The Tussie Mussie, A Small Nosegay Bouquet
Victorian Bouquets With A Romantic Message
A Victorian favorite was the little confection of flowers called a "tussie mussie". A small nosegay consisting of fragrant flowers, it often held some of the secret meanings that the language of flowers might convey. The meaning of the flowers depended on a memorized code popularized by published "Language of Flowers" books.
Originating in the small bunches of herbs or flowers that ladies of Medieval times may have used to mask the offensive odors common to habits of lax sanitation and hygiene, these tiny arrangements still hold fascination and pleasure for both special occasions and everyday. A tussie mussie makes a charming wedding bouquet for bridesmaids or the mother of the bride. You just might fall in love with these dainty and sweet smelling flower bouquets.
Is A Tussie Mussie A Fragrant Flower Bouquet, Or A Bouquet Holder?
It might surprise you to know that both objects are a definition of this term, because over time the use of the word has changed. Will it change back to more of its original meaning? Perhaps the wedding of Royals Kate and William holds the answer.
Wedding Tussie Mussie
Today's Tussy-Mussy - ...refers to the bouquet holder
Although the original definition of "tussy-mussy" meant the actual bouquet, the word has evolved to another meaning. It now primarily is used to describe the type of bouquet holder illustrated in these photos..
Elegant Flower Holder
A beautiful silver bouquet holder for a small and elegant bouquet...like Kate's.
History of the Tussie Mussie
An overview of how this little, sweet smelling bouquet evolved
Historical Bouquet Timeline
A small bunches of fragrant plants and flowers were pressed up to the nose to mask odors, sometimes to fend off illness such as the plague.
The word itself is first found in the 15th century,reaching further back into the term "tusse" meaning "a cluster of flowers". Used as an aromatherapy to dispel ill humors, especially "gaol fever".
In France little nosegay bouquets were carried in a small metal hand-held vase. Some of those had attached ring chains to carry more easily.
The tussy mussy became a a circular arrangement of flowers and herbs, traditionally centered with a rose, often surrounded with a lace doily. Miniature silver vases that may be pinned on the clothing became popular, and can be used as boutonnieres today.
At Kew Garden, created in 1759 in England, is a sunken nosegay garden. Ladies and gentleman carried tussy mussies of aromatic leaved plants and sweet flowers during the age when bathing was infrequent, and street smells could be quite rank. The arrangements would be pressed to their noses in order to mask the the many unpleasant smell of close quarters and public life. Sage, thyme, mint, rosemary, and artemisia, were used, which are all grown in the nosegay garden.
A traveler of earlier times,1560, described the English practice as "their nosegays finely intermingled with sundry sorts of fragraunte flowers, in their bed-chambers and privy rooms, with comfortable smell cheered me up, and entirely delighted all my senses."
Tussy mussy has become the name of the holder for the bouquet and the traditional wedding flowers carried by the attendants are the interpretation of the much older desire to imbue the air with sweet fragrance. Sometimes the term for tussy mussie is used for miniature arrangements that hark back to the Victorian interpretations including giving secret messages through the choice of the flowers and foliage.
Instructions, delightfully illustrated
(In a PDF) The directions for making Colonial style tussie mussies couldn't be easier.
"The nosegay, or tussie-mussie, is popular in Williamsburg for weddings and for many other occasions. In colonial days ladies carried tussie-mussies to repel offensive odors or placed them on tables to help freshen a room. A tussie-mussie makes a charming remembrance for a friend, and many can be saved and dried. Tussie-mussies can also serve in place of a more traditional table arrangement. This delightful form can be made with fresh or dried materials, may be large or small, and may be formal or informal."
A tussy-mussy is a dainty hand-held, tied nosegay with aromatic flowers and foliage.
Send a message in a dainty flower bouquet
Favorite flowers described in an old 1901 article,
Fragrant flower choices for a nosegay from long ago
Tussy-mussy was not a colloquial word ; it was found in serious, even in religious, text. A tussymussy was the most beloved of nosegays, and was often made of flowers mingled with sweet-scented leaves.
"My favorite tussy-mussy, if made of flowers, would be of Wood Violet, Cabbage Rose, and Clove Pink. These are all beautiful flowers, but many of our most delightful fragrances do not come from flowers of gay dress ; even these three are not showy flowers ; flowers of bold color and growth are not apt to be sweet-scented ; and all flower perfumes of great distinction, all that are unique, are from blossoms of modest color and bearing. The Calycanthus, called Virginia Allspice, Sweet Shrub, or Strawberry bush, has what I term a perfume of distinction, and its flowers are neither fine in shape, color, nor quality.
I have often tried to define to myself the scent of the Calycanthus blooms ; they have an aromatic fragrance somewhat like the ripest Pineapples of the tropics, but still richer ; how I love to carry them in my hand, crushed and warm, occasionally holding them tight over my mouth and nose to fill myself with their perfume."
May Day Tradition
An old tradition was to make tussy mussies to hand out on May Day. They were hung from a doorknob of a loved one the night before May Day.
The Romantic Language of Flowers
Learn The Secret Message
Tussie mussie bouquets of the Victorian age implemented the fad of the day, cryptic messages sent with an understanding of the Language of Flowers. Some of those meanings survive today in our common knowledge such as a red rose for romantic love, but some flower meanings may surprise you.
Combining flowers could become an entire message of nuanced thoughts. or personal symbolism.
The Victorian Messages
Lady Mary Wortley Montague was said to have introduced the Turkish "Secret Language of Flowers" from her stint as the wife of the British Ambassador to Constantinople.
Madame Charlotte de la Tour wrote a popular volume with the same idea that became popular in France.
Modern writers freely mix the old meanings while adding new, contemporary interpretations for desired flower messages.
Almond flowers -- Hope
Anemone -- Forsaken
Balm -- Sympathy
Basil -- Best wishes
Bay leaf -- "I change but in death"
Bell flower, white -- Gratitude
Bergamot -- Irresistible
Bluebell -- Constancy
Borage -- Courage
Broom -- Humility
Campanula -- Gratitude
Carnation, red -- "Alas for my poor heart"
China rose -- Beauty always new
Chrysanthemum -- Love
Clover, four leaved -- "Be mine"
Convolvulus, major -- Extinguished hopes or eternal sleep
Coreopsis, arkansa -- Love at first sight
Cuckoo pint -- Ardour
Daffodil -- Regard
Daisy -- Innocence, new-born, "I share your sentiment"
Fennel -- Flattery
Fern -- Sincerity
Forget-Me-Not -- True love
Furze or Gorse -- Enduring affection
French Marigold -- Jealousy
Gardenia -- Ecstasy
Gentian -- Loveliness
Geranium -- "You are childish"
Hare bell -- Grief
Heartsease -- "I am always thinking of you"
Honeysuckle -- Bonds of love
Heather -- Admiration
Ice Plant -- "Your appearance freezes me"
Ivy -- Fidelity, friendship, marriage
Jasmine -- Grace
Jonquil -- "I hope for return of affection"
Lavender -- Luck, devotion
Lemon Balm -- Sympathy
Lily -- Purity, modesty
Lily of the Valley -- Purity, the return of happiness
The perfect book for finding out what different flowers and colors mean. Attach a small note to your bouquets to explain to the uninitiated- or let it just be your little secret. Bouquets for many occasions, history and glossary of flower meanings.
Marigold -- Health, grief or despair
Marjoram -- Kindness, courtesy
Myrtle -- Fidelity
Oregano -- Joy
Pansy -- Loving thoughts
Periwinkle -- Happy memory
Phlox -- Agreement
Poppy, red -- Consolation
Rose, cabbage -- Ambassador of love
Rose, red -- Love
Rose, pink -- Grace, beauty
Rose, yellow -- Friendship
Rosemary -- Remembrance, constancy
Rue -- Contrition
Sage -- Gratitude, domestic virtue
Snowdrop -- Hope
Star of Bethlehem -- Purity
Sweet Pea -- Departure, tender memory
Sweet William -- Gallantry
Tuberose -- Voluptuousness
Tulip, red -- Reclamation of love
Violet -- Loyalty, modesty, humility
Violet, blue -- Faithfulness
Wormwood -- Grief
Wheat -- Riches of the continuation of life
Willow, weeping -- Mourning
Wallflower -- Fidelity
Yew -- Sorrow
Try a Tussie Mussie Tea Party game, here.
What Is A Tussie-Mussie?
The meaning of tussy-mussy has changed over the years...
Today the tussie mussie is defined as "a small circular nosegay of flowers and herbs, tightly gathered and designed to carry a special message in the language of flowers".
From Victorian times the addition of incorporating a private message through the language of flowers became popular. At that time it was common to send unspoken messages based upon books consulted for the designated meanings. The symbolism is still part of what we think should be the purpose of old fashioned tussie mussies. It is again popular to choose wedding flowers based on those esoteric meanings of so long ago.
Tussie Mussies Today
Today you are more likely to find the tussy-mussy type of bouquet simply called a "nosegay". If you look for "tussie mussie" in a google search you are likely to be directed to the holder for the tiny bouquet, not the flower arrangement itself.
These small, cone shaped holders may be silver or paper, or a number of materials. They may be modern versions or genuine antiques. Originally, though, the term related to the flower bouquets tucked inside the holders.
Paper cones made of patterned papers and brightly decorated with gewgaws can be filled with dried flowers or candy.
Make herbal tussy mussy bouquets to decorate your tree.
Making A Christmas Cone
It really couldn't be easier. Simply roll decorative paper into a cone shape and secure with staples, glue, or tape. Fill with flowers.
Your favorite idea for a Tussy Mussy - Do tell!
Which idea intrigues you the most?
Instruction on how to make an easy tussie mussie bouquet
All the flower meanings in the example bouquet are discussed, along with step by step demonstration. Great bouquet idea for members of the wedding party, especially for the mother of the bride.
Making a Romantic Tussie Mussie Video
Would you like to make your own tussie-mussie?
Easy directions to make tussie-mussie bouquets
Use small flowers and sprigs to keep the entire bouquet quite small.
Directions for making your own tussie mussie:
- * Choose the center flower for your main message, roses are traditional.
- *Surround with three stems of an herb or foliage choice.
- *Choose a small filler flower with the meaning of your choice, 5 stems surrounding the second layer.
- *Surround with five stems of your final choice of foliage or flowers.
- *Wrap tightly with florist tape.
- *Use a small vase of water, or wrap tightly with wide satin ribbon completely covering stems bottom and to top.
- *A nice touch is to cut an opening in a round paper doily and frame the entire bouquet.
Use Snippets From Larger bouquets
Make tussie mussies for someone special (or your own bedside table!) with little sprigs and blossoms that you didn't need for a larger table bouquet.
*mother of the bride bouquet
It really is that simple to create adorable little bouquets that lighten your heart through your senses.
Surround your tussy mussy with a delicate doily, beaded holder, or frill of chiffon.
Dainty mother of the bride flowers.
Take Notes from the Royal Wedding of Kate and William
The Royal Trend
Kate Middleton chose to use the language of flowers and British seasonal flowers for her wedding. Trucking in real trees to create a bower of greenery to create a fairy woodland effect, she did not stint on the floral displays, but her delightful bouquet of flowers was on a much smaller scale (read the report in the Guardian). She chose a more diminutive bouquet for her personal bouquet, more of a tussy mussy or a nosegay, than most of her predecessors in Royal weddings. One that is fresh and sweet not only in aroma, but appearance.
An all-white bouquet:
- Sweet William
"The myrtle comes from a tree which grew from a cutting of Queen Victoria's own bridal bouquet myrtle. Since that time, each royal bride has included a sprig from the original plant in her bouquet."
The press release from the Royal Palace:
"The bouquet is a shield-shaped wired bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet William and hyacinth. The bouquet was designed by Shane Connolly and draws on the traditions of flowers of significance for the Royal Family, the Middleton family and on the Language of Flowers"
The photo shows the modest size of the arrangement made with fragrant flowers, all the earmarks of a tussy mussy bouquet.
Suitors would give their intended a tussie-mussie, and the intended plucked one of the flowers to return a reply, or save as a memento.
Tussie Mussies as Wedding Flowers
A tussie mussie bouquet can be perfect for any wedding when made for the flower girls., as a delicate bouquet for the bridesmaids, mother of the bride, and appropriate even for the Victorian-style bride. Perfect for boutonnieres because of their miniature size.
Include more flowers for the female attendants, more foliage for the men. Best for DIY wedding flowers, casual, and Victorian them weddings.
Doilies - Stiffen a crochet doily
Using heavy starch you can stiffen a fabric crocheted doily to surround your tussy mussy.
Dainty Flower Bouquet
Find Out More About The Tussy-Mussy - How-to And More Wedding Ideas
"Small bouquets, such as empire bouquets or tussie mussies, are great for moms who feel too young to wear a corsage. They are equally attractive to moms who know they will be nervous and could use a little something to hold onto and play with during the ceremony. Think of it as an extravagant stress ball. Best of all, a bouquet solves the old problem of "What do I do with my hands during the wedding pictures." "