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Why flowers for funerals?

Karen MacKechnie of Floral Goat, Pembrokeshire, explores the history of funeral flowers and suggests ways to personalise these important final flowers to reflect a life.

Flowers are wonderful, glorious, joyous things and hold a place in all the pivotal moments of our lives. Flowers and funerals are believed to be the oldest of human rituals, with evidence of wildflowers found at burial sites dating from 62, 000 BC.  They offer a non-verbal but poignant expression of our feelings and can offer comfort, express love and joy for the life of the person who has died. They can also be a point of beauty on which to focus the eye as a distraction from the physical reality of a coffin.

We know that access to nature has a positive effect on our emotions and our wellbeing, and I love reflecting nature in my work. As growers and florists, Flowers from the Farm members can choose flowers which bring a more relaxed and natural style to funeral tributes and truly reflect the time of year at which they’re made.

A pair of well worn boots filled with colourful pink, yellow and blue flowers stand on a weathered stone wall in the welsh countryside.

Well worn boots filled with flowers make a beautiful summer tribute.

Grief is an individual as the people involved, and the flowers can be creative and truly personal too. Flowers can incorporate items of clothing, give reference to a profession, a skill or a passion and yet still retain their natural beauty and be made with the environment in mind, without using plastic-derived floral foam as a base. I have seen stunning natural arrangements reflecting football colours, decorating the tools of someone’s trade or reflecting a hobby.

Claret and blue coloured flowers include hydrangeas, malope, dark dahlias and physocarpus foliage as part of this West Ham inspired funeral sheaf.

A West Ham inspired funeral sheaf with team colours reflected in the flower and foliage choices. By Tuckshop Flowers, Birmingham.

Designs needn’t be complex or contrived, and can be a guided by something as simple as a colour preference. One of my discussions with a family started as “I only know that he liked white flowers” but developed, through conversation, into an arrangement which reflected the meadow filled countryside that had surrounded the man all his life, with some hints of colour for the family at the service.

A meadow inspired white funeral casket spray for a man who loved the countryside.

Meadowy whites for a man who loved the countryside.

It’s wonderful to see that more people are looking for opportunities to appreciate the flowers beyond the funeral service. Sharable arrangements can be used to decorate the wake afterwards, and then be distributed to friends and family. Designs can even incorporate living plants to be grown on at a memorial site or in family gardens.

If the person who has died was a keen gardener, why not ask your florist if they can incorporate flowers and foliage cut from the plants they tended into their funeral arrangement? My friend and fellow farmer florist, Gill Timms of Pembs Petals recently worked in this way with a family to create a casket spray for their mother and grandmother and loved learning more about the lady who’d died as she worked.

Our response to flowers is a very personal thing. The type of flower, their colours and their fragrance are often wrapped up in our memories and connections with people and places. There are so many choices and inspirations. It’s all about what is right for you.

Flowers always make people better … they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.