Tussie-Mussies The Language Of Flowers

By Geraldine Adamich Laufer

Tussie-Mussies The Language Of Flowers

This beautiful book describes a tussie-mussie as a “talking bouquet”. A tussie-mussie is a circular nosegay made of fragrant herbs and flowers in a holder that tells a story according to the language of flowers. Such a bouquet may express sentiments as athletic victory, faith, friendship, forgiveness, generosity, good health, joy, love, protection, sympathy, wealth or wisdom. Eight pages of sentiments are found in this book. The word tuzzy mussy first appeared in the Oxford English dictionary in 1440.

Since the sixteenth century, these little bouquets have been considered essential. They were carried, worn in the hair, pinned to gowns, or suspended from chains. Where the tussie-mussie was worn changed its meaning. If worn in the hair, it meant caution, but when worn in the cleavage, the meaning was friendship. If worn over the heart, this was a declaration of love. So many sentiments could be included in these bouquets that dozens of dictionaries were published during the nineteenth century to help decipher the language of flowers. These dictionaries included lists of flowers and other plants as well as the lists of sentiments to aid in finding the message of each tussie-mussie. Meanings were related to the natural appearance or physical characteristics of individual flowers. They also had cultural meanings. Early authors and editors of flower vocabularies created their own meanings for some of the flowers, and these are still in use today. The use of these dictionaries was widespread. By 1857, Sarah Josepha Hale’s Flora’s Interpreter published in 1832 had sold 40,000 copies and could be purchased from Godey’s Lady’s book for $2.25.

Floral symbolism is a western tradition based on mythology, religion, and medicine.

By comparison, in Turkish, the language of Selam is used. This word means a greeting, and the language of greeting is composed of objects instead of flowers. In France, a symbolic language arose that included handwritten lists of many objects and their meanings. Flowers gradually were used to replace other objects. This language became so popular that wearing flowers was considered more suitable than wearing jewelry.

This language became a discreet way to pursue courtship. Besides flowers, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, spices, leaves, vegetables and grains were included. Fruits, foliage, and other plant parts also had special meanings.

This book also includes a step-by-step guide for making a tussie-mussie. First strip the leaves from the flowers. Choose a single flower for the center. Add 2-3 rings of herbs and small flowers. Add about seven spiky flowers or sprigs of leaves. Bind the stems with pipe cleaners, yarn or tape. If the bouquet is to be carried, add a reservoir using sphagnum moss soaked in water and place around the stems. Cover with foil or plastic wrap. Add a paper or lace doily to hold the flowers. Make an opening in the center and insert the stems, wrap the stems with florist’s tape and tie a bow around these.

Sixty themes are illustrated for various occasions as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, thank yous, health and recovery, congratulations, friendship, and of course romance.

There is an index of sentiments, and a twelve-page list of flowers and their meanings. Some flowers have several meanings. For example rosemary in addition to remembrance can mean, “your presence revives me”, fidelity, devotion, wisdom, and good luck in the New Year. These additional meanings make deciphering the language of flowers quite a challenge. This book is quite helpful in doing so, and a pleasure both to view and to read.

Written by Marybeth Landis