Tussy-Mussy – Say it with flowers and herbs for Valentine’s Day

Flowers say it all and Valentine’s Day is upon us yet again and the red roses sales increase rapidly during this time!

There is another way of showing your affections to your partner and that is a Tussy-Mussy.

A simple small bouquet of herbs is the old fashioned way.  Not only is it very personal as you would have bunched it together yourself but it is fragrant, pretty and lasts a long time in a small vase.

Tussy- Mussies are very symbolic.  All the flowers and herbs have strong meanings and intentions and there are recipes for Birthdays, Bridal Bouquets, Mother’s Tussy, Invalids and Babies but for now we are going to focus on what you can use from your very own garden with possibly a little help by a bought bunch of flowers which are in short supply in gardens in February!

Records date back to the 14th century of Nose-Gays alias Tussy-Mussies.  We all know that hygiene in those days wasn’t exactly easy for them and the odours around could not have been very inviting to the senses.  I won’t go into detail here as it could put you off the lovely dinner that you shall be enjoying on the 14th February.  These pretty bouquets became very popular during the Victorian era.

February being still on the chilly side could well leave the choice of what you shall place into your Tussy a little limited from your garden.  A small bunch of flowers could be bought to assist you along if needs be. The good news is that there are no rules of what plant material to use.  Tulips in a Tussy-Mussy not a brilliant idea as they mean war!

To make your Tussy, arm yourself with florists tape and start with a single bloom like a miniature rose or even a few snow drops, pansy or a daffodil flower and encircle it with stems of contrasting leaves or flowers.  With the florists tape, start binding the stems together and arrange the outer stems in order they are evenly dispersed around your central flower keeping it tightly bound.  With another stem of preferably a herb or flower take off the lower leaves and arrange those around the last circle of herb stems and flowers and bind with florists tape and carry on adding larger leaved stems of a plant for the outer leaves and bind until you have a posy that can easily hold the Tussy in one hand.  Once you have made one you will find you get better and quicker at making them.  Of course, the selection from the spring onwards is a far greater selection as you can see from the images but for the time being a suggestion of plants and ingredients to make your Tussy-Mussy follow below:

  • Fresh small roses, small flowers, herb sprigs and leaf stems
  • Pansy – meaning thoughts
  • Daisy – meaning innocence
  • Violets – meaning faithfulness
  • Narcissus – meaning unrequited love
  • Rosemary – meaning strength
  • Myrtle –  meaning love
  • Thyme – Courage
  • Winter Savoury
  • Parsley – especially the curled parsley as its vivid green leaves are very pretty – meaning festivity
  • Bay laurel – means nobility
  • Lavender dried flowers would smell divine and also look great – meaning luck
  • Any contrasting shrub stem in the garden that you think would look nice
  • Wax floral tape (or hessian string works well)
  • One finger can be cut from a disposable cotton glove to cover the stems and if you want, surround the finger sock with lacy fabric then tie the ribbon around the base under the arrangement. You also can just cover the stems with hessian for the ‘au naturale’ look
  • Scissors
  • Optional: 1 metre double sided satin ribbon half inch wide matching the flowers and leaves
  • Love knots can be tied in the ends of the ribbons for good luck or place a sprig of rosemary or thyme into each love knot when it is tied.
  • Gift card explaining the symbolic meanings of the flowers and herb stems

Often a bouquet of lovely fragrant leaves is just as lovely as the flowers plus it is very ‘vogue’ now to use foliage herbs in flower arrangements.  With herbs,  many of them are dormant in the winter months hence the lack of them to use right now.  No worries, they will start re-appearing very shortly and you shall be able to make all kinds of wonderful Tussies according to their meaning.

They last in water for a good week if not more and after its sell by date hang it upside down from a beam in a warm, dark place.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This post was brought to you by Bridget Kitley

Check Also

Kew Science Festival returns for 2019! 20 July – 21 July

Kew’s world-leading scientists bring their work out of the labs and into the Gardens Be …