Posies Flower Meaning, Symbolism, Origins, and Cultural Significance

If you think back to your childhood, you may remember joining hands with your friends, twirling in a circle, and singing  “pockets full of posies.” But did you ever question what a posy is? If you’re not sure what this term refers to, you’re not alone. Many people wonder if a posy is a type of flower, a bouquet of flowers, or something absent from flora entirely. In this guide, I’m going to clear up the confusion surrounding posies and provide some essential information about posies flower meaning, their history and origins, and cultural significance around the world. 

Posies Flower Meaning, Symbolism, Origins, and Cultural Significance

What Exactly Is a Posy?

A posy is a small bouquet or bunch of flowers and herbs. They can be made up of any type of flower, including a single variety or a mixture. You may also hear people refer to posies as nosegays or tussie-mussies.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be expanding on the definition of posy I listed above. However, the term posy can also refer to the words inscribed on the inside of a ring.

The History and Origins of Posies

The story of the posy begins sometime in the middle of the second millennium. During this time, basic sanitation was hard to come by, but people in the upper classes were still concerned about their appearances (and masking themselves from the distasteful world around them).

Women took all kinds of measures to mask the scent of body odor and sewage, including small bundles of herbs and flowers that were referred to as posies. At first, women pinned the posies to their dresses or carried them in their hands. But as time went by, they began to tuck them inside specially designed decorative holders made from metal.

You can still find posy holders for sale in antique stores and on display at museums.

When sanitation and the smells of the streets improved, people decreased their reliance on posies as air fresheners. However, the posies’ popularity remained.

During Victorian times, women continued to carry around posies as fashion accessories. Women sometimes used the small bouquets solely as decorations, and other times they used them to send specific meanings based on the language of flowers.

As time progressed, the posy waned in popularity. However, people continued using these small bouquets to send wishes and good thoughts to loved ones.

The Meaning and Symbolism of Posies

The Meaning and Symbolism of Posies

During the Victorian times, people often gave posies to friends, family members, lovers, and even enemies. These small bouquets often symbolized positive feelings like love, friendship, and joy. However, the exact meaning of a posy depended on what flowers it included.

To determine the meaning of a posy, people turned to the language of flowers. This unique language gave specific meaning to individual flowers and allowed people to send messages with flowers rather than words.

The language of flowers is a whole other topic, but we’ll include some examples of this language to get you started.

Let’s say you wanted to let a crush know you were romantically interested in them. You’d want to pick flowers that symbolize romance rather than friendship, but you probably wouldn’t want to choose flowers linked to passionate or everlasting love. One option is to create a posy from pink roses, which relate to happiness, and gardenias, which send the message of secret love.

But what if you’re not in love with someone? What if you want to let a friend know you’re thinking of them as they approach a challenging time?

In that case, you might combine ivy, goldenrod, and pansy. This posy would symbolize friendship, good wishes, and thoughtfulness.

It would be great if we only wanted to send good feelings to people, but sometimes we need to let others know they’ve hurt our feelings or caused us pain. While flowers may not seem like the way to do this, Victorians understood that certain flowers symbolized feelings like distrust and danger.

For example, a tansy can represent hostility and even be used to declare war. And lavender is linked to distrust, and geraniums symbolize stupidity.

Modern Meaning of Posies

Some people are still familiar with the language of flowers but don’t expect the average person to know what a bouquet of yellow roses and pink geraniums means. Since this language isn’t as relevant as it was during the Victorian ages, posies hold different meanings today.

Most times, posies are a way to let people know that you are thinking of them and sending them good wishes. That means they’re appropriate for a wide variety of occasions.

Since they’re small arrangements, they’re great for occasions when big bouquets may look out of place.

Ring a Ring o’ Roses

One of the most famous references to posies occurs in the children’s nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o’ Roses, also known as Ring Around the Rosie.

This song proclaims:

“Ring a ring o’ roses,

Pocket full of posies,

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down.”

While there are some variations on this rhyme, historians and scholars believe that all versions refer to a plague. Some people think it refers to the Great Plague that struck London in 1665. 

That would make sense since the roses refer to red rashes and tissues to sneezing and sniffles. And some people say that people wore posies during this time in an attempt to keep sickness away.

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Posies

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Posies

Posies can be given for all kinds of occasions.

These small bundles of flowers are perfect for occasions when you want to let someone know you care without overwhelming them. Going over to a friend’s house for dinner? Bring a posy! Want to wish a friend good luck on an upcoming exam or job interview? Send a posy their way!

Posies can also be great options if you don’t know someone very well. For example, they can be an excellent way to say thank you to your child’s new teacher or welcome a new neighbor to the area.

Posies are also appropriate for occasions like new homes, birthdays, and graduations. However, since they’re so small, they may not be the best option if someone expects a big gift.

How to Make a Posy at Home

How to Make a Posy at Home

You don’t have to be an expert floral designer to make a posy. With some beautiful starting materials and a bit of knowledge, you’ll be ready to make a posy at home.

1. Gather Your Materials

The first step in making a posy is collecting all the necessary materials. That includes flowers, greenery, herbs of your choosing, a pair of pruning shears, and a bit of string.

You can start with any flowers and plants you’d like, but fresh materials are best. If you’re cutting plants from your garden, harvesting them in the early morning or late evening is best. Place the cut materials into a jar of cold water until you’re ready to make your posy.

A pair of pruning shears will allow you to quickly and accurately cut plant stems. This will make your work easier, and clean cuts will help the flowers last longer.

You’ll use string to tie up the posy once it’s complete, but the type of string doesn’t matter. You can also use a rubber band in place of a string.

2. Arrange Your Flowers and Greens

Now for the fun part!

Grab a few stems of flowers, an herb or two, and some greenery, and arrange them until you’re happy with the result. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making posies; you can include five different types and colors of flowers or rely on only one flower and some greenery.

However, remember that posies are small flower arrangements. That means you should stick with about 5–10 stems. 

You may only need a few stems if you’re using larger flowers like sunflowers and roses. But posies made from small flowers like chamomile and celosia can contain a handful of stems.

3. Tie the Posy

Once you’re happy with the arrangement of the flowers, hold them together and tie the stems with a string. Alternatively, you can wrap a rubber band around the stems.

Next, use the pair of pruning shears to cut the ends of the stems.

Place the ends of the stems in water and place the posy somewhere cool out of direct light. If you plan to wear the posy on your clothing, keep it in water until you’re ready to wear it.

My Favorite Types of Flowers to Include in a Posy

My Favorite Types of Flowers to Include in a Posy

In my experience, the best types of flowers to include in a posy have sturdy stems, aromatic fragrances, and offer a mix of sizes and colors. Here are some of my favorite flowers for posies: 

  • Roses: These timeless flowers are popular for both their beauty and scent.
  • Chamomile: These delicate flowers resemble mini daisies and are often associated with calmness and relaxation.
  • Daisies: Their cheerful blooms fit well into most posy floral combinations.
  • Lavender: Its long stems with tiny purple flowers offer a calming scent and a splash of color.
  • Celosia: Available in various forms, their unique texture and vibrant colors can add a dramatic touch to the posy.
  • Baby’s Breath: These tiny white flowers add a dreamy, airy touch.
  • Freesias: Fragrant and delicate, they offer a variety of colors.
  • Sweet Peas: Their ruffled blooms and pleasant scent are ever-charming.
  • Lily of the Valley: Delicate bell-shaped flowers with a sweet fragrance.
  • Tulips: Their structure and array of colors make them a versatile choice for posies.
  • Violets: Whimsical and colorful, perfect for adding a touch of charm to your posy.
  • Gerbera Daisies: Their bright and large blooms can serve as the posy’s centerpiece.
  • Ranunculus: Stunning multi-layered petals add depth to any posy bouquet.
  • Forget-Me-Nots: Tiny blue flowers symbolizing remembrance.
  • Camellias: Their glossy leaves and bold blooms exude sophistication.
  • Asters: Daisy-like and available in a spectrum of colors.
  • Alstroemeria: Known for their long-lasting, striped or speckled petals are perfect for a posy. .

Posies Flower Meaning – Wrapping Up

The term posy refers to a small bouquet of flowers. It can be made up of any type of flowers, as well as herbs and greens. Posies have a storied history, rich in meaning and symbolism, and are still culturally relevant today. 

People living in Victorian times often used posies to send messages based on the language of flowers. In modern times, people often give posies as small gifts.

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