Topiary Artist Extradionaire
By MG Calla Victoria
As an avid gardener, I think what is most gratifying to me is enjoying the passion of other gardeners. I love watching gardening programs and attending lectures, seminars, and workshops because every now and then you encounter a gardener whose passion is a divine gift. Now there is passion and then there is Pearl Fryar….Pearl, Pearl, Pearl!
I first saw Pearl’s awesome topiary work on a gardening show called A Gardener’s Diary. I just sat there in awe of his jaw-dropping unique take on the art of topiary which he calls "living sculptures." A year later he was one of the guest speakers at the Fall Gardening Show at the New Orleans Botanical Garden and I was front row center. Among his “pearls” of wisdom he said, “When you purchase a shrub to design buy an expensive shrub and that way you will follow through and come out with a lovely finished product. If you buy an inexpensive shrub you will not be concerned with the finished product, as it did not cost you very much. Once you have purchased your specimen and are ready to commence with your design, examine the shrub from all sides and find an imperfection and that is where you make your first cut.” When Pearl Fryar picks up his Stihl hedge trimmer magic happens.
Pearl Fryar is a resident of Bishopville, South Carolina. When he purchased the property, which was then a corn field, his predominately white neighbors were not very embracing as they felt that he (as a black person) would not keep up the property. While his neighbors were thinking negative thoughts, Pearl promised his wife that he would win “Garden of the Month.” Back in 1980 after getting a 3-minute lesson on creating topiaries at a local nursery he began trying his hand at topiary art and the rest is history. Pearl calls his design style "abstract free-flowing skeletal.” Pearl has transformed that corn field into an amazing three-acre topiary garden with over 400 species of plants, over 150 topiaries, and to compliment his whimsical topiaries he also does unique metal yard art which he calls "junque art." His garden has received international acclaim as well as curious visitors from state side and around the world.
Pearl Fryar’s topiary garden has literally put the small town of Bishopville on the map, and it is ranked #1 on Tripadvisor for the City of Bishopville. There is a sign from the interstate directing visitors to Pearl’s garden. Pearl’s botanical masterpiece has had a major impact on the economy of Bishopville as over 25,000 visitors make pilgrimage to Pearl’s garden annually. Maine Street, in the small town, is lined with Pearl’s topiaries to give visitors a prelude to Pearl Fryar's Topiary garden.
The Bible says that your gift will make room for you, which is most definitely the case with Mr. Pearl Fryar. This self-taught horticulturist, Pearl Fryar broke all of the “horticultural rules” pruning what was supposedly not supposed to be pruned. Now he is a most sought-after speaker who has appeared at many prestigious institutions including Harvard University; and has been featured in numerous articles including National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal. His amazing garden is one of only a few gardens in South Carolina to be featured in a fabulous gardening book entitled "The Gardener's Garden," which features magnificent gardens from around the world. Also a documentary on his amazing living art called “A Man Named Pearl” was featured on the OWN network and The Martha Stewart Show; and he has also appeared commercials for John Deere.
As mind-boggling as Pearl’s topiary garden is the staffing to maintain this botanical wonder. A mega staff of one, Pearl Fryar, maintains the garden. In 2005 the South Carolina State Museum Garden Conservatory helped to establish the Friends of Pearl Fryar’s Garden Foundation to raise funds so that Pearl’s garden will flourish even when Pearl can no longer do the work.
Pearl Fryar is also a philanthropist and through his organization he provides scholarships to "C" students. Pearl says, "Grades do not dictate talent and the way to improve this world is to start from the bottom and work our way to the top." His awesome creative talent cannot be measured by college credits and he feels the same is true for many creative people. Because of his "C" Scholarship program, Coca-Cola partnered with him and built restrooms on his property for his many visitors, and sponsored the signs to Pearl's garden on the interstate. Waffle House partnered with Pearl donating $10,000 to his scholarship program and sponsors Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden calendar. Pearl says, "Success is a combination of work, passion, and marketing."
Pearl Fryar did win “Garden of the Month” becoming the first African American to win that distinction in the City of Bishopville. Pearl considers his garden his ministry with congregations of 300-500 visitors weekly. Pearl says his mission is to create a place of transformation so that you don’t leave his garden the way you came, as at every turn there is a symbol of love, joy, and peace displayed.
To view more of Pearl’s amazing work and to purchase his 2015 calendar, go to:
Check out “My Gardening Tip of the week," from Mr. Pearl Fryar on my "Gardening Tips" page.
Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!