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The Language of Flowers and Herbs

By Contributor ; Updated September 21, 2017

By Michele Brown of Possum Creek Herb Farm

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you love, remember." Old Will (Shakespeare) had it right all those years ago. Flowers and herbs were extremely symbolic in various ways. The Victorians knew how to "say it with flowers" as well. They presented their message in a bouquet of flowers and herbs called a tussie mussie with each flower and herb expressing a meaning. Consider the young man nervously clutching a bouquet in his sweaty hand to present to his Victorian sweetheart. In his bouquet you might find a red carnation "pure and ardent love" and helitrope "I love you" and all of this in a perfectly innocent bouquet of flowers. Pretty racy folks these Victorians were.

The art of sending messages with flowers and herbs has not been left to extinction in the era of Victoria. It is still practiced today with brides and grooms choosing herbs and flowers to symbolize their feelings of love and commitment to each other. Rosemary sprigs meaning "remembrance and fidelity" are often tucked into the bride's bouquet or the groom's boutonniere. Still today herbs and flower petals are tossed at the departing couple wishing them well. Here are but a few of the meanings from the language of flowers and herbs.

  • Crocus "cheerfulness, mirth, youthful gladness"
  • Daffodil (the early flower of spring) "deceitful hope"
  • Daisies "innocence"
  • Lemon leaf scented geranium "tranquility of mind"
  • Rose scented geranium "preference"
  • Red rose "love, desire, I love you"
  • White rose "regard, I am worthy of you"
  • Lavender "loyalty"
  • Lemon verbena "You have bewitched me"

So the next time you receive flowers from your suitor, see what he really is saying to you! There are several books on the subject of the language of flowers and herbs. Two of my favorites are Herbs for Weddings and Other Celebrations by Bertha Reppert and Flora's Dictionary by Kathleen Gips.

Here is how you create a wonderful tussie mussie. Try one for your Valentine's sweetheart.

Tussie Mussies

4 large lambs ears leaves with stems
6 scented geranium leaves
1 rose of your favorite scent or color
2 sprigs of rosemary
2-4 sprigs of mint "Don't worry of the small things"

In your left hand (I am right handed) hold 2 of the lambs ears, place 3 of the scented geranium leaves on top of the lambs ears, now add one of the rosemary sprigs and 2 of the mint sprigs. Next center the rose in the middle of your pile and then the remainder of the mint and rosemary sprigs, then the remaining scented geranium leaves and last, the 2 lambs ears leaves. Bunch this into a circle with the lambs ears as the outside circle . This takes some practice, but working with the all the scents makes it well worth it. I hold my tussie mussie together with florist tape wrapped around the outside stems of the lamb's ears to bind it all in place. Slip the tussie mussie into a lace doily or wrap the bound stems with ribbon to finish. Present to your loved one and see if they can figure out the meanings. Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!

By all those token flowers, that tell
What words can never speak so well.


The spring season is soon to begin at Possum Creek Herb Farm. Join our online classes or subscribe to our newsletter "Country Thymes" and see what is happening at the farm. Michele Brown is often found in the greenhouse potting up the newest varieties of mint, sage and lavender, but spends equal time at the computer typing her new booklet entitled Herbs 1… 2… 3… which will be ready April 1, 2001. Herbs do make the difference!


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