Do you all know what a tussy mussy is? It’s an adorable little hand-held bouquet also known as a nose gay. In the very, very old days ladies carried tussy mussies because they were surrounded by so many bad odors. Just think about it for a moment. People weren’t bathing regularly nor did they use fragrant soaps or deodorants. Horse drawn buggies were the main mode of transportation, and if those horses had to go to the bathroom while walking down the street, then they did. When overcome by foul odors, women sniffed on the tussy mussies that they were carrying and enjoyed some aromatic relief for a moment or two. In the Victorian era, men gave them to their lady friends as a sign of endearment just like men give us flowers today. I have been fascinated with tussy mussies ever since I heard about them way back in high school. I carried them to the three high school proms I attended and at Jordan’s wedding. We thought it might be fun to introduce you to them and show you how to make a tussy mussy for yourself.
A few weeks ago, my son Cory and I took a visit to the arboretum in Washington, DC where he lives. (You might have seen this photo on our Instagram account.) It was a nice way to spend a few hours together. That day ladies from a Philadelphia herbal society chapter were there as volunteers in the herb garden, and they were making tussy mussies for whomever wanted one. I thought that sounded like fun, and together the lady and I made a fragrant nose gay using herbs and flowers in the purple family like lavender, bee balm, Russian sage, etc. It was the cutest little creation, and I sniffed it the rest of the day.
Jordan, Little Miss, and I recently spent a few days with my parents, and I decided to take advantage of my mother’s flower garden to make a tussy mussy. Unfortunately, Mother does not grow herbs other than lavender, but her perennials were in full bloom. I selected a few different colors and varieties of flowers and just put them in a glass of water to stay fresh. The nice thing about making a tussy mussy is that it can look however you want it to. That can depend on your tastes or on the flowers that are available to you at the time.
First, you start with a rose in the center and a long strand of raffia or ribbon. I am guessing that they put a rose in the middle because it is so fragrant, and that’s what this little bouquet traditionally was all about.
Then you just add flowers one at a time and secure them with the raffia. The bouquet doesn’t have to be very big. The one I made measured about four inches across.
Then wrap the stems in something special. You can cover them with a paper lace doily, wrap the stems in ribbon, or cover them using a big piece of lace which is what I did.
Here’s a good look at the top.
Now, you are probably wondering what the heck to do with it when it’s finished. That’s up to you. They would look lovely as place card holders for a luncheon or dinner party, and the guests could take them home as party favors.
Or you could put them in small pitchers around a table set for a party. Making them would be a fun activity at a bridal luncheon or shower, too. I am sure there are other ways to use them that I am not even thinking of.
The nicest part about making a tussy mussy is that no two are alike. You get to be creative with the supplies that you have, and you can make them any time of the year. Have fun!