Inga Howe-Geniesse

Bouquet of the Week: Tussie Mussies

As part of our recurring Bouquet of the Week series, Garden Collage continues to present a weekly inspirational bouquet that incorporates intriguing new elements into the traditional practice of flower arranging. This week, Garden Collage styles some adorable “tussie mussies”– handheld bouquets traditionally made with freshly-cut herbs and flowers.

Tussie mussies, also known as nosegays, are small, hand-held bouquets traditionally made with freshly-cut herbs and aromatic flowers. Though nosegays are familiar today as a standard bridal arrangement, the tradition began in the Middle Ages when the streets were covered in sewage and baths were few and far between. To distract from especially noxious stenches, people carried small, fragrant bouquets–which they also believed, especially in combination with herbs, would ward off disease. For the more well-to-do, nosegay holders–made in precious metals–could be purchased and worn. In the Victorian era, the language of flowers (also known as “floriography”) reached peak popularity and tussie mussies became a discreet means of communicating, especially among lovers.

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Growing up, my yard’s unforgiving, tightly-packed dirt grew geraniums, a few herbs, one ornery white rose bush, and not much else. But when guests came over my mom would always go out into the yard, pluck a few sprigs from each, and gather them into a small jar on the table where they always managed to be a charming addition.


Tussie mussies are an excellent way to stretch a bouquet, especially if you’re on a budget. We began with a small bunch of statement flowers purchased from a local shop and complemented them with clippings from our rooftop garden: pine, mint, rosemary, lavender, and parsley. The bouquets capture an Old World charm but still feel fresh and modern, and can be adapted to every season. Check out our how-to below!

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How To

Look for flowers and plants with thin stems. Start with two or three flowers and decide the length of the stems. For a tussie mussie, the stems are usually a little longer than the length of your palm, so that they can be comfortably carried in one hand. Wrap flower tape along their stems, adding in a flower or two each time you circle around the stems. Make sure the tape is even across the length of the stems.

Typically, tussie mussies are framed either by plants or doilies (an alternative to the early days of silver and gold holders). To create a frame with plants, simply add in wide leaves, pine needles, or other simple, complementary foliage. To add a doily, simply cut a small circle in the middle. Start a little smaller than the bunch of stems, widening as you need. The stems can also be wrapped in ribbon, twine, paper rope, or other fabrics– the perfect chance to use leftover bits of ribbon and fabric!

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