Florist of the Year

05-debbie-western-florist

Debbie Western

Debbie has a particular personal passion and an unrivalled gift for creating floral displays for funerals. She has supplied flowers for the sendoffs of celebrities.

In an outstanding field, Debbie stands out because funeral flowers are her specialism. This is a matter of personal predilection rather than business opportunism: what Debbie loves most is creating floral tributes to people who have died. Her reputation for excellence has spread. Among recent celebrity clients she counts the late David Gest. Although she didn’t know she was creating the floral tributes for his funeral when she received the order, it was only when she delivered them that she found out.

Based in Rotherhithe, East London, Debbie works at the heart of a community that still believes in a proper sendoff – with banks of flowers. She recently supplied flower arrangements for the funeral of Bermondsey undertaker Barry Albin-Dyer. People love what she does. A characteristic testimonial sent to the judges reads: “The arrangement was SO impressive that a member of public en route called through the window and said how beautiful it looked!!!!!”

Debbie has been working with flowers for over 40 years. For 25 of them she was Head of Floristry at Southwark College.

Runners up in this category: Flowers by Susan, Inspired Flower Design & Tuckshop Flowers

British flowers for British funerals

At Lower Blakemere Farm in Herefordshire, Heather Gorringe has been growing British flowers for British funerals since just last year. She says: 

Most flowers for funerals are just too formal, too regimented, and often just too white. Our flowers will look as if they have been gathered from our garden (and many of them will have been). They’re a tiny bit wild: They’re natural, green, and they’re gorgeous, and they’re handpicked and prepared in our floristry.

All our flowers are proudly sown and grown on British Farms, and this means that very often our flowers are much, much, fresher than their foreign competitors.

Why ship flowers half way around the world when we can grow them here?

We asked Heather if she could supply flowers for a midwinter funeral and she told us she certainly can. Some of her flowers are grown in polytunnels, but “we compost our flower waste, we recycle our plastic and shred our cardboard.”

Strikes us as one of those ideas that set you wondering why no one else thought of it. Or did they?

Find out more about Heather’s enterprise by checking out the Great British Florist website. Find their funeral flowers here

A Giving Tribute For Lasting Memories

ED’S NOTE – Right back when A Giving Tribute was nobbut a concept, we loved the idea. Since those early days its creator, Liz Mowatt, has developed, trimmed and simplified her offer. She has persevered with the sort of grit and tenacity you’ve got to take your hat off to. We asked her for an update. Here it is. 

We offer something completely unique in the funeral industry – Tribute Cards that can be displayed at the funeral in a similar way to funeral flowers and kept afterwards in a memory book.  

Following our soft launch last year we asked for feedback from funeral directors who had used our service and those that hadn’t yet.  The consensus of opinion was that it was a lovely idea but that the website was proving to be a barrier.  At the same time we ran a focus group  to get the views of the general public.  Having listened to the feedback, we implemented some major changes to our website including the removal of the obituary and streamlining the process of adding a funeral.  Because we appreciate that funeral directors are so busy, adding a funeral now takes just a few minutes with only basic information required (we’ll even do it for you if necessary); in fact it’s now so easy, the bereaved family may do it themselves if they wish!  To offer our service, you need only add your company name and address on www.agivingtribute.com and we will send you a supply of free leaflets or call us on  01252 416516.

Our website now quite clearly shows what we are all about – capturing memories forever.  More and more bereaved families and their friends, want to celebrate the life of the deceased and our service does exactly that.  When a funeral is added to our system, it will show the funeral director’s details, the funeral locations and the name and URL of any nominated charity so that mourners may donate directly, removing some of the responsibility of handling donations.

What’s truly wonderful is the difference that having personal tributes makes to the family, who cherish them forever.  The tributes are tangible, families can sit a child on their knee and share the memories.  Families are telling their funeral director that they want to use our service and people are putting it in their final wishes documentation.  People who see the tributes displayed at the funeral come away talking about how wonderful they were and what a beautiful funeral it was.

We are always happy to answer any questions that you might have and so too is ‘Live Chat Sam’, a real person who can give help and advice onscreen on our website.  

If you haven’t yet taken a look, please do! 

Sick ghouls

Two callous thieves who snatched floral wreaths from a crematorium so they could use them for free at a family funeral have been fined £35 each.

Full story in the, you guessed it, Mail here.

Grave dressing at Easter

Posted by Vale

On my way to the crematorium today I passed a family tidying a grave, clearing it after the winter and bringing fresh flowers for Easter.

It reminded me of this description from the diary of Francis Kilvert. At the time of writing he was a curate at Clyro on the Welsh border near to Hay on Wye.

Saturday Easter Eve 16 April 1870

…When I started for Cefn y Blaen only two or three people were in the churchyard with flowers. But now the customary beautiful Easter Eve Idyll had fairly begun and people kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from the neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down beside the green mounds flowering the graves. An evil woman from Hay was dressing a grave…

More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day’s work. The sun went down in glory beside the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening…

When the choir had gone and the lights were out and the church quiet again, as I walked down the Churchyard alone the decked graves had a strange effect in the moonlight and looked as if the people had laid down to sleep for the night out of doors, ready dressed to rise early on Easter morning.

On this blog we’ve sometimes discussed the need for special days – like the Mexican Day of the Dead – where we spend time with the ancestors. Rightly, the general view is that you couldn’t import such an alien custom but this beautiful celebration is native to us and the scenes described were only a little over a hundred years ago. And some families still take time at Easter to dress ’their’ graves.

Are there places out there where this is still a more general tradition and ritual?

Muffle the bell, put crèpe on the door

 

Bouquet of Violets by Edouard Manet

 

Posted by Kathryn Edwards

 

AT no time does solemnity so possess our souls as when we stand deserted at the brink of darkness into which our loved one has gone. And the last place in the world where we would look for comfort at such a time is in the seeming artificiality of etiquette; yet it is in the moment of deepest sorrow that etiquette performs its most vital and real service. 

So begins the chapter on Funerals in Emily Posts’ 1922 guide to etiquette here. Born into a privileged American home, Emily (1872–1960) had turned to writing after the divorce that resulted from her prominent banker husband’s extra-marital affairs with chorus girls. 

The resultant industry under the Post banner continues to this day, with the 18th edition of the Etiquette book published last autumn, the ‘funerals’ chapter having morphed into ‘Loss, grieving and condolences’, and the locus of much activity to do with funerals now clearly taking place outside the home. 

But back in 1922 the list of death-related functions in the home for which etiquette had a prescription includes ‘muffling the bell’, a notion so quaint that I turned to it at once.  The practice is intended to signal to callers that the house is in mourning, so that the bell will not be rung unnecessarily nor long. 

As a rule the funeral director hangs crepe streamers on the bell; white ones for a child, black and white for a young person, or black for an older person. …

If they prefer, the family sometimes orders a florist to hang a bunch of violets or other purple flowers on black ribbon streamers, for a grown person; or white violets, white carnations—any white flower without leaves—on the black ribbon for a young woman or man; or white flowers on white gauze or ribbon for a child.   

This grace doesn’t last long, however: the instruction is that whoever is taking care of the house should remove this mourning emblem while the funeral cortege is at the cemetery.  But while it lasts, what a lovely idea.