Welcome to the topiary world of Pearl Fryar, where feats of artistry and horticulture abound. Here, Fryar fashioned pieces of a garden gate and other scrap metal into a hinged kiosk (the doors can be swung closed) to house maps for visitors. It’s estimated that about 10,000 people tour the green space annually.
CRUISE CONTROL: Fryar, age 79, makes daily rounds in his utility vehicle and was once featured in a John Deere commercial. He says, “Success takes hard work, passion, and marketing.”
LOVE SPIRALS ON: Expressions of unity appear throughout the space. One planting spells out “LOVE, PEACE & GOODWILL.” And by using PVC pipe and wire, Fryar encourages trees and shrubs to grow toward each other. “I like arches and fountains,” he says. The double arcs, shown here, help to create a heart shape.
WORDS OF WISDOM: Over the years, Fryar has added more fabricated sculptures as counterparts to shrubs and trees. He uses metal pieces, pottery, bottles, and other found objects. Sometimes he adds lettering, such as for the metal sign with “Hate hurts” and an arrow pointing downward. The other side reads “Love and Unity,” with an arrow pointing upward.
He designs the sculptures to be portable so he can store them during hurricanes, and portions are often interchangeable.
“Life is about choices. You can choose negative thinking or positive thinking. I choose positive thinking.”
IN SHAPE: Wielding his hedge trimmer, Fryar demonstrates his craft of creating living sculptures. The “fish bone” towering in the distance was fashioned from a Leyland cypress that he planted just after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
“I never set out to make topiary. I’d never even heard the word till years after I started. I just wanted to do something different.”
NATURAL WONDER: “If you cut the top out and prune, you can control the way the plant grows,” says Fryar, describing some of his techniques. “I don’t water, spray, or fertilize. I do add pine needles that will decay, and trench around the plants for the rain and run-off. I like a natural forest, natural gardening.”
“Life is about love,” says Fryar, who has been married to his wife, Metra, for 52 years. He is proud to have created something that people haven’t seen before. “I want people to find more here than they expected,” he says.
Meet & Greet: Visitors arrive every week from across South Carolina and around the world. When a restroom facility needed to be added, Coca-Cola donated the cost of the small building. (Fryar originally moved to Bishopville to work at a factory that made cans for the soft drink.)
Helping Hand: “One thing about life: no matter who you are, one day Old Man Time will slow you down,” says Fryar, who will turn 80 in December. He’s pictured here with his longtime assistant, Michael Baker.
Stopping into the Waffle House in Bishopville for coffee or a meal—maybe the “Pearl Special”—is a daily ritual for Fryar. It also gives him a chance to check on the shrubs out front that he maintains in his topiary style.
STANDING ORDER: One egg sunny side up, wheat toast, and “a dot of grits,” on the menu as the “Pearl Special” at the nearby Waffle House