Stand Up, Stand Out

At some point, every floral designer needs to know how to create a standing easel design that will serve the expressive needs of a memorial or funeral service with beauty, elegance, and dramatic impact. For good reason, this type of design is also a standard component in floral design competitions and in in-person evaluations for professional credentials. It offers an ideal canvas for all the strengths of formal-linear design.

With its ample size and front-facing orientation, this design is a category in which you can articulate dramatic lines and establish a strong focal point while showcasing your mastery of various embellishment techniques. Be aware, however, that in a situation where time is limited, the standing easel is likely to require more products and take more time than other types of designs. So, it’s important to start with a plan and set aside the materials you will need at the beginning.

As you review these three designs, all based on the same template sketch, consider each one as a professional design evaluator would do, adding up points for categories such as color harmony, line, focal area and balance. This process is the essence of the “Sketch and Score Method” (the subject of a forthcoming book). Copying can be a useful exercise, but to really follow the method, you will create and then evaluate your own template sketch, along with designs based on that sketch using varying materials.

This template sketch shows a simple asymmetrical design in formal-linear style, with an “X” shape that brings emphasis to the focal area where the two lines meet. The design relies on a floral-foam cage secured to an easel, which gives you plenty of space for insertions and offers an opportunity to showcase creative techniques in the focal area. Also, as the lines that form the “X” are quite obvious, you’ll want to make sure you do something extra to add creative flair to these lines.

Because the crossing lines in the sketch strongly emphasize the focal area, I have chosen large white Oriental lilies, with substantial visual weight, as the main focal flowers. Meanwhile, the lines provide an opportunity to showcase line flowers like Liatris and Gladiolus. The primary line (longer at the top of the design) starts on the left and comprises Liatris stems in staggered lengths, reinforced with lavender disbud Chrysanthemum. For the secondary line, I chose Iris. A typical form flower, Iris is best seen in profile, with space around the flower heads. Loops of lily grass add depth and interest to the Iris at top right, without distracting from their distinctive forms. The lily-grass loops are tied with bands of purple bullion wire. Below the focal area, the secondary line continues on the opposite side with more Iris, reinforced with Gladiolus and snapdragons, which provide the visual weight needed here for balance (to keep the design from looking top heavy). The primary line continues on the bottom right with ribbons of woven lily grass. Of course, in a limited-time situation like a competition, you would use a technique like this only if you have practiced it and know that you can complete the weaving quickly.

The whole design is anchored with large dark foliage (Philodendron and Fatsia leaves). Foliage like these can lend visual impact (with light-colored flowers outlined against them) and have a unifying effect, but they need to be balanced with smaller leaves and more detailed elements.

All the blooms and leaves are in white or in tints and tones of purple (violet), plus green. The result is an analogous color harmony (like white, green is often considered a neutral in floral design).


Iris spp. (fleur-de-lis); Lilium spp. ‘Siberia’ (Oriental hybrid lily); Liatris spicata (blazing star); Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation); Chrysanthemum morifolium (disbud mum); Cymbidium spp.; Gladiolus spp. (sword lily); Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon); Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia); Philodendron x evansii; Liriope muscari (lily grass)


OASIS TM Bullion Wire; FLORACAGE ® Grande Holder, OASIS ® Jumbo Cage, or TRIBUTE CAGE ® Holder; and OASIS TM Wire Easel from Smithers-Oasis North America.

Here, the same simple diagonal lines are strongly established with red gingers on one side, set against a backdrop of bird-of-paradise foliage, and Anthurium on the other side. The primary diagonal line continues below, with red carnations set against more bird-of-paradise leaves. By contrast, the Anthurium, with no foliage backdrop, appear to float in space. They require the two strands of braided lily grass on the opposite side for visual balance. The secondary diagonal line continues below the Anthurium with variegated foliage and white Dendrobium orchids.

A grouping of ‘Freedom’ roses in the focal area might have seemed too simple, even clichéd, without the addition of folded and layered foliage (Anthurium, Aspidistra and Fatsia), plus loops of braided lily grass. These various shapes add depth and texture to the design.


Alpinia purpurea (red ginger); Anthurium andraeanum (flamingo lily, tailflower); Rosa spp. ‘Freedom’ (hybrid tea rose); Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation); Dendrobium spp.; Strelitzia reginae foliage (bird-of-paradise); Alpinia purpurea foliage (red ginger); Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’ (variegated cast-iron plant, barroom plant); Pandanus tectorius (hala ); Anthurium andraeanum foliage; Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia); Asparagus setaceus (plumosa fern, lace fern); Liriope muscari (lily grass).


OASIS TM Bullion Wire; FLORACAGE ® Grande Holder, OASIS ® Jumbo Cage or TRIBUTE CAGE ® Holder; and OASIS TM Wire Easel from Smithers-Oasis North America.

At first glance, this design might look as though it has strayed from the template sketch. But the “X” shape is still there, and the sketch still provides guidance for a well- balanced design, with adjustments made along the way. The primary diagonal line on the upper left is established with birds-of-paradise; it is extended and balanced on the opposite lower side with layered extra-large Monstera leaves. The spine of the upper Monstera leaf directly continues the line of the lower bird-of-paradise stem.

The secondary diagonal line begins on top with orange snapdragons paired with accents of angled Equisetum, placed to offset the wide surface area of the Monstera leaves below. The line continues on the bottom left with purple Dendrobium orchids. In the focal area, the Equisetum triangles are duplicated with copper flat wire, bringing greater unity to the composition. Orange Gerbera, carnations, and ‘Free Spirit’ roses make a strong statement as focal flowers, supported by rolled Aspidistra leaves. The rolled and layered foliage, in particular, lends great depth to this design.

By including green in the color harmony (because it is so prevalent in this composition), the color harmony could be defined as a triad of secondary colors.


Strelitzia reginae (bird-of-paradise); Gerbera jamesonii (Transvaal daisy, Barberton daisy, African daisy, Veldt daisy); Rosa spp. ‘Free Spirit’ (hybrid tea rose); Rosa spp. ‘Orange Babe’ (spray rose); Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation); Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon); Matthiola incana (stock, gillyflower); Dendrobium spp.; Monstera deliciosa (swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron); Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’ leaf (variegated cast-iron plant, barroom plant); Equisetum hyemale (horsetail, scouring rush); Asparagus macowanii/A. retrofractus (ming fern); Ruscus aculeatus (butcher’s broom, Italian Ruscus)


OASIS TM 3/16” Flat Wire (Copper); FLORACAGE ® Grande Holder, OASIS ® Jumbo Cage or TRIBUTE CAGE ® Holder; and OASISTM Wire Easel from Smithers-Oasis North America.