local craft store.

The neutral bases of white, black and brown offer a pristine palette with which any hue can combine for a pleasing presentation. Here, dazzling white pieces are both reverential and celebratory of a life well-lived.

herald of peace
A heady fragrance and dazzling display are created with the profusion of perfectly opened white Oriental lilies, which are joined by white callas and accented with Lisianthuses and Hydrangeas. This classic arrangement is a perfect choice for those looking for a pure tribute. Timing is key because the lilies should be at peak bloom for the services, so leave the flowers out of the cooler for several days ahead of designing time.

MATERIALS: Never-Wilt® Double Casket Saddle from The John Henry Company; Oriental lilies, Lisianthuses, callas and Hydrangeas sponsored by FTD Flower Exchange.

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