A sympathy design created to showcase a cremation urn, photo or other remembrance of the deceased, or a trio of pillar candles.

Floral design, photos and text by Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD

final with candles in the middle

The rate of cremations in the U.S. has been steadily rising over the past two decades; hence, the styles of flower designs needed for memorial services have changed. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the rate of cremation in the U.S. will approach 60 percent this year, nearly double the cremation rate in 2005, which was around 32 percent. The NFDA also reports that it was in 2015 when the number of cremations in the U.S. surpassed the number of burials, and the organization forecasts that the number of cremations will only continue to rise, reaching a rate of 80 percent by 2035.

For these reasons, I created a versatile garden-inspired design to appropriately spotlight an urn, a photo or other remembrance of the deceased, or even a trio of pillar candles. For the base, I chose a floral-foam wreath form encased in a plastic tray, which provides a water reservoir and adds stability to the design, but any type of wreath form or base could be used, as well.


Step 1

Soak a floral-foam design ring in flower-food solution until it is fully saturated.

step 1

Step 2

To create a finished riser on which to place the urn, photos, candles or other remembrance, cut a piece of polystyrene foam to fit snugly into the center of the design ring, and wrap it with foliage-patterned ribbon (shown) or fresh foliage, securing the ribbon or foliage on the underside of the foam with greening pins. For additional security, insert two 6-inch unwired wood picks through the side of the floral-foam design ring and into the side of the ribbon-covered polystyrene foam square, opposite each other.

insert wood pick
place riser into middle of wreath base

Step 3

Arrange Campanula stems (or other tall linear flowers) and white-painted birch branches vertically in the “back” of the design ring, to create a “backdrop” for the urn, photo, candles or other remembrance.

add linear flowers

Step 4

Cut Hydrangea blooms into small clusters, and arrange them into the design ring, in groupings. With this technique, one Hydrangea bloom can provide a lot of coverage.

add hydreangea

Step 5

Next, arrange individual spray mum blooms, carnations and stems of Alstroemeria throughout the design, shortening the stem lengths as you work your way from the back of the design to the front (graduating in height from taller in the back to shorter in the front).

add flowers at base

Step 6

Insert a thin wood pick into each stem of several succulents, and tape the stems to the wood picks with stem wrap. Arrange the picked succulents throughout the design. The succulents can be saved and planted later by the family in remembrance of their loved one.

prepare succulent
insert succulents

Step 7

Spray the tips of several stems of Israeli/Holland/Florida Ruscus with antique gold colorant, and allow to dry for five minutes. Arrange the gold foliage tips, as well as green tips, into the design, to fill any open spaces.

paint ruscus
gold accents



Campanula medium (Canterbury bells)

Hydrangea macrophylla (hortensia, French Hydrangea, mophead Hydrangea)

Chrysanthemum × morifolium (spray mum—decorative/cushion bloom type)

Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation)

Alstroemeria aurea/A. aurantiaca (Peruvian lily, lily-of-the-Incas)

Ruscus hypoglossum (Israeli Ruscus, Holland Ruscus, Florida Ruscus)

Echeveria spp. (hen-and-chickens, hen-and-chicks)

Betula pendula, branches (silver birch, European white birch, weeping birch, warty birch)


• OASIS® Midnight Floral Foam Design Ring (14½”)

• Polystyrene foam (2” thick, green)


• Aspid Décor Variegated Ribbon (Lyraediss pattern) from Nova Packaging Solutions

• OASIS Greening Pins

• Floratape® Stem Wrap

• Double-point square wood picks (2”-4”)

• Unwired wood picks (6”)

• Simplux Moving-flame LED Pillar Candles from Melrose International (optional)