A couple of months ago while I was volunteering at Alligator River NWR, I ordered a documentary through my Netflix account entitled “A Man Named Pearl”. It told the story of Pearl Fryar in South Carolina. He had become internationally famous for his topiary garden. Being within 30 miles of Pearl’s garden in Bishopville, SC, is the main reason I stopped at this campground in Florence for a few days.
This morning I found the turnoff for Broad Acres Road, and began my adventure for the day.
Pearl’s garden is located on three acres that includes his house and surrounding land. When he first moved here in 1980, he had to wait for the corn to be harvested before his house could begin to be built. The entire area consisted of corn fields, so any trees or shrubs you see here have been planted by Pearl.
At that time, the town of Bishopville’s Iris Garden Club had an award for the ‘Garden of the Month’. Pearl was determined to win that award even though he was located about a mile outside the town boundaries.
After a three minute lesson on topiary gardening at a nursery in 1983, Pearl began his work by first making plantings around his house. Many of the shrubs and plants he started with were “throwaways” that Pearl rescued from compost piles at nurseries in the area. By the way, he won the Garden of the Month award in 1985.
Having never been here before, of course I began the self-guided tour where you are supposed to end up! It really doesn’t matter where you begin, but if I had started at the other end I would have had a pamphlet to guide me with information along the way. After winning the award, Pearl Fryar just kept on planting and planting. He had no formal training, but his work is just amazing.
As I was sitting on a bench admiring all the work that must have gone into these living works of art, who should drive up on a John Deere, but Pearl himself! As he drove up, I said, “You must be Pearl.” His animated answer was, “ Yes, I’m the person that created this monster!” He is a delightful man, and we had a lively conversation until I asked if I could take his picture for my blog. Then he was all serious in his pose.
I asked him if he had a plan in mind when he planted each shrub or tree. He said that by now, he didn’t have to think about it at all. It just came to him what shape the planting would eventually take.
The reason he thinks of his garden as a monster is that it takes constant work every day to keep it in perfect shape. It was obvious he loved all the work involved regardless of his calling it a monster. This man loves what he does, and loves sharing it with everyone who comes to see it.
I told him my favorite creation was the one above. To me, it is Cinderella’s pumpkin chariot to the ball. He seemed pleased at my interpretation of his art.
“I like to let people see what they want to in my plants. The creativity comes in making a shape that speaks to me in one way, but may say something else to everyone else” Pearl Fryar, Lee County Observer, March 24, 1993
Love Peace & Goodwill is a theme throughout the topiary garden. (Had I been tall enough, I could have included the Goodwill section. Each letter is eight feet tall.) Pearl Fryar is a peaceful man, and I spent a very peaceful time visiting his garden. There is no fee to visit, but I left a generous donation. I took lots of photos, and you may see some more sprinkled through the next posts. If you are ever anywhere close to Bishopville, SC, I would suggest this as a must visit place.
I leave you tonight with my last view of Pearl as I drove away. He was back working with love and peace taking care of his garden.
“Every individual can make a difference. I think everyone has a contribution to make.” Pearl Fryar, Lee County Observer, June 21, 2006.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy