Tussie-mussies are small bouquets of flowers, plants, and herbs. The flowers are arranged in the center of the bouquet while the leafy plants are arranged around the outside. The bouquet is then tied together somehow (using elastics works great and then a nice ribbon can be tied around that) and then the bouquet is wrapped in a doily or pretty paper with a hole cut in the center where you place the stem of the bouquet so that the bouquet sort of sits on the doily.
Tussie-mussies were used centuries ago and then became popular again during the Victorian era. During that time, there were certain customs that controlled conversation so people had to figure out a way to speak without physically speaking. Tussie-mussies were perfect because the important part of a tussie-mussie is that each flower, plant, or herb means something. People call this the "language of flowers." People would wear a tussie-mussie to express what they wanted to say or sometimes they would send one to a specific person. For example, maybe they would want to show that they were grieving or maybe they would want to express their love to a certain person. A flower, plant, or herb can have anything from one to several meanings and sometimes the meanings are even contradictory. People would therefore consult special dictionaries that listed the meaning of the flowers, plants, and herbs or they would attach a small card to the tussie-mussie explaining the meanings, especially if the tussie-mussie was being given to someone. I recommend searching for tussie-mussie dictionaries online and finding the ones that you prefer to use. Some are better than others.
Since I was making a tussie-mussie specifically for my grandma's birthday, I wanted to express joy over this occasion (since birthdays are joyous occasions) and I also wanted to express all of my wishes for her on her special day. I also wanted to use flowers, plants, and herbs that were currently available on my family's property and in our garden areas.
I chose the following flowers, plants, and herbs for her tussie-mussie:
Pansy = Merriment
Yarrow = Health
Vervain = Good fortune
Wood Sorrel = Joy
Basil = Best Wishes
Fern = Sincerity
The pansies came from our hanging flower baskets. The yarrow, vervain, wood sorrel, and ferns came from further back on our property (in the bush by a river). The basil came from our vegetable garden.
It is also common to create a phrase using all of the meanings so I created the following phrase:
Sincere wishes for health, joy, and good fortune on this merry occasion.
I used rubber bands to tie all of the stems together and did this several times throughout the bouquet to ensure that the various layers stayed together and didn't fall apart. I cut a piece of paper in a sort of round decorated snowflake style and cut a hole in the center large enough for the stems of the bouquet to fit through. I also tied a nice ribbon around the elastics and the base of the paper to hide the elastics and paper edge as well as to hold everything together nicely. I wrote out the meanings and phrase on a piece of paper along with a little birthday message and tied it to the bouquet. I also placed the bouquet in a small vase of water to make sure that the plants would last. I told my grandma that she could leave the bouquet in the water for a while and when the plants start to wilt, she can try drying the bouquet so that she could keep it. She ended up letting it dry and still has it sitting on her table beside her chair.
Tussie-mussies are not just simple bouquets. They are so much more! I think that's why they make such special gifts. Also, you can adapt them for basically any occasion since there is a large range of meanings associated with the flowers, plants, and herbs. Give it a try!