Though not generally brought to social functions, these miniature bouquets will last a week when placed in water, thereby making them perfect for a hospital bedside table or breakfast room. Because of the global nature of today’s floral industry, it has never been easier to find herbs and flowers for tussie-mussies 365 days a year. Another consideration is that they are highly transportable.
I custom-make tussie-mussies for most occasions, and ship them all over the country by overnight express delivery. They are great little travelers, arriving across the country the next morning in perfect condition, ready to proclaim best wishes. I take them to weddings hundreds of miles away in picnic coolers in the car trunk. I send them across town by courier service. And I send them to school in plastic zippered bags stuffed into backpacks. So that the recipient will understand the sentiments, a written note must accompany these floral messengers, listing the flowers and the meanings that unite to create the specific theme. [SEE LAUFER’S “THE MEANINGS OF FLOWERS”]
How to Make a Tussie-Mussie
- Fresh rose(s), herb sprigs, small flowers, leaves
- Waxed floral tape
- 1 yard of 3-inch-wide lace, elastic thread, and tapestry needle
- One finger cut from a (disposable) cotton glove
- 1 yard of double-sided satin ribbon about 1/2 inch wide to match the flower colors
Plan the message, check the Language of Flowers glossary, and then choose and assemble the herbs and flowers. (TIP: For a formulaic tussie-mussie, gather a fat rosebud of appropriate color for the center flower, then five sprigs each of three kinds of herbs, five mini carnations or button mums, and five glossy galax or ivy leaves.)
Trim all stems to 5–6 inches long, and strip the lower leaves off the stems.
Start with a rose (or three sweetheart rosebuds) for the center, surround it with sprigs of herbs, and bind them together with floral tape. (TIP: The warmth from your hand makes the waxed tape stick to itself as it is stretched around the stems.)
Surround the center flowers with concentric circles of herbs, alternating with flowers. As each circle is added, secure it with floral tape. Take care to keep the tops of the herbs and flowers even, forming a mounded or mushroom silhouette. Keep adding until the tussie-mussie is 4–5 inches in diameter, and all the floral symbolism is included.
Frame the tussie-mussie with a layer of larger leaves (such as galax, ivy, scented geranium, or lamb’s ear), overlapping evenly around the outside edge. Bind these in place with more tape.
Using utility shears, trim the stems to 3 inches long, measuring by the width of your palm.
Slip the glove finger over the cut stems. The reason for this is threefold: it covers the tacky floral tape; it provides a smooth “handle” by which to carry the tussie-mussie; and when wet, the absorbent nature of the cotton glove will keep the stems of the tussie-mussie moist and refresh them. (I use inexpensive cotton knit gloves from the photography store, and it works out to about a dime per finger.)
Sew a running stitch of elastic thread along one edge of the lace using extra-large stitches, and then tie the elastic in a circle. This creates a stretchy “collar” to pull up over the stems and under the frame of leaves. (TIP: Real lace is not only beautiful, but it is also more durable than paper lace doilies, which tear when wet.) Use antique lace, or match the lace to a wedding gown or party dress.
Finish by tying the satin ribbon into a bow around the stem handle, tight underneath the lace. (TIP: Love knots may be tied in the ends of the streamers for good luck; tuck a sprig of rosemary or statice into each love knot when it is tied.)
Write out a gift card to explain the herbs and their meanings.
A survey by the American Institute of Floral Designers revealed that the number-one desire of the flower-sending public is to give an unusual and personalized gift. Tussie-mussies are the perfect answer.
By Geraldine Adamich Laufer | Photography by Alecia Lauren
For a modern glossary of the Language of Flowers, refer to Geraldine Adamich Laufer’s book, Tussie-Mussies, The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in The Language of Flowers (New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1993). It includes Victorian meanings and researched meanings of flowers from traditions as far flung as Asia and pre-Columbian South America, as well as Buddhist and Hindu customs.