The Language of Flowers

Cat got your tongue? Use herbs and flowers to tell someone exactly how you feel.

By Geraldine Adamich Laufer
Fall 2016

Tulips bouquet
Photo by Flickr/Julie

“Tussie-mussie” is a quaint, endearing term from the early 1400s for small, round bouquets of herbs and flowers with symbolic meanings. The word coaxes smiles from audiences I address around the country, and many people are delighted to discover this archaic custom. What application can tussie-mussies possibly have in today’s world, where women and men carrying briefcases and cell phones have neither free hands to carry a tussie-mussie nor spare minutes to invest in antiquated customs?

I’ve come to understand that people today treasure the notion of tussie-mussies because each one is personal and unique; every sprig and blossom in each little nosegay conveys a “meaning” in the old-time language of flowers. Depending on which herbs are included, a wide variety of personal messages can be sent. This silent language of flowers allows a technology-focused generation to express poignant and touching sentiments without having to come right out and say them in words. The flowers say them for us.

Another time, a chum gathered a group of friends to take me out to lunch for an “important” birthday. Imagine my chagrin later when I realized that I’d totally forgotten her birthday. To make amends, I gave her a tussie-mussie that included opium poppy (forgetfulness), sweet marjoram (blushes), brambles (remorse), rosemary (remembrance), Japanese rose (never too late to make amends), and coltsfoot (justice shall be done you). We both got a chuckle out of that one, and we’re still good friends