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How To Make A Tussie Mussie or Nosegay

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

A tussie mussie or nosegay is a small bouquet of scented herbs and flowers. For centuries, going back to Elizabethan times in England, a nosegay was carried by women to defend against noxious smells from open drains and unwashed bodies, which brought the risk of plague and fever with them. Later tussie mussies were used to convey messages, using the language of flowers to communicate things like loyalty (blue violets) or innocence (white violets). Books about the symbolism of flowers were being published so that everyone could become familiar with the messages that could be conveyed with a small, hand carried bouquet.

Today tussie mussies are made for weddings, birthdays, christenings, memorials and other events. They can be used for the same purpose as in earlier times, and a message can be conveyed in the flowers chosen.
See a list of herbs with symbolic meanings below.

The tussie mussie shown here is made with flowers from our garden. This is our first tussie mussie.

How To Make a Tussie Mussie*

Step 1: Assemble the plants of your choice and strip off the lower leaves.

Step 2: Put scented herbs in the center and arrange other herbs around them. We used lavender, sage and rosemary.

Step 3: Tie the bunch neatly, but firmly, with a ribbon or string.

Step 4: Surround this center with flowers and tie again with a ribbon or string. Continue to add flowers in layers. We used cosmos, verbena, zinnia and gomphrena.

Step 5: Enclose the bunch in an outer circle of fragrant leaves to help it hold its shape. Tie again and trim the stems with our Incomparable Scissors.

Step 6: Finish off with a doily and colored ribbons. (We did not use a doily but we used a ribbon and tied a bow). If a particular scent is important you can steep a ribbon in perfume, allow it to dry, and then tie it around the arrangement. Or you can add a few drops of essential oils to the flowers.

Herbs with symbolic meanings include *:

Bay– Honor
Chamomile– Meekness
Fennel– Flattery
Forget-me-nots– Faithfulness
Lavender– Silence
Lily of the valley– Purity
Marigold– Happiness
Marjoram– Joy
Min– Wisdom
Pandy– Love
Parsley– Celebration
Red rose– Love
Rosemary– Remembrance
Rue– Repentance
Sage– Virtue
Thyme– Activity
White rose– Sealed lips

*from The National Trust’s Pot Pourri and Other Scented Delights, 1987

One thought on “How To Make A Tussie Mussie or Nosegay

  1. Chris Ferrero says:

    Love everything about this post, Dorian! Inspires me to make them as gifts… In fact, it would make a beautiful ornamental finish to a gift wrapped in kraft paper and raffia…

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