(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 24, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

"Flowers have a language of their own, and it is this bright and particular language that we would teach our readers. How charmingly a young gentleman can speak to a young lady, and with what eloquent silence in this delightful language. How delicately she can respond, the beautiful little flowers telling her tale in perfumed words; what a delicate story the myrtle or the rose tells! How unhappy that which basil, or yellow rose reveals, while ivy is the most faithful of all."

The above paragraph was reprinted from Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, compiled by Nugent Robinson and Peter Fenlon Collier, 1882.


What is a tussie-mussie?
A tussie-mussie is a nosegay of flowers and herbs chosen for the message they will convey. They are then bound together in a doily. A nosegay is defined as a small bunch of flowers. The tussie-mussie is sometimes called a posy because it delivers a message to the recipient, and--among other things--a posy means "a brief sentiment." The tussie-mussie does, in fact, deliver one's sentiment in brief to the recipient. The sentiment is entirely up to the maker of the tussie-mussie; create a tussie-mussie with lavender, and it will imply devotion and happiness. Perhaps you want to say 'I love you' with the tussie-mussie. Use roses, myrtle or both, and you've done just that. Review the plant list in this article, or research the meanings of plants further on your own before making a tussie-mussie. And remember to add a card which clearly defines the meanings of each plant included in the tussie-mussie so your sentiments will not be misinterpreted.

If you do not have the plants needed to create a tussie-mussie, your local florist or supermarket may have cut flowers available for purchase. Your backyard is also a good source for plants. Creating a tussie-mussie will take about an hour of pure enjoyment. So gather the kids round the table, and teach them about floriography, or the language of flowers.

Make the tussie-mussie [1]

Image Materials Needed

  • Filler plants (see note below)
  • A large flower for the tussie-mussie heart
  • Scissors or small pruners
  • Hole punch
  • Paper doily
  • Curling ribbon or raffia
  • Floral tape
  • Index card
  • Colored pencils
  • A glass of water

Note: Suggested filler plants include baby's breath, pansies, violets and fragrant herbs.

Image Instructions
I made my tussie-mussie from silk flowers since I needed curtain ties in my bedroom, and Sue Williams mentioned using tussie-mussies as tiebacks in her article, Tussie-mussies: "Talking Bouquets". [2]
I used a pink rose for the centerpiece, baby's breath as filler and large rose leaves and ivy to surround the rose.

Use the language of flowers list below to gather plants for the tussie-mussie. Cut the plants in four to six inch lengths. Strip the bottom leaves, and rest the plants in a glass of water while you work. Hold the center of the flower in one hand, and surround it with a suitable layer of filler plants. Secure all stems with floral tape. Arrange large leaves such as ivy around the outer edge of the tussie-mussie center to border it. Secure this, too, with floral tape. Cut a hole in the middle of the doily by marking an X there. Insert the trunk of the tussie-mussie plants into the precut doily and secure the base of it with floral tape. Tie curling ribbon or raffia onto the tussie-mussie's trunk at the base of the doily. Fold an index card in half, and punch a hole at the top left corner of it. Use colored pencils to write a brief sentiment on the index card, and attach it to the tussie-mussie.

Your tussie-mussie is now complete.

Victorian Language of Flowers[3]

American Elm


Arbor Vitae

Unchanging friendship. Live for me


Sourness of temper


Think of me

Cedar LeafI live for thee
Eglantine (Sweetbrier)Poetry. I wound to heal
Forget-me-notTrue love. Forget me not
Golden RodPrecaution
Hibiscus Delicate beauty
HydrangeaA boaster. Heartlessness
Ivy Fidelity. Marriage
Jasmine Amiability
Mountain LaurelAmbition
Locust TreeElegance
Magnolia, SwampPerseverance
Marigold and CypressDespair
Oats The witching soul of music.
Orange BlossomsYour purity equals your loveliness
Palm Victory
Sweet Pea Departure
Rose Love
Rose, full-blown and placed over two buds Secrecy
Sweet William Gallantry
Scotch Thistle Retaliation
Variegated Tulip Beautiful eyes
ValerianAn accommodating disposition
Water LilyPurity of heart
Witch HazelA spell
Yew Sorrow
ZinniaThoughts of absent friends

Follow the language of flowers link below for a complete list of the meanings of plants in the Victorian era.

Suggested messages
Rose, heliotrope and ivy could say, "I love you. I am devoted to you. Will you marry me?"
Sweet william, witch hazel and quince would speak to the heart of a secret love by saying, "Your gallantry has bewitched me. I am tempted by you."

Suggested uses for tussie-mussies
Christmas ornaments using dried flowers
Valentine's or Mother's Day gifts
Home decor

Interesting facts
In the Victorian era, suitors gave their intended lady a tussie-mussie. If she embraced it to her heart, the suitor knew his message was received with a glad heart. Tussie-mussies were often carried to mask offensive odors and to ward off sickness

[1] "Tussie-Mussies" -Bouquets with Meaning, a University of North Carolina article
[2] Tussie-mussies: "Talking Bouquets" by Susan Williams
[3] The Language of Flowers

Extensive language of flowers lists
The Language of Flowers compiled by Nugent Robinson. P. F. Collier, 1882
Katherine's language of flowers list. This is an excellent source with dates of plant meanings added.

Garden friends
Dave's Garden: Community

Photo Credits
All photographs in this article are from my craft room

Image Pleasant gardening