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Flowers have long been a symbol of love in bloom, but many say much more

POSTED: February 3, 2012 1:30 a.m.
BRANDEE A. THOMAS/The Times

A tussie mussie

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This Valentine’s Day, before you hand that bouquet of flowers to your significant other, you may want to take a minute to consider what message you’re conveying.

On the surface, a floral arrangement is a thoughtful gift. But some say there’s more to the story than that.

According to Posy Storey Henson, president of the Jefferson Garden Club, every flower, herb and plant tells its own past.

"At the Methodist church we do Advent wreaths. As a young adult, I realized we had seven greens in our Advent wreaths, and they each meant something," said Henson, during a Lunch-and-Learn on Thursday afternoon at the Jefferson Public Library.

"For instance, the holly symbolizes the crown of thorns and the red berries are Christ’s blood. Ivy is the weakness of man, clinging to the strength of God. Laurel is the victory of man through the love of God.

"That was the first time I put that I made the connection with (flowers) having a meaning."

During the luncheon, Henson gave attendees a mini-history lesson on "The Message of Flowers" and instructions for creating a tussie mussie, which is another name for a nosegay. The lunch was sponsored by the library and the Crawford W. Long Museum.

"In Elizabethan England, people would carry little bunches of (flowers and herbs) to ward off the stench of the streets," Henson said.

"When it got to ... the Victorian era, they started making these tussie mussies. They would create the tussie mussies to send to people to convey a message."

If the mini bouquet included pansies, the sender was letting you know they were thinking of you. A spray of daisies would convey friendship, while a sprig of mint signified virtue.

Tulip’s mean love, lamb’s ear is for comfort, and Lenten roses equal prosperity.

"A daffodil is for when you love someone and want them to love you back," Henson explained.

Even though tussie mussies were from the Victorian era, they are still popular gifts today.

They can be given to parents to welcome their new baby, to a blushing bride on her big day, or as a show of comfort for a grieving family.

They even make nice "just because" gifts.

Just be careful how you arrange them. For instance, lavender has two meanings. It can be used to symbolize luck or distrust, so exercise caution with what you pair it with to build context.

A bouquet of lavender, red roses and violets would convey luck, love and faithfulness, while a bouquet of lavender, yellow hyacinth and narcissus may read as distrust, jealousy and egotism.

"To me, it really enhances what you’re doing to know what some of the symbolism is," Henson said.

Flowers aren’t the only buds in your garden that have something to say.

According to Henson, Rosemary represents remembrance, parsley represents festivity, thyme represents courage, sweet basil represents good wishes and sage represents health.

Once you’ve selected the components of your own tussie mussie, simply arrange them however you wish.

"A lot of times they build them around a central flower," Henson said.

"I don’t necessarily like that because it looks too contrived."

After you’ve arranged your bouquet, bundle the stems together with a piece of floral tape.

"I find that tape is a lot less stressful to the flowers," Henson said.

Traditionally, the tiny bouquets are tied with a ribbon or cupped in a decorative silver
container.



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