feature designs

Traditional and Modern

Five types of tributes, expressed in traditional forms along with modern interpretations, ensure a variety of sympathy options.

    Style preferences typically differ among the generations. So when it’s time to plan services for loved ones, selecting floral remembrances that reflect the personality of the deceased while still appealing to the bereaved often requires a range of sympathy expressions. To help family and friends of all ages pay tribute, designer J. Keith White, aifd, created these classic compositions as well as their updated versions. Use these styles and techniques to develop your own works that will appeal to all your sympathy customers, young and old alike.

  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, pfci; Toomie Farris, aifd, aaf; Ann Jordan, aifd, aaf, mmfd; John Klingel, aifd, aaf, pfci; Kristine Kratt, aifd; Ivan Moreno; Ian Prosser, aifd, aaf, ndsf; and Tina Stoecker, aifd, pfci.
    This sympathy design feature and Mr. White’s work on it were sponsored by FTD Group, Inc.




Casket Sprays

In every way, this tranquil adornment is the consummate casket spray. Within the mixed composition, the large-scale feature flowers are placed at premium locations; therefore, they’re elegantly showcased while a perfect balance between large and small blooms also is achieved. At the same time, linear stocks gently define the piece’s classic, slightly cascading form. New flower varieties, such as the exquisite bicolor roses and lilies, keep the timeless tribute stylish for today’s customers.  

Similar in shape to the traditional piece, this casket spray is given a modern approach with wispy emu feather fern that subtly defines the spray’s arching form. The ferns’ airy fronds, however, become almost imperceptible and encourage visual focus on the pristine blooms, so the design appears primarily horizontal. Spiky flowers, such as stocks and Dendrobium orchid sprays, form definite lines, especially in the front, where the cascade effect occurs not in the center but, instead, on both sides of it.

MATERIALS: ‘Sorbonne’ Oriental lilies, ‘Priceless’, ‘Tibet’ and ‘Orlando’ roses, Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids, Dahlias, stocks, Hydrangeas, China millet, emu feather fern and salal courtesy of FTD Flower Exchange; Offray silk ribbon from Berwick Offray; OASIS® Floral Foam and OASIS® Waterproof Tape from Smithers-Oasis; Double-brick Casket Saddle (traditional) from Vacuum Orna-Metal; 14-inch Foam Mate® Casket Spray Holder (modern) with Aquafoam® from Syndicate Sales.


Easel Sprays

Beloved blossoms, in mixed gardeny hues, are arranged so that the largest blooms and most vibrant colors are focused near the center of this stately spray. In time-honored fashion, radiating outward from the focal area, both the color values and bloom sizes are progressively diminished. The lush, mass design continues to be a favorite farewell to loved ones.

Similar in tone to the traditional spray but emphasizing line rather than mass, this elegant creation has a slimmer profile and a sophisticated, Zenlike quietude that is appropriate for decedents of all ages. Multiple focal areas stimulate visual flow from top to bottom, and the curly willow orb and looping flexi grass introduce a new shape and dynamic movement that will appeal to a new generation of sympathy buyers. 

MATERIALS: Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids, roses and spray roses, Dahlias, stocks, larkspurs, spray chrysanthemums, New York Asters, koala fern, flexi grass, salal and Equisetum courtesy of FTD Flower Exchange; curly willow ball from Knud Nielsen Company; Offray ribbon from Berwick Offray; Artesia® Cage and Artesia® Floral Wet Foam from FloraCraft Corporation; wood picks from W.J. Cowee.



Round baskets, with their customary arching handles, have been sympathy arrangement staples since time immemorial. In the traditional example, the enduring container is filled with a column of time-honored blooms, resulting in a comfortable expression that, like an old friend, offers solace to the bereaved.

Lacking the handle and in square rather than round, this version of the sympathy basket demonstrates a contemporary Asian influence. The soaring vertical lines, visually softened somewhat by the fluttering sea-star fern fronds, also lend a modern edge. At the arrangement’s base, pavéd carnations and moss resemble a vegetative ground cover out of which the orchids appear to be sprouting.

MATERIALS: ‘Aalsmeer Gold’ roses, spider chrysanthemums, carnations, Mokara orchids, Dahlias, Equisetum, salal, flexi grass, sea-star fern and koala fern courtesy of FTD Flower Exchange; burned bamboo and reindeer moss from Knud Nielsen Company; permanent bamboo from Sullivans; OASIS® Floral Foam from Smithers-Oasis; baskets from Pots Company.



Requests for mixed arrangements don’t have to mean mixed color palettes, and, especially for sympathy work, the soothing harmony of monochromatic compositions is especially impacting. Here, the visual “wattage” of the radiant palette is toned down a bit, as is appropriate for a final farewell, by the softening qualities of several beloved blossoms, especially the spiky spider mums and fluffy Solidago.

Football mums, having been out of the spotlight for many years, are new again for today’s younger consumers. And in this modern version of the monochromatic wreath, the mums’ petalous masses lend a contemporary texture that, along with their round forms, contrasts with the sleek, intersecting lines of the bamboo grid. In addition, the striking fronds of the sea-star fern, enhanced by a delicate web of gold bullion, incorporate elements unexpected in traditional sympathy tributes.

MATERIALS: ‘Aalsmeer Gold’ roses, spider, football and spray chrysanthemums, stocks, Solidago (goldenrod), sea-star fern and salal courtesy of FTD Flower Exchange; bamboo from Knud Nielsen Company; Bullion Wire from Smithers-Oasis; Never-Wilt® Snap-Fit Wreath from The John Henry Company.


Open Hearts

Created in a softly feminine color palette, which is emphasized by the grouping of materials according to their colors, this open heart set piece is designed as a fond farewell to female decedents. The spray roses, Hydrangeas and Hypericums are up-to-date materials that impart modern textures, yet the overall effect is soft and serene and focuses on the classic hybrid tea rose, which is prominently featured in this traditional tribute.

Textural groupings, amassed by color, distinguish this contemporary open heart, which highlights some of today’s most fashionable flowers, including the chartreuse Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids. In addition to their textures, the pods and willow balls incorporate a progressive round form, which is a modern shape in sympathy design. Two traditional favorites—roses and carnations—are used in new ways, especially the carnations, which are pavéd in fluffy “pillows” while their grouped stems form impacting focal lines.

MATERIALS: ‘Michelle’ roses, ‘Ilse’ spray roses, Hydrangeas, carnations, Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids, and Hypericum courtesy of FTD Flower Exchange; sheet moss, reindeer moss, curly willow balls and melon fruit from Knud Nielsen Company; OASIS® Mâché Open Heart and Hot-Melt Glue from Smithers-Oasis.


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