A handcrafted sunflower wreath and DIY mocktails will set the mood for an autumn gathering

click to enlarge A handcrafted sunflower wreath and DIY mocktails will set the mood for an autumn gathering
Lisa Prins photos
At the Conservatory in Vinegar Flats

Fall weather brings get-togethers indoors, but the ease of summer entertaining doesn't have to fade with autumn foliage.

Here's a great way to add warmth and liveliness to a gathering: Set up a drink station. Your guests can enjoy putting together their own pretty libations, while mingling over the process. I've opted for a Sparkling Apple Cider mocktail, so that guests of all ages can enjoy the fun of making their own beverage. An easy-prep platter of sliced seasonal fruits and cheeses gets an elegant boost from my customized picks that are easy and fun to make.

And to create a festive autumn ambiance, I love making a big wreath of sunflowers from my garden, including the blossoms that have faded! Don't throw these big spent blooms away. Their textural beauty and dark hues add a beautiful contrast to other still-vibrant blossoms. The wreath is easy to hang near your drink stand, but also consider adding a garland of blooms and berries to the table for extra texture and color.

Appetizer/Cocktail Picks

These little toothpicks add a surprising wow-factor to your appetizers, and they're easy to make – just get them done a day in advance so the glue will be thoroughly dried.


  • Toothpicks (preferably with sharp tips on both ends)
  • Small beads — I used silver ones for an elegant look
  • Glue — Elmers or wood glue


Place a dot of glue on the top of the toothpick and slide a bead onto the end of the toothpick. Let dry before using.

Sparkling Apple Cider Mocktail

This recipe has only a few easy steps, and it's perfect for an autumnal afternoon gathering indoors or out on the porch.


  • Apple cider
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer
  • Ice
  • Garnishes: Cinnamon sticks, apple slices


Muddle the fresh ginger with sweet apple cider. (You can also use apple juice, but using cider for this drink yields the most apple flavor.)

Pour the mixture into a container and place into the refrigerator to cool.

When you're ready to serve, strain the mixture. Pour over ice and top with a splash of ginger ale or ginger beer. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or a thin slice of apple. For a twist, I like to slice the apple vertically to show off the pretty heart-like shape.

NOTE: Ginger beer is a nonalcoholic beverage. The sweetness, spiciness and overall flavor will vary by brand. You should be able to find it in the soft drink or cocktail mixer section of the supermarket. If you like a very spicy ginger drink, use the boldest, spiciest ginger beer you can find.

Sunflower Wreath

An abundance of blossoms in various growth stages adds to the ambiance of a creative bounty. A little backyard scavenger hunt before you build your wreath should yield berries and various other bits of foliage to fill in between the blossoms. Be creative!


  • Wire wreath form
  • Vine
  • Sunflowers — you'll need lots of blossoms!
  • Other "found" greenery such as fall berries
  • Wire
  • Wire cutters


Wrap a vine around the wreath form and attach it with pieces of wire.

Begin filling in the open spaces around the wreath with sunflowers by placing a wire through the back of the sunflower head and then wiring the blossom onto the wreath. If you have leftover sunflower heads harvested from your garden from this year, try removing the petals and covering of the disk florets to expose the seeds and add a nice harvest effect. Or you can achieve a similar look by simply removing the petals from purchased sunflowers. Having a lot of blossoms in a variety of growth stages adds to the sense of a creative bounty. Mix in other foliage and berries to fill in around the sunflowers, adding color and texture along the way.

Making Their Mark @ SFCC Fine Arts Gallery

Mondays-Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 7
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