HVGA and the Tussie-Mussie

  |  January 20, 2015

Pop Quiz Time!

The term “tussie-mussie” describes what plant-related tradition?

A) The ancient shrub-tossing competitions of the Celts prior to the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons.
B) The arrangement of herbs and flowers into small bouquets with symbolic meanings.
C) The late-summer practice of thumb wrestling for the last, really good, batch of blueberries at the grocery store.
D) What happens when the cat tries to eat the poinsettia.

As anyone with a green thumb knows, the correct answer is, of course, B (though C would be a great way to shake things up at the farmer’s market). And, as that same garden enthusiast will also tell you, the tussie-mussie (also known as a “word posie”) is a great way to express the complexity of our emotions. As one Mother Earth blogger writes:

“When a dear friend of mine had a miscarriage, I couldn’t really find the words to tell her how I felt, nor did I think that either of us would be comfortable if I tried. Instead, I gave her a pretty little tussie-mussie made of grass (which alludes to the fleeting quality of life), a white rosebud (a heart untouched by love), wood ­sorrel (maternal love), elderberry (sympathy), goldenrod (encouragement), and flowering reed (confidence in heaven), with a card explaining this symbolism. This fragrant and visual ­expression of grief comforted us both.”


Peonies photographed at the HVGA’s Locust Grove estate tour. In a bouquet, peonies traditionally symbolize compassion.

We dare you to try and find a sympathy card that succinctly covers maternal love, encouragement, grief, confidence in the hereafter and “the fleeting quality of life.” A beautiful bouquet, however, can fill in the blanks for us when we lack the right words to convey the depth of our sorrow, joy, passion etc.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Hudson Valley Garden Association is doing their part to reinvigorate the timeless tradition of the tussie-mussie! They will be leading a workshop on the art of communication-via-bouquet on Sunday, February 8th. The “Tussie Mussie Workshop” will be held at the Marbletown Community Center, and will provide participants with the opportunity to create their own personal message with the mix of herbs, flowers, and ornamental materials provided by the HVGA.

For more information on the workshop and to register, visit the event page on the Hudson Valley Garden Association’s website: www.hvga.org.


About Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth Wilson is an Upstater born and bred with a generalist’s education and a specialist’s passion for the Hudson Valley. Ask nicely and she’ll make you a bagel sandwich. Ask really nicely and she’ll accompany that bagel sandwich with a Bob Dylan impersonation.

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