June 18, 2008

Learn the Language of Flowers and Love


I'm no linguist, but I enjoy words, particularly spoken words.

Growing up in South Louisiana, I would to listen to old Cajun men swap colorful stories about wars, droughts and the storms of nature and life. They were mostly uneducated men, at least by modern academic standards. But their speech had a wonderful cadence and vibrancy that made their stories come alive.

I learned a lot of interesting words listening to those old fellows. And I thought myself quite the little man by repeating their choice words and phrases whenever possible.

My mother was less thrilled, however, with some of the slang she heard coming from her youngest son, and she occasionally threatened me with grave bodily harm if I repeated them in her presence in the future. Knowing she was a lady of her word, I learned to watch my own, at least in her presence.

Words are like flowers. New ones spring up all the time.

I learned several new words recently while conducting a tour through the new Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. A sweet lady of apparent sophistication turned to me and asked, "Do you teach classes on tussie mussie?"

I've since learned that the strange sounding words are familiar to many gardeners. But they were completely foreign to me. I didn't have a clue what she was referring to.

Caught off guard, I simply stood there blinking like a startled hoot-owl.

Finally, I sheepishly replied, "Nope. Never taught that class."

"Well you should," she continued. "It's right up your alley. It's a type of nosegay, something you definitely should think about."

Nosegay? Tussie mussie? My head was reeling. Is there something wrong with my nose, I thought. Does it look like a tussie mussie, whatever that is?

Rattled and socially off balance, I cut the tour short and quickly retreated to my office computer where I Googled tussie mussie and was pleased to learn that the term simply referred to a small, tightly arranged, circular bouquet (nosegay) of fragrant herbs and flowers meant to convey a message of love and appreciation.

The term sprang to life during the Victorian era. It became common practice during courtship for suitors to give their intended a tussie mussie of sweetly scented herbs composed mostly of rosemary, thyme and rue. Even today, judges at England's highest court, the Old Bailey, celebrate tradition by carrying a tussie mussie into court six times a year.

It so happens that the Linnaeus Teaching Garden has a wonderful herb garden filled with gloriously scented herbs anxious to become beautiful tussie mussies.

Therefore on Saturday, June 28, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., the Tulsa Herb Society will present: "A Morning with the Victorians" at the Linnaeus Garden in Woodward Park.

Herbal teas and treats will be served while hearing about the language of herbs and flowers. Come and learn how to incorporate herbs and flowers into a beautiful, small bouquet known as a "tussie mussie." Handouts will include recipes and sweet, romantic messages that you can send to loved ones. The morning will conclude with a question-and-answer walk through the fabulous Linnaeus Herb Garden. The event promises to be loads of fun and a treat for your senses of sight, taste and smell.

Enroll using a major credit card by calling the Tulsa Garden Center (746-5125) or enroll online at www.tulsaworld.com/ tulsagardencenter. The cost is $15 per person and pre-enrollment is required. Enroll early. This seminar only has room for 35 participants.

Come and join me for "A Morning with the Victorians."

Barry Fugatt is Director of Horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center. He can be reached at 746-5125 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Originally published by BARRY FUGATT Garden World.

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