When master gardener Mary Louise Hagler isn't in her garden, she's helping others create their own masterpieces.
An Augusta resident and blogger on topics of Southern hospitality and gardening, Hagler holds a number of wreath workshops throughout the year. During those workshops, she teaches participants how to make nature-inspired wreaths. One of her favorite times of year is the fall, when nature offers a bounty of inspirational items.
"The items that I use for centerpieces, wreaths and baskets are berries and seed pods from shrubbery and trees, such as magnolia, crepe myrtle, nandina and pyracantha," said Hagler, who also uses okra pods, cotton from the field, corn stalks and broom corn in her fall decorations.
"Blooming herbs, such as sage, basil and chives, are always good," she added. "And goldenrod, beautyberry, late season zinnias and sunflowers."
Hagler said a good place to find inspiration and ideas is in magazines.
"Look for pictures in magazines that make you happy and give it a whirl," she wrote in a recent blog. "Take your inspiration with you to buy flowers."
Hagler notes that it's important to remember that it doesn't have to cost a lot to make a beautiful centerpiece or wreath.
"Look outside and see all the berries, fall branches, leaves, pods, herbs, annuals and perennials in your yard. Cut or buy a bucket full for your design," said Hagler, who writes the blog MLCH Garden.
Keep in mind that an attractive pot or container is needed for the centerpiece. Grapevine or synthetic floral wreaths can be purchased from local craft stores.
"You can embellish them with fresh material that will dry and maintain its beauty for months," said Hagler.
Tall material, such as corn stalks and broom corn, can look festive wrapped with a burlap bow and placed on the front porch or cloaking columns on the porch. Cotton branches become a conversation piece when set around tables or hay bales.
"Fill vases with fresh fall blooming herbs like sage, basil and chives combined with beautyberry, zinnias or sunflowers for the family table," said Hagler.
"Clip an assortment of fresh berries, such as pyracantha and nandina, for weeks of enjoyment."
Hagler will be busy filling orders for Thanksgiving table arrangements during the month of November, but will offer a number of wreath workshops in December.
The $50 fee includes instructions, materials and snacks. A full listing of workshop dates and times can be found at <a href="http://www.mlchgarden.com">www.mlchgarden.com</a>.
"Look around, see things you wouldn't normally use on your kitchen or dining room table," Hagler recently wrote about nature-inspired decorating.
"It's intensely refreshing to place something unique in your fall table arrangements."