Nosegays or Tussie-Mussies
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d focus on those little floral arrangements that evoke feelings of love, friendship, and more.
A nosegay—or, when carried in a cone-shaped holder, a “tussie-mussie”—has become a somewhat regular feature of weddings. These floral arrangements may be worn in the hair, pinned as a brooch, or carried by hand, sometimes including fragrant flowers and herbs. However, their original purpose and meaning were quite different when these miniature arrangements appeared over 500 years ago. Initially, these small bundles of blooms and scented herbs served a very practical purpose. During a time when sanitation and personal hygiene were not a daily routine, both men and women would adorn themselves with small bunches of powerfully fragrant plants and place them in their hair or on their clothing – always close to the nose. The pleasant smell masked the otherwise putrid odor of their surroundings, hence their name of “nosegay” or a happy scent to your nose.
In the Victorian Era, nosegays took on an additional meaning as young men and women used these socially acceptable floral adornments to communicate otherwise ‘scandalous’ messages. 🤭 Since time alone with your courted partner was frowned upon during this period, tussie-mussies would be passed to and from lovers to communicate strong feelings and responses to those feelings, using flowers like red roses and forget-me-nots to express true love, and flowers like white carnations or sprigs of arborvitae to indicate friendship—essentially, to place an undesired suitor in the ‘friend zone’. Messages as intricate as impending danger, disdain, affection, bashfulness, and shame could be communicated via the nosegay.
Times have certainly changed! Today, the tussie-mussie is popular for bridal ornaments and arrangements, but not in the small, delicate fashion of the original florals. While we can more freely express our feelings in spoken and written word than in days of yore, flowers are still given as gestures for expressing love, admiration, friendship, appreciation, and sorrow.
Do you give flowers? For what occasion?
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Hope you have a very happy Valentine’s Day!
Some photos used for this post were borrowed from other blogs.
We invite you to take a tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum (BCA) and see our beautiful grounds. In addition to being a cemetery, Bellefontaine is a Level II Accredited Arboretum and is listed in the Morton Register of Arboreta. The mission of the Arboretum at Bellefontaine is to support and enhance the cemetery as a place of perpetual commemoration, and as a garden of beauty, inspiration, and historic significance. Bellefontaine has an accessible and diverse horticultural collection, and has become an important natural sanctuary and habitat for wildlife in the urban environment. It is the only accredited arboretum in the city of St. Louis.
BCA is the only accredited arboretum in the city of St. Louis.
We are looking for gardening volunteers!
written by: Kyle N. Cheesborough,
Director of Horticulture and Living Collections Curator
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