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Wreaths And Other Designs

( Originally Published 1923 )

One of the most popular types of funeral tributes is wreaths. They are made in varied forms, which may be classified as:

(1) Uniformly round or oval, flat.

(2) Crescent-shaped, flat.

(3) Uniformly round, standing, with or without shower.

(4) Crescent-shaped, standing, with or without shower.

Wreaths may also be classified according to the material of which they are made: (a) Foliage, (b) Foliage and flowers; (c) Flowers.

The uniformly round, flat wreath is the type which formerly was most used. It was bordered with Smilax or other green and filled with Roses, Carnations or a variety of flowers. The material, all short-stemmed, was wired and arranged in a very formal way. For variety, it later became a common practice to build the wreath narrower on one side and to form what was called the flat, crescent wreath.

Frequently the wreaths were mounted on an easel which proved unsatisfactory, and now frames with permanent bases are made for standing wreaths. They are in varying sizes, from ten inches to three or four feet in diameter, the height of the standard becoming higher as the diameter increases.

A wreath must of necessity be constructed in quite a formal manner, but it is possible to have a somewhat varied and irregular arrangement, especially when the so-called shower is introduced. Shower wreaths are seldom made with ribbon, but the shower effect is produced by the use of fine, light flowers, cleverly wired to strands of Asparagus or other green, so that they appear natural.

In making a wreath, a frame of the desired size is first lined with tinfoil. In selecting the size it should be re-membered that the use of green around the circumference will increase the diameter three or four inches. After the tinfoil is in place, Sphagnum Moss is used for filling the frame. This should be put in firmly, but not compactly enough to make the wreath heavy, holding same in place by winding with silkaline. All loose ends of Sphagnum are trimmed off; the frame is then ready for greening. If the wreath is to be a standing one, a circular disk of tinfoil is cut the size of the base and fitted inside its frame, which is filled with Sphagnum Moss in the same manner in which the wreath was filled.

Fancy Dagger ferns are generally used in greening. They are held secure by the use of greening pins, hairpin-like wires which permit of the work being done rapidly. The wires, Sphagnum Moss and tinfoil are hidden by the ferns. The wreath is then ready for the other plant material.

(a) Foliage Wreaths

There are several types of evergreens used for wreaths The wreath is the outgrowth of the garland used in early periods of history. Laurel was one of the earliest kinds of foliage used and was symbolic of victory. Laurel wreaths are still used quite generally especially on historic occasions and in presentation for meritorious conduct. Oak leaves are also used quite extensively, as are also English Ivy, Magnolia, Galax and the leaves of the Bay Trees. The material mentioned is all of the broad-leaved type and requires different treatment in filling from the narrow-leaved types, such as Boxwood, Hemlock or Spruce. Most of the evergreen material of the broad-leaved type is of a thick, leathery character and retains its freshness for a considerable period. Magnolia, Oak and Bay leaves are chemically treated so they last in-definitely and may be had either in green or bronze. The advantage of using evergreen material is that wreaths may be made before needed, and shown to customers either with or without flowers, giving a better idea of the finished wreath.

Broad-leaved evergreens may be used in two ways. They may be laid flat over the mossed area of the frame and pinned down with greening pins, one leaf overlapping the other so the pins are covered, or each leaf may be wired or attached to a wired toothpick so they stand high above the frame. English Ivy and Galax leaves should always be wired, for the leaves are too short to be pinned to the frame and should be separated sufficiently to show the interesting character of the outline of each leaf.

In making a Boxwood wreath the material is cut into short sprays, the ends are sharpened and inserted into the mossed frame. This makes a very attractive wreath and it will retain its freshness for a long time, especially if the moss is kept moist.

Hemlock is especially pleasing for the making of large wreaths for interior decorations. They retain their freshness for a considerable period, if kept cool, but in warm rooms they quite quickly drop their leaves. When used for window decorations at Christmas they should be placed on the outside.

In making a Hemlock wreath, a circle of rather heavy wire, about No. 9 grade, is used for the foundation. No. 22 wire is wound on a spool or stick so it can be used readily for binding the sprays of Hemlock to the wire foundation. It is attached to the loop where the No. 9 wire is joined. Short, dense sprays of Hemlock are selected and bound firmly to the foundation, care being taken to have the dark green side above. If the wreath is to be a double-faced one, the Hemlock should be placed with equal care on both sides of the frame, but if it is to be hung against a wall, it is necessary to finish but one side. If the wreath is to be crescent-shaped it should be begun with short tips of Hemlock, gradually lengthening them until the wreath is half finished, then gradually decreasing the length of the sprays as the winding approaches the point where the wreath was begun.

(b) Foliage and Flowers

The decorated wreath is more often requested than an evergreen one, and the flowers combine with the foliage in a pleasing harmony. It is more difficult to get a good combination with bronze foliage than with green, particularly if bronze Galax leaves are used for the foundation. There are also few flowers which combine well with Oak foliage. Roses or Orchids are always unsatisfactory, but Chrysanthemums are pleasing. A permanent and attractive wreath may be made of Oak leaves with sprays of Waxberries or Bayberries, Myrica cerifera, and Statice.

In selecting flowers to decorate a wreath, the size of the blooms depends upon the size of the wreath. Callas or Easter Lilies, for example, are not satisfactory except on the larger frames. For the small wreath the finer flowers should be used.

The flowers should be arranged gracefully over the leaves so they have a garland or spray-like effect. There should be a pleasing balance in the arrangement; that is, a point about the middle of the garland should be selected for the most fully open or the largest flowers and the other flowers should decrease in size until buds or fine flowers terminate the spray. If the wreath be a standing one, it is very important that the heavier part be near the lower side. If a bow of ribbon is to ornament the wreath, it should also be placed at the lower side.

(c) Flowers

Some foliage is used in all designs to give emphasis to beauty of form or color. In the types of wreaths previously described, however, flowers are not placed entirely around the wreath. In this type they are extended around the entire wreath. In selecting material for filling, it is usually best to have one principal species and another of secondary importance. Too many kinds of flowers or too much variation in color make the wreath confusing. As has been said repeatedly, simplicity is our aim. In filling the wreath, the flowers must be wired and then so placed as to appear to the best advantage, but not at all crowded. What little foliage is used may be added last to fill any vacant spaces. Fine flowers, such as Lilies of the Valley or Roman Hyacinths, are more effective if grouped at some particular point on the wreath rather than scattered among other flowers.

When standing wreaths are used, the size of the base should be in keeping with the size of the wreath; that is, the base should have the appearance of a firm support. To accomplish this, if the wreath is large, flowers such as Easter Lilies, Chrysanthemums or Callas may be used for the base, and the same flowers as are used for the principal element in the wreath, such as Roses or Cattleyas, may be used as a secondary flower. Small Cycas leaves, Cocos palms or even small Croton plants may be used in the base to increase the appearance of stability.

Other Designs

It is not the purpose here to describe in detail the making of all designs, but to call attention to the general character of flower arrangement in connection with this important phase of work in retail flower shops. Fortunately there is now a marked improvement in the type of designs sent as funeral tributes. Designs of the various fraternal societies will always be a problem in flower arrangement but they carry with them an important financial remuneration. The very formal arrangement necessary to bring out the details of the design gives the arranger little opportunity for originality. The formality, however, necessitates the use of short-stemmed flowers and frequently flowers may be used in a design that are not fresh enough to sell in other ways. This does not mean, however, that material of poor quality may be used, for nothing is more depressing than a mass of withered or drooping flowers. The use of formal designs as funeral tributes should not be encouraged. They do not convey an expression of sympathy and cheer as do attractive baskets of cut flowers. There is no more beautiful arrangement of flowers for a funeral than the casket cover, if it be made artistically and of fresh material.

Simple, decorative floral wreaths for Memorial Day are quite easily made. If one is not a professional florist, wire frames filled with Sphagnum Moss may be purchased from a local Hower shop and the filling done at home or by interested organizations. Flowers are abundant and it is possible to make the wreaths in patriotic colors. Among the many white flowers are Spiraea Vanhouttei and White Lilacs„ For blue, wild Violets may be obtained in large quantities, but it is more difficult to find wild, red flowers. As a substitute red chenille may be wound on one side of the wreath. Flowers used on Memorial Day are too frequently a withered, drooping mass. This is because they are not cut and placed in deep water for several hours before being made into bouquets and wreaths. See page 189.

In making the wreaths, it is better to wire the flowers to be inserted in the moss. No. 20 or 22 wire cut in nine-inch and twelve-inch lengths may be obtained from a hardware store. The wiring is quite simple but it should be remembered that when the wire is twisted about the flower stems, all pressure should come on the fingers, rather than on the stems, or they will be broken.

What is known as the hairpin clutch is generally used in wiring flowers and ferns. Flowers with weak stems, like some varieties of Roses or Calendulas, may be strengthened by running a wire a short distance into the calyx, then turning it carefully around the stem in such a way as not to wind in the foliage. A wire so arranged gives adequate support to the flower stem and is quite inconspicuous.

There are many forms of wire frames illustrated in the catalogs of wholesale firms who supply equipment for retail flower stores. The mossing of these is on the same general principle as for the wreath. Each design requires special treatment, such as can be given only by an expert designer. It is not advisable for a novice to attempt their arrangement. To become expert in work of such a character one should have considerable experience under a skilled instructor.

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