By Lilly McKinney
Looking for a unique study break of an artistic bent? Consider a drive to small town Bishopville, S. C., home of Pearl Fryar’s topiary gardens.
Since the 1980s, Fryar has been perfecting his own form of topiary design. The creations began when Fryar and his family were denied the right to purchase a home due to racial tensions. The particular stereotype expressed by the neighborhood was that the Fryar’s house would have an unkempt lawn. Even though he ended up purchasing a house elsewhere, he set out to prove that this was anything but the case, using the cast-off plants from local nurseries.
Fryar’s garden is located right in his own yard, including an empty lot next to his home. His artistic endeavors have rubbed off on his neighbors and local businesses, where Fryar occasionally creates a piece to keep the landscape interesting. He spends countless hours shaping each tree and shrub into Dr. Seuss-like structures. The ultimate whimsical piece is the fishbone tree, an intricately sculpted Leyland Cyprus.
There is always something new to see, including “junk art” creations scattered amongst the plants. Perhaps the most eye-catching piece is the very last thing you notice as you leave the garden. In eight-foot-tall letters, Fryar has created garden beds which spell out a positive message: “Love, Peace and Goodwill.” In the warmer weather, the letters will be filled in with flowers.
Fryar’s garden is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is free of charge, but donations go a long way towards the upkeep of these incredible sculptures. Fryar is often out in the yard working on various items. More often than not, he will be happy to give you a personal tour of the grounds, interjecting with his thoughts on life and the world today. These conversations are enlightening in ways one couldn’t begin to imagine.
Fryar has received a variety of awards for his creations and philanthropy. Through his non-profit organization, The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, Inc., he has set up a scholarship for at-risk students who show potential and creative ability in spite of personal or academic circumstances. Fryar’s inspirational story is captured in the documentary “A Man Named Pearl.” If you do consider going to visit, the documentary comes highly recommended and will help you to appreciate your visit even more.