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Tussie-Mussies

Every kind of floral design has a story behind it. That of the tussie-mussie is especially compelling.

A tussie-mussie is a special kind of nosegay or posey. Though poseys had long used for various rituals and ceremonial purposes, the Victorians made this into a fine art with the language of flowers. In their hands the simple nosegay of the past became a ‘talking bouquet.’

Messages were created by combining plants with appropriate meanings. In addition to flowers, they also used fragrant herbs for these floral designs.

The traditional flowers and herbs that were generally associated with these delightful poseys include the following.

Numerous plants were used to express love and devotion. A single-flowered cheddar pink represents pure love. Pink carnation stands for mother’s love. The lovely globe amaranth, which are available in various colors, stand for unfading love and immortality.

The feather geranium or Jerusalem oak flowers, which are green, denotes love returned. As you might expect, the general meaning for roses is love. Those in love might want to express their fidelity, and that was done with speedwell or veronica. Various colors of the spiky blooms were used, including purple, blue, white, and red.

The white blooms of mossy saxifrage express devotion, while blue violets stand for faithfulness.

Several kinds of flowers were chosen to represent beauty. The long-lasting stocks were used to denote lasting beauty, while sweet alyssum stand for beauty beyond worth.

In cases where sympathy is being expressed, the flower of choice was thrift. These flowers may be white and pink.

If you’re missing a friend, you might send zinnias.

White bellflowers stand for gratitude.

For innocence, you would use the English daisy, while modesty is expressed by sweet violets of all sorts.

Geraldine Adamich Laufer specializes in tussie-mussies. For over twenty-five years, this floral designer has been creating poetry with flowers. She wrote “Tussie-Mussies-the Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers,” which was originally published by Workman in 1993. It was out-of-print for awhile, but now has been re-issued.

For the book, she created sixty gorgeous tussie-mussies, and provides lush photos of each along with a list of plants, their meanings, and a layout showing the placement of each. There is one for every occasion. Whether you want to express a little Christmas joy, welcome a newborn, or congratulate a colleague, these delightful creations express the message beautifully.

In addition to flowers and herbs, she also uses nuts and fruits, such as lemons, to express faithfulness.

There are step-by-step, color-illustrated instructions for making these poseys.

The book is informative and practical, and belongs in every floral arranger's library. The first third of the book presents the engrossing history of tussie-mussies. It is illustrated with gorgeous period art, including an Athenian vase and a painting by Velazquez with Maria Theresa as an infant with a tussie-mussie in hand.


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