Say it with flowers
The majority of our families chose a spray or wreath of flowers for their loved one’s coffin and this can vary greatly in size, shape and theme. Sometimes that person had particular flowers they liked or it might be created using blooms in their favourite colour. Often the flowers might include some which could have been in a wedding bouquet previously and, sometimes, they might feature foliage from their own garden.
The wreath on the Queen’s coffin included many personal touches and was, we are told, overseen by King Charles. Among the plants in it was myrtle grown from the same plant that provided a sprig for the Queen’s bouquet when she married Prince Phillip in 1947. There was also rosemary, a symbol of remembrance, as well as flowers from the gardens at Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove House, including roses, dahlias, pelargoniums and hydrangea.
Over the previous few days, the Queen’s coffin had included two other wreaths – for her journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh and her procession to Westminster Hall. In Scotland, the wreath featured white heather, dahlias, phlox and pine fir from Balmoral, while the other one had more pine from Balmoral, as well as lavender and rosemary from the gardens at Windsor. All very personal.
Flowers have formed a part of funerals for many centuries. In fact, there is evidence of flower fragments surrounding corpses at ancient burial sites dating back to 60,000 BC. In addition to remembrance and ritual, flowers in the past also had a more practical role to play – helping to mask the smell of a body prior to a funeral and before modern refrigeration.
Flowers are also traditionally left in cemeteries. If the person has been buried or their ashes have been interred, friends and family might leave flowers regularly or perhaps to mark a birthday or anniversary.
Here at Tester & Jones, there are a number of florists locally we can introduce to our families, depending on their requirements. They will typically spend some time chatting to families to get a feel of what would reflect their loved one best.
The choice tends to be a traditional spray or wreath or, alternatively, a floral tribute which really sums up the deceased person and that could be anything from a football-shaped arrangement in their team’s colours to a butterfly.
While some families prefer a formal wreath or spray, others want a more free-form or rustic feel. While flowers are sometimes chosen for their size or colour, others are selected because of their scent or, alternatively, how long they’ll last for. It’s also worth remembering that some flowers – such as tulips, peonies or sweet peas – are seasonal.
In addition to flowers on top of the coffin, sometimes a florist will come into our building before the funeral and decorate around the coffin itself with flowers – with ivy or similar trailing flowers. This looks particularly lovely on willow coffins.