29 Jan2007

Flowers for a Wake…

by Marketman


An in-law’s father passed away over the weekend. A friend’s mom also suddenly passed away as well. It was a weekend where you drop everything else and try to be of some help… wherever the bereaved family needs it. So when Tita N requested that I do the flowers for her husband’s wake, I of course said “yes.” I have only ever made one arrangement for a single previous wake, so let’s just say this was probably out of my comfort zone. But let me step back a bit and say two very clear memories stick in my mind if you mention the wake4word “wake”: the first was the coverage of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ funeral, where her mahogany casket was only adorned by thousands of lilies of the valley, in the shape of a cross, and done by the florist Robert Isabell. Thank goodness Jackie O died when lilies of the valley were in season… And they must have found every single bloom on the planet available on the day of her funeral. The second memorable wake-related snapshot in my mind was in my teenage years, as I passed a florist in New York City, and they were preparing a “blanket” to drape over a casket, and on that blanket was a sea (figuratively) of over a hundred white enormous cattleyas (orchids). It was stunning in conception, stunning in the extravagance of using several dozen of the finest Hawaiian grown cattleyas and stunning just simply to behold. I lingered outside the window of that florist to watch for a few minutes and wondered if the person who would be under it would appreciate the blanket…

I can now say that I have helped with the flowers for two weddings and two wakes. This may seem like a morbid post to write but the reason I am doing it is so that you wake3realize that you too, can do simple yet different flowers for almost any major occasion, happy or sad. I have only done flowers for family or very close friends. And I always think I have made a fatal error by offering to do so. The first time I sent flowers for a wake, my wife’s cousin, and The Kid’s Godfather, passed away and we crafted a cross that must have been 3 feet tall and 2 feet across. I used several hundred white roses (blooms only) and completely encrusted the cross that stood at the foot of the urn at the memorial mass. It was completely white; simple but unusual around these parts. It took a surprisingly long 3-4 hours to do. And that was over a decade ago. This time around, Mrs. MM and I went to the wholesale flower market last Saturday evening armed with only one request… please keep all of the flowers white. We could have taken the easy route out and had them arrange bouquets for us… But that isn’t Marketman’s style and I am genetically programmed to do it myself.

So we ended up buying roughly 500 stems of white roses, 200 extra long (3 feet plus) white calla lilies and 100+ sprays of extra-long white dendrobium orchids with roughly 10-12 blooms on each spray. All in all over a thousand five hundred “points of white”… Back wake2home after midnight, we soaked all of the roses (orchids and lilies are not heavily water dependent once cut) to condition them and hit the sack. Up at 5 am the next morning, I had to work quickly if we were to get to the church by 7 am. But I forgot how long this stuff can take. The arrangement for the top of the casket took the longest; probably since I had never made one before. But I used about 50 sprays of dendrobiums, roughly 100 roses and some white carnations that I happened to have at home. At the foot of the casket up front was a basket that was just all white flowers, hundreds and hundreds of blooms just oozing out… I dislike leaves and flowers mixed together most of the time. All leaves are often great and all flowers is visually so much more sik-sik and I think this makes it look pretty good. Thus the 3 foot wide and roughly 1/2 foot wide basket was filled with over 300 white roses massed as tightly as we could get them. We added about 50 stems of orchids and approximately 30 calla lilies cut down really short. From above, it was literally solid white.

Finally to the left and right of the casket, we did two very plain arrangements of calla lilies with about 70-80 stems in each glass vase, the blooms at roughly 3 feet tall. Yikes! wake5All of that took nearly 3 hours to do and I had to deliver them as well! Once placed at the church, I must say it looked quite nice. If I could change something in retrospect, I wouldn’t go for the more traditional casket arrangement that I made… I would have instead done another version of the all flower sik-sik arrangement that just draped over the casket. The man for whom these flowers were made was one of the most soft-spoken, helpful gentlemen I have ever met. A doctor, he was of tremendous service to thousands of patients over his lifetime. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. Our prayers are with him and his family. And I hope, in some small way, that he got a glimpse of the flowers around him…



  1. eumir says:

    Condolonces MM…..
    Nice arrangements though.

    Jan 29, 2007 | 8:48 am


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  3. Grazia says:

    Stunning arrangements! I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now and just now did a search for your yellow peas and ham soup for our lazy Sunday supper (as a novice–and haphazard cook–I couldn’t recall all the ingredients, even after I’d made it once before!). I find it remarkable that you take the time to make these gorgeous floral displays, rather than paying for someone else to do it for you–a lovely, selfless gesture.

    Jan 29, 2007 | 8:54 am

  4. millet says:

    the mixed arrangement is beautiful, but it is the simplicity and grace of the calla lilies that take my breath away. i know it’s not as simple as cutting the lily stems in different lengths and squishing them onto vases. it takes a “hand” and an “eye” to turn them into an “un-arranged”-looking arrangement. you have an edge over Bond, MM….am sure he knew next to nothing about arranging flowers…

    Jan 29, 2007 | 11:43 am

  5. Poch says:

    It takes a lot of zen – and a healthy appreciation of fabulousness – to be able to immediately associate “wake” with Jackie O. Loves it! :-)

    Jan 29, 2007 | 2:47 pm

  6. sha says:

    you and i will certainly hit it off when it comes to floral arrangements.

    When I travel I always check local florist for their styles.
    I was in Florence few weeks ago and saw this boutique/ florist (flowers and clothes!!!) yes very unusual has simple yet minimalist arrangements.

    Perhaps my favourite florist (well when boss money pays) was in Oslo and in Aspen. I have learned so much by just observing them.

    When I was in France last year, I normally spend a big fortune on akito rose.. pure white rose!!!
    Imagine we were in Porto Cervo I could not find them so few days before my boss arrived I called my supplier in Antibes, gave her instructions how to wrap them.
    Called my boss driver to pick them up and made sure they sit pretty on the plane.

    Then on our next trip I was miserable of the selection I found in Sicily… so I called the butler in London to make sure when the plane lands in Messina there will be crates of roses too!!!

    Haha yes I did that! And I love spending my time arranging them and my boss one day came back from her shopping escapades and brought huge Hermes boxes.. then she said open them shalimar have a look!!!
    Oh my gorgeous vases from Hermes!!!

    Pwede ba mag apply ng apprentice dyan. Imagine in London its over 1000£ for a week course on floral arrangements.

    am back here in Athens my suki sa farmers market was so happy to see me…eh naubos naman euros ko sa bulaklak!!!

    Jan 29, 2007 | 5:29 pm

  7. Marketman says:

    Hi aridelros, thankfully, the wake is only two days so the flowers will make it. Otherwise, replenish after 2 days, I think. Sha, I think flowers are both a necessity and luxury… gosh, would I love to have some of your bosses’ budgets for flowers… This whole spread up here cost less than an Hermes ceramic ashtray… Poch, isn’t it funny what high points or media seconds stick in your mind? Jackie O’s funeral cortege and your fabulous abs from eating Century tuna commercials? :) Heeheehee. Millet, I think the character Bond would KNOW how to order some really cool flowers. But an aside, the current Bond is quoted as saying he hates heights, has problems holding a gun and gets seasick the instant he steps onto a boat… Grazia, you may want to troll through the archives as I have already done over 900 posts, several on flowers and the like…eumir, thanks!

    Jan 29, 2007 | 8:48 pm

  8. sister says:

    Thank you for doing it for the family, very well done, marketman. Hope you’re around the neighborhood when I go, would like to request same.

    Jan 29, 2007 | 9:05 pm

  9. manilastreetwalker says:

    No frangipanis (kalachuchi)?

    Jan 29, 2007 | 10:02 pm

  10. Maria Clara says:

    Well composed and executed memorial arrangements. I love the white monochromatic color for memorial which to me equates purity. You gave everything you got and the decedent is looking up there happy and appreciating all your arrangements. You can force open roses. Epsom salt mixed with water is an excellent conditioner for flowers. After you condition them, with your pointing finger start in the middle of the bud beginning with the first petal in circular motion going down the base of the rose massage it with your pointing finger. The idea is to loosen the bud of rose gently. After you loosen the bud, starting from the outer petal of the rose, start to open and curl them using your thumb and pointing fingers away from you. Practice is the key here after force opening six roses you get the hang of it. You have to wipe your fingers with a clean cotton towel or rag to get rid of the oil in our skin before picking up a new rose. Otherwise petals turn brown. All those beautiful rose arrangements you see in magazines were all forced open. I used to moonlight in one of the biggest florists in LA that caters to Oscar nights and big weddings for Hollywood people doing this limited job – force opening roses.

    Jan 30, 2007 | 2:16 am

  11. millet says:

    when my dad passed on three months ago, my mom insisted she wanted only three red roses on top of the casket, because red roses were his favorite, and he always gave her three, for any and all occasions. so it was three red roses that were changed everyday of the wake,nothing else on top of the casket, and six small individual arrangements below the casket to represent us kids. not a few visitors remarked on hos calssy the whole set-up looked. now that i think about it, wasn’t that a weird thing to say at a wake? heehee…

    Jan 30, 2007 | 6:37 am

  12. asunta says:

    MM, which stall number do you go to in Dimasalang?

    Jan 30, 2007 | 10:26 am

  13. Marketman says:

    asunta, I don’t even know the stall number, I buy from whomever has the best looking stuff. I do, however cross the road from the fancier area that is all lit up with lampposts to the more seedy area that seems to have the lower prices and bulk deliveries…

    Jan 30, 2007 | 2:20 pm

  14. M says:

    It was simply beautiful, MM! Mom remarked that the arrangements somehow expressed much of who Dad was, a distinguished, honorable man who gave his life in the service of others. G received many inquiries as to who did these and how much. She answered, “Even if he was willing to do it for you, you wouldn’t be able to afford it!” Haha!

    Thanks, MM! My family and I cannot express in words just how much!

    Feb 2, 2007 | 3:24 pm

  15. karen graeber says:

    i am searching for a picture of the flower arrangement that was on top of jacqueline kennedys casket. it was greenery and a white floral cross arrangement, do you have a picture of that, thanks

    Apr 21, 2007 | 8:44 am

  16. Marketman says:

    karen, I don’t have a copy of that picture but it is on the net somewhere. The cross was made with lilies of the valley, thousands of them…

    Apr 21, 2007 | 10:30 am

  17. rico says:

    amazing!! this one will deffinitely cost a lot of money to make..hehehe..even if I go to dangwa

    May 7, 2007 | 8:01 pm


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