Cemetery Flowers: The Gravestone Saddle
What is a gravestone saddle? When visiting a family member’s grave site notice if there are permanent vases on the corner of the gravestone. What could the family do if there are no vases? One option is the saddle. There are often flower arrangements on top of the gravestones. These “toppers” are called saddles. These saddles, pre-made with flowers and ribbons, cost about $39.00 to $79.00 for a small and simple arrangement.
Cemeteries usually do not have rules about saddles. I made one topper, placed it on a gravestone and felt it turned out fine, and the saddle form could possibly be used two or three times after the used flowers had faded and been thrown away. The saddle styrofoam base costs under $10.00 and can be purchased at most craft stores that sell artificial flower arrangements. Decide what type and color of flowers you want to use. Most people change the saddles with the seasons or for a special holiday, and the flowers usually hold up for at least one season.
How Can I Make a Matching Bow on a Budget?
Sometimes craft shops have good sales on pre-made bows, and if you can buy one or two that match your color scheme that will work. If you see ribbon on sale that matches the look you are going for, though, making bows is an easy project. My preference is wired ribbon, which helps with the stability of the ribbon and makes the process easier.
For comparison, I have made one bow with 8-inch lengths and 6 turns and another with 10-inch lengths and 8 turns. The longer the lengths the more prominent your bows will be in the arrangement. One easy way to make the loops is to wrap the ribbon around your hand. When you have the amount of ribbon desired, then make a v-cut on both sides, halfway down the ribbon. Take the bendable wire and tie tightly at the halfway point of the ribbon lengths (at the v-cut). Then take the ribbon lengths, one at a time, and pull gently in the way that you want it.
This is all a matter of taste and experimentation. After a few saddles, you’ll know what you like the best.
The pictures are of the same saddle from two different sides. You might want to go to a craft shop or look at some of the saddles at the cemetery. Get an idea of what you like best: more ribbon, larger flowers, bows, and so forth.
If this is your first attempt at making this type of arrangement, just experiment. Cover the sides either with leaves or flowers. For this arrangement, I picked fall leaves, then added the ribbons, and finally added the flowers. I had to cut the stems on the flowers down from time to time to get an even look. I turned it around several times to make sure the coverage was equal, and if there was a small spot showing I would add the leaf part of the flower stem that I had snipped off.
When I cut the flowers from the bouquet (which is probably the most inexpensive way to purchase them), there were odd stems with only leaves on them. These worked out well for weaving between the fall leaves to make sure the styrofoam was not showing.
Picking flowers with medium to large blooms will probably work best.
Large Saddles for Urn Niches
Our family recently purchased a cremation niche for five family members. It is wider than a normal gravestone, and I knew that the saddles forms that are ready made at a craft store would be too small. I decided that for the flower-topper to look nice, I would have to make a larger base. I also would need some way to hold it in place since the metal legs on the normal saddle would not reach across the headstone and I wanted it to be secure.
I have looked at pre-made saddles and very few had flowers or colors that appealed to me. They were all too small to fit the niche headstone.
Extending the Base
I decided to take two foam blocks and glue them together using a glue gun. I also tried to put a notch in the foam at the meeting point since the gravestone has a peaked center.
After shopping for Christmas flowers, I decided I would use a Christmas swag (flowers that are wired together usually used for a fireplace or over a doorway). Purchasing seasonal artificial flowers and ribbons at the end of the season would also save a lot of money. The swag would allow me to make the decoration uniform in color. The wires were thick and it took a little extra work to cut them, so I needed a larger-than-normal cutting tool.
After trying to secure the greenery with florist pins and light-weight wire, I new that I would need a heavier wire to secure the flowers.
Securing the Base
To secure the topper, I needed wide industrial strength fastening tape (velcro). I used the glue gun to make sure the fastening tape would adhere to the the foam block. I put the other side of the fastening tape on the headstone for future seasonal arrangements. I have since learned that the tape comes off easily and have used new fastening tape each time. This is especially important if there is a lot of rain and wind.
Saddle Number Three: Winter
I have made several saddles so far. I wanted to make one that wasn’t a holiday theme, but would blend in with a winter décor. The one I made still has a few berries and pine cones but didn’t look like Christmas. Like before, I had to glue two foam blocks together.
This saddle was made from a swag that was thick and not very flexible. I attached the wire by running wire down the center of the swag and then across the back. I also used the wire to secure it across the swag in several places.
I put in winter flowers and the bows were burlap. I had seen some winter wreaths with similar flowers and bows. This arrangement may not be for everyone, but that is why we make our own. It reflects our personal taste and possibly the taste of the person you are honoring.
I had to add some additional greenery to the sides. Most of the side greenery was recycled from old holiday arrangements. Buying this type of greenery after Christmas is also a good idea.
I decided to try a different approach for this arrangement. I built the foam blocks up and made them higher. I noticed the gravestone was a long distance from the cemetery roadway, and I wanted to be able to see it better from the road. I have noticed that other saddles were higher. Sometimes what fits and what looks best depends on the size and shape of the gravestone.
The picture above is the summer saddle I made. I was able to save even more on this saddle by using the layered foam blocks from the last saddle. I pulled out all the flowers. The weather had been terrible and the flowers weren’t worth saving. I was able to use the velcro again, too. I left the bottom velcro on the gravestone, but I was sure I would need new pieces on the arrangement. After I finished the arrangement, I went to the cemetary with scissors and everything I would need to reattach the new flowers. Much to my surprise, when I put the arrangement on the stone, it locked tight. I pushed it hard several times, and it didn’t move.
Winter Saddle 2019/2020
Saddles are a part of the quarterly contribution at the cemetery. Creative new ideas make for beautiful arrangements and new ways of putting the saddles together. The more saddles that are designed the better the ideas. Let your creativity be your guide.