Grave Blankets

Grave Blankets


Friday, November 22nd marks the 50th Anniversary
of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. People throughout the nation are commemorating
that tragic day in American history in a variety of ways, but probably none quite as unique as that being done by the University of Minnesota’s Floral Design class. Horticultural Professor
Neil Anderson: Well, this is sympathy week in floral design class and in sympathy week,
we always do some artistic piece connected with flowers that have to do with sympathy
celebrations, so we’ve done floral grave blankets for about the past seven years commemorating
some special tragedy that occurred or is being celebrated during the year. Well, today the
title is 50 years after JFK so it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination
of President John F. Kennedy. There will be three panels. We have the floral design students
divided into three groups so it’s teamwork designing today, so each group came up with
a theme for their panel and then they will be stitched together to make one big floral
commemorative blanket. The class sketched out their design plans before beginning to
work with the flowers and greenery. The one in the center is going be have the initials
JFK and then his date of birth and date of death, so just kind of the centerpiece of
it. On the left hand side, is going to be the presidential seal made out of flowers
and foliage. And on the right hand side, it’s going to be 50 with the American Flag in it
and the eternal flame below it. The Floral Design class draws students from a variety
of majors. Jennifer Guenther: I’m a senior this year, so I’ll be graduating in May. I’m
actually a mechanical engineer. I just wanted a break from engineering classes. So what
made you take this class? I wanted to do something different. I love flowers; I love gardening
so this is kind of feeding my personal hobbies a little bit. Pashoua Vang is a Global Studies
and Chinese major. Pashoua Vang: I like flowers and I’ve always wanted to work in a floral
shop so I thought maybe if I took this course someone will hire me someday. And my panel
is – we’re doing the United States President’s Seal. Earlier I made this wreath that’s out
of carnations and right now I’m just working on the corners of the panel piece. Students
are learning several things in class today. One thing they’re learning is designing as
a team of florists. We’ve never done that before it’s always been individual floral
designing. So that’s always fun to learn to work as a team to create a product that is
acceptable. Second, they’re also learning techniques that we use in classic sympathy
designing – how to make a set piece and so forth and how to use flowers and foliage in
that particular aspect. Sally Drew is working toward her horticulture degree. Sally Drew:
I love to garden and I’m one of these when I pick my flowers out of my garden I’m just
tempted to throw them in a vase, so I thought this would be a good class for me to learn
how to do it properly. We’re working on the middle piece where it will say JFK and commemorate
his passing. We have the foil and I have some iris and we have some willow that we’ve spray
painted blue and the leaves to contrast the other palm leaves we have. We’ve done a bit
of historical record searching to find out what flowers the Kennedy’s liked. So we have
a list of those up on the board, which includes blue bachelors’ buttons. John F. Kennedy always
wore those on the lapel of his suit coat if he wore flowers. And we also have bells of
Ireland since he was Irish. We have a white rose similar to the one named after him. There’s
a white rose called John F. Kennedy. Then, we also have flowers that Jacqueline Kennedy
liked. She liked periwinkle blue irises and for her wedding day, carried gardenias, sprays
of white and pink orchids, so we have those types of flowers as well. A little bit about
the history of floral grave blankets. These are historically used in the Eastern U.S.
particularly in the state of Pennsylvania and the purpose of these were after the person
was buried, these were put out on top of the cemetery plots and staked into the ground
to stay there for either several weeks or months sometimes over the duration of the
winter or the spring or summer. It was meant to be a longer lasting floral tribute than
the normal flowers for funerals and so forth. For CFANS, I’m Patty Mattern.

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