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Sympathy flowers are the most common gift for people who are grieving the death of a loved one, but knowing which type to send can be difficult. Condolence bouquets and funeral wreaths are often handled by funeral directors and they can usually advise on what is most appropriate. Florists can also provide very helpful advice.
Before you send sympathy flowers to a bereaved family you should always consider funeral flower etiquette and confirm that they are accepting them. If not, there is a range of alternative sympathy gifts you can offer instead.
There are many different types of flower that are appropriate for different funerals: if they were favourite of the person who has died, vibrant or more muted.
Some flowers also have particular meanings in different traditions. In the 19th century the Victorians created an entire language for them, sometimes called floriography, that associated different flowers with specific sentiments, such as grief or remembrance.
Roses are probably the most popular type of flower to send on any occasion, including funerals; as buds, fully open, or in a wreath. In the language of flowers dark crimson roses traditionally signify mourning, while tea roses express eternal remembrance. White roses are still associated with funerals. Specific types of remembrance rose are becoming increasingly popular as memory gardens to plant in a garden.
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White lilies are perhaps the sympathy flower most commonly associated with funerals, because of their demure elegance, and association with innocence, purity and angels. Stargazer lilies are often the centrepiece of a coffin spray.
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The pink alstroemeria, also known as the Peruvian lily, is a popular sympathy flower because it is long lasting.These flowers are unscented, but freesias, lily of the valley or tuberose, which compliment them, can add perfume to a condolence bouquet.
White or yellow chrysanthemums, or mums, symbolise mourning in the Far East. In Europe they are also popular as sympathy flowers. These are also long lasting, and, if appropriate, available in a range of brighter colours.
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The gladiolus, which compliments the alstroemeria has become an increasingly popular funeral flower for modern condolence bouquets. The long stems of brightly-coloured gladioli, which symbolises strength, make a bold, yet simple coffin spray, especially if arranged with elegant foliage.
Sweet-scented carnations, which symbolise love, are also a popular choice of funeral flower. In the language of flowers pink carnations are supposed to mean “I will never forget you.”
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Fragrant rosemary is beautiful in a sympathy bouquet or coffin spray and can also make a lovely memorial gift for someone who has been bereaved to plant in their garden. Rosemary is a very old symbol of remembrance and has been used in burial rites since ancient Rome.
In the language of flowers Heliotropes say “you are loved”. Its purple flowers are so sweetly fragranced that many people call this flower Cherry Pie, or Vanilla. A potted heliotrope is a beautiful memorial gift.
Aspen leaves, which traditionally symbolise lamentation and sorrow, can add interest to a condolence bouquet, funeral wreath or coffin spray.
Stocks, or gillyflowers, traditionally symbolise a long and contented life and add scent and soft colours in many hues to a condolence bouquet.
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With their daisy-like flowers, gerbera are a vivid contemporary choice, adding a splash of vibrant colour to a condolence bouquet or funeral wreath.
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Gypsophila, or baby’s breath, adds depth to a funeral flower arrangement. With tiny white blooms on a cloud of green foliage, this flower is now also often featured in contemporary and creative floral tributes for caskets and coffins.
Ivy adds depth to a formal funeral wreath, or looser bouquet of beautiful sympathy flowers. It was especially common symbol in the language of flowers and often features in carvings on headstone because it represents loyalty, faithfulness and friendship and can add interest to a coffin spray.
Marigolds have traditionally been associated with the sun and hope of new life or resurrection, but have also come to symbolise eternal devotion, grief and sorrow. In Mexico marigolds feature strongly in Dia de los Muertos celebrations because of their vivid colours that represent the light that guides the way for spirits returning home to visit their loved ones.
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An elegant choice for an understated coffin spray, orchids represent, grace, beauty and strength.
The beautiful passionflower is a more unusual feature in a sympathy flower bouquet. In the language of flowers the passionflower symbolised mourning over the death of a loved one. “Passion” is a religious reference to Christ suffering on the cross; the flower was so-called by missionaries who discovered it and thought the filaments in the centre resembled a crown of thorns. Condolence bouquets and funeral wreaths can be expensive, but you can purchase more affordable bouquets from supermarkets.
Sympathy flowers from your own garden can be an especially thoughtful tribute, especially if accompanied by a handwritten card. Silk flowers last longer than real ones and can be a better choice for placing on a grave.