Mid-Atlantic Regional Reports

Create Winter Tussie-Mussies With Cuttings From Your Garden

Recreated from an old-fashioned design, these decorations look beautiful both indoors and out

Materials collected from the garden add natural beauty to winter decorations. Photo: Michele Christiano

Tussie-mussies are small flower bundles that were worn, carried as fashion accessories, and given as gifts during the Victorian era. They were popularized by Queen Victoria, who often carried around a bouquet of flowers in a small metal vase. Horticulturist Wendy Gentry has incorporated the tussie-mussie in her decorations for a nature tree at Nemours Estate in Wilmington, Delaware. With a few simple tools and some garden cuttings, Mid-Atlantic gardeners can easily recreate this look.

Materials

  • Chicken wire
  • Wire snips
  • Spray paint in metallic colors like gold, copper, or bronze
  • Cut greens and seed heads from the garden
  • Sheet moss (optional)
  • Ribbon
molding wire cone
A wire cone will give your tussie-mussie its signature shape. Photo: Michele Christiano

Before beginning this project, take a walk through the garden to harvest interesting greens, seed heads, and berries. Wendy painted allium seeds heads silver for a shimmering effect.

Since tussie-mussies were arranged in small metal vases, Wendy recreated this look by using chicken wire to make a cone-shaped vessel for the greens. First, cut a piece of chicken wire measuring 12 inches long and wide. Fold the wire into a cylinder, bending any sharp edges over on themselves. After achieving the desired shape, bend the bottom into more of a point if necessary. Finally, paint the cylinder. We used gold spray paint in this example.

starting to fill the wire cone
Line the cone with denser greens like boxwood (Buxus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) and arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis and cvs., Zones 2–7), filling around the sides and middle. Photo: Michele Christiano
adding fir and pine to the cone
Next, add more upright greens like fir (Abies spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8) and pine (Pinus spp. and cvs., Zones 2–9) to fill the rest of the container. Photo: Michele Christiano
adding accent plants
Once the cone is filled with greens, add accents such as seed heads, fertile fronds, and berries. Moss can be added to the vase to fill around the stems, if desired. Photo: Michele Christiano
finished tussie-mussie
Any natural element can be a potential adornment for these pretty winter arrangements. Photo: Michele Christiano
tussie-mussie hanging from a tree
To hang the tussie-mussie on a tree or as a door charm, just tie the ends of a piece of ribbon to the top of the chicken wire, spaced a few inches apart. Photo: Michele Christiano

To make tussie-mussies that are uniquely yours, be creative and use what is in your winter garden. You may be surprised by how many beautiful, natural materials you can find to create bouquets.

—Michele Christiano has worked in public gardens for most of her career. She lives in southern Pennsylvania and currently works as an estate gardener maintaining a private garden designed by Piet Oudolf.

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