How to arrange a casket spray

thai coffin image by Adrian Hillman from

Begun as a way to mask odours associated with death, funeral flowers have become a tradition even though the original purpose is no longer a necessity. Caskets are adorned with sprays, blankets and memorial sashes, and the standard way to express thoughts of love and support is to send an arrangement to the family. If expenses are an issue or for those wishing to make a more personal contribution to the passing of a family member, the casket spray is an arrangement that can be created from fresh flowers and a few simple supplies.

Place the casket saddle on a clean dry surface. The casket saddle is a specially designed container made to hold a fresh floral arrangement that requires water and fits the shape of the casket to hold it in place. Saddles come in a variety of shapes and sizes from narrow and elongated to wide and multichambered.

Measure and cut a piece of floral foam to fit in the casket saddle dish. Leave about an inch on all sides of the foam, trimming the foam to fit with the razor knife if necessary. Check the height of the foam to be sure it matches the height you want for the base of the flower arrangement. This will be the central shape of the casket spray. Tape the foam in place on the saddle with the heavy duty floral tape to keep it from moving. Some saddles have snap-in clips or plastic holders to secure the foam blocks. If there is more than one chamber to the saddle, repeat this so that all chambers have a foam base installed.

Add water to the foam block or blocks until the blocks are saturated. Do not allow a pool of water to sit in the saddle dish while working, but wet the foam to make it less brittle and easier to work with. Load the foam with water before the flowers are put in place.

Begin at the bottom at each end of the saddle, and place a long stem of flowers or greenery in the centre of each end. Begin with the longest piece you will use. Gladiolas work well, however, if you can't find long stems, you can create your own single-stem spray by taping together a series of flowers such as roses. Take one long-stemmed rose and lay it on a flat surface. Lay another long-stemmed rose next to it, with the end of the stem halfway up the stem of the first rose. Wrap a piece of floral tape just beneath the head of the first rose, to the stem of the second rose. You now have an extended floral stem with two roses, one in the middle and one at the end.

Fill in the bottom layer of the base by working toward the centre in deceasing lengths. This means that each end "sprays" out to the sides and the centre at the front and back are uniform and no more than half the length of the ends. For example, if your end spray extends two flower stems, the centre should be only one flower stem in length. The entire base should resemble a large oval.

Add greenery beneath and around the flower sprays to add body and fill in the bottom layer. Be careful not to cover the flowers; the greenery should not overpower the floral part of the arrangement.

Arrange a number of large focal flowers into the foam at the top of the block. Use several large flowers and set them to the exact height you wish the top of the arrangement to reach. Leave space in between these large focal flowers for filler flowers and greenery. A good rule of thumb is two large flowers in the very centre, one to each side at the ends, and one or two at the front and back. Odd numbers and a combination of no more than two types of large flowers works well.

Fill the space between the focal flowers with shorter pieces of greenery and complementary flowers. An example would be a lily and rose casket spray. The sprays at the base may be roses and the large focal flowers may be the lilies. Filler flowers would be smaller roses and rose buds, and carnations or another common flower in a colour complementing the focal flowers. The length of the filler flowers should not exceed the height and length of the stems of the focal flowers or sprays you have already placed.

Continue adding flowers and adjusting the shape of the arrangement as you go, standing back and looking at the overall outward shape as it progresses. When you are pleased with the flower placement, add a bow or several bows to the arrangement by making a ribbon bow and securing it to the foam block with a long floral pin.

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