A Tussy Mussy

In medieval times, streets flowed with sewage, and cities were smelly places. Women, delicate creatures then more than now, held posies (or “nosegays”) of perfumed flowers or herbs under their noses, as protection from bad odors and, just as often, a barrier to disease.


During Victorian times, these small bouquets became known as tussy mussies (“tussy” meaning a bundle and “mussy” referring to their sometimes-disorderly shapes). When a woman received a tussy mussy as a gift from a suitor or friend, she’d pore over the possible meaning of each flower in the tiny bouquet, “reading” the flowers like a botanical essay. For example, and just for fun, here are some floral “translations”:


Red Rose = love
Yellow rose = friendship
Azalea = romance
Heather = wishes come true
Ivy = fidelity
Laurel = success
Myrtle = passion
Mint = virtue
Lavender = devotion
Rosemary = commitment and fidelity

Thyme = strength and courage

Camellia = admiration or perfection; a good-luck gift to a man
Snowdrop = hope
Sweet Pea = delicate pleasures
Tulip = love
Violet = faithfulness


Yesterday afternoon, Posy’s friends and loved ones celebrated her life and expressed their love for her at a memorial service. She was, as someone said, “an earth mother” to whom people from all walks of life gravitated. You couldn’t define her many friends or friendships with a solitary word; but as flowers and herbs gathered together from her garden of life, we created a tussy mussy tribute to our beloved Posy. 


  1. I’ve heard that about the meaning of flowers before — in one of my favorite films: Kate and Leopold.

    Sounds like the day honoring Posey was lovely. What a lovely tribute you’ve tied in to her life today.

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