Tussy Mussies, Nosegays and the Victorian Language of Flowers

white rose tussy mussy in a Victorian silver tussy mussy holder

white rose tussy mussy in a Victorian silver tussy mussy holder

Tussy mussy.

I’ve always thought it was very camp but until now I don’t think I ever had the proper understanding of what it really was. I thought that herbs and flowers were gathered in posies and carried by ladies in the 16 and 1700’s to drown out the stench of sewerage, rotting rats and other smelly things. It was also before daily bathing was common and I suppose the tussy mussy would have come in handy regularly. I’ve imagined lavender, rosemary, thyme and all things herbal, dotted with sweet smelling flowers where possible. These were called originally called “nosegays”, and if that isn’t camp – what is?

herb tussy mussy

herb tussy mussy/nosegay

Upon further research it seems they were around in the 1500’s too for the same reasons. It isn’t quite clear if the word “tus” refers to a cluster of flowers or comes from a similar word meaning tuft or clump.

So I’m right.

But it’s more than that!

Gentlemen callers sent posies to the one they admired whereby the flowers chosen had secret meanings! How devilish and exciting.

And….. there are special tussy mussy holders made from gold, silver and even glass that hold the posy in place as you gad about the town – taking whiffs whenever needed. You could then rest the posie on your table when finally at home.

Victorian tussy mussy holders

Victorian tussy mussy holders

I imagine beautiful violets in a traditional tussy mussy. I wonder what that means? Here are a few from about.com/gardening

Strands of ivy signified fidelity and friendship, gardenias conveyed a secret love, forsythia… anticipation. Shakespeare used them to enhance the story, as in Hamlet, when poor Ophelia laments “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

Baby’s Breath: Everlasting Love

Calla Lily: Magnificent Beauty

Camellia: Perfected Loveliness

Daffodil: Unrequited Love

Daisy: Innocence

Forget-me-not: Memories

Gardenia: Secret Love

Gladioli: Sincerity

Jasmine: Cheerful & Graceful

Lilac: First sign of love

Lily: Purity of Heart

Orange Blossom: Marriage and Fruitfulness

Orchid: Beauty

Red Rose: Passionate Rose

Sweet Pea: Good by

Violet: Modesty

My client and amazing angel lady Doreen Virtue has written a book with an Australian Naturopath, Robert Reeves, about the language of flowers.  It’s a beautiful book and of course differs from the list above. It’s worth a read if you LOVE flowers and the healing energy of mother nature. Check it out “Flower Therapy: Welcome the Angels of Nature into Your Life”.

red roses

red roses

Today I think it’s pretty simple. Flowers are always a beautiful gift and if you send red roses it probably does still signify love and passion. If you send anything else, it’s simply stunning. How could a flower have a negative connotation? And of course my choice would be scented flowers. Especially roses. I think if you are sending roses, ask for scented stems.

So next time you are on the holo-deck having a virtual Victorian experience, remember your nosegay or tussy mussy to get you through.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Green and Herbaceous – Tomato Leaf and Violet Leaf Oils


Solanum lycopersicum

Tomato leaf essential oil actually exists! I don’t keep it in my library of oils because I’m not really sure that about its therapeutic properties. I was chatting with someone recently and we got talking about ‘fresh scents” and her ultimate smell for representing freshness and green essence was tomato leaf. She couldn’t believe it when I told her there was as essential oil.

In fact I think there is only an absolute of tomato leaf. Absolutes are still included under the essential oil banner but they different because of the extraction process. Often absolutes are from precious or delicate flowers and other medium. Solvents are used in the extraction process and unfortunately because of little or no industry standards, the solvent used can be hazardous or toxic and traces of the chemicals used can be present in the final product. Sometime natural chemicals are used and the process requires a type of change to occur to produce a mass of oily and water soluble parts of the flower or plant. This is called a concrete and it is then mixed with ethanol to extract the fragrant compounds. Filtration helps clean the absolute to create a scent that is very concentrated and close to the plant in its natural form.

So anyway, tomato leaf. Believe it or not, it smells exactly like tomato leaf. It smells green, peppery, and herbaceous. I wouldn’t use this oil in a treatment with a client but I may consider using it with an intention to amplify a scent in a perfume.

Viola odorata

Viola odorata

Violet leaf has a similar story. It’s an absolute. It has an herbaceous, green scent. There isn’t much information the breakdown of the chemical constituents so it is hard to determine what therapeutic properties this oil will have. Once again I wouldn’t be very excited to use this with a client in a body massage but I’m thinking that both these oils could work well on a spiritual and energetic level. The violet flower is an intense purple colour, with a sweet intoxicating yet subtle scent. This colour draws you in when you see it and it relates to the crown chakra, to opening and connecting with universal intelligence. Perhaps the role of the leaf for the pretty little violet flower is to give it support and protection. Could this oil be good for nourishing spiritual growth and giving someone the courage to expose their psychic powers to the world?

oh so pretty

oh so pretty

What do you think?

And what could you use tomato leaf for?

I love the idea of these leaves supporting the fruit and flower and giving us unusual scents to play with. Aromatherapy is an art and I encourage you to explore the infinite possibilities of our scented world.