DONNA'S DAY: Summer still lingers in backyard garden

Hearty garden gems can be arranged into fall centerpiece.

A purple petunia here, a rosemary sprig there and even arugula! My old college roomie, Becky, brought a wonderfully fragrant, wispy centerpiece to our house last week as an add-on to an impromptu Saturday-night family supper.

Designed with lingering stems, herbs and blossoms from her backyard garden, it was arranged informally in a glass jar. So enchanting and simple. And perfect for a family activity you can enjoy this week. Even if your backyard or potted deck plants look droopy and lost to the season, poke around and you'll uncover some lovely finds lurking under leaves and between tired summer growth.

Plus, it's a great way to give your kids a chance to explore and notice what's going on in nature. Think of your discoveries as the "potpourri" of your garden. Becky's picks were arranged in a charming, recycled 4-inch-tall and 6-inch-wide glass jar. Hearty dusty miller was placed at the base going out in all directions and became the support, like a flower frog.

Along with your kids, look for plants with similar strong stems, and then build a centerpiece using what you have with an eye to plants that are fragrant and will last a while. The final gems that will have staying power, even when the water has evaporated from your vase, include lavender, hydrangea, eucalyptus, sedum, roses, pods and herbs.

Trim off the leaves from the base of the stems before you begin arranging them in a jar or vase. As you put each one in the water, play "name that plant or flower," and have your child repeat what you say. It's especially fun when the name rolls off your tongues nicely, like colorful and lovely "ranunculus."

Place on a pretty cloth runner at the center of your dinner table. You might also toss a handful of acorns you've collected on fall walks here and there. If you are having friends over for supper, add a colorful flat leaf on each plate with a name written on top with a marker for a personal welcome to the table. Everyone will appreciate the simple gathering to celebrate fall's beauty, tasty food, and friends and family.

Find more recipes and family fun at donnaerickson.com. Write to Donna at Info@donnaerickson.com. © 2021 Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Synd.

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