NAX Day 3: A Man Named Pearl

On a drizzly Wednesday morning, the Fellows pulled up to a small house nestled in Bishopville, South Carolina. Pearl Fryar, legendary topiary artist and community leader, was seated in a John Deere gator, flipping through the pages of the Lee County Observer.

Pearl Fryar graciously spent the better part of the morning touring with the Longwood Fellows

Today’s paper included a story on the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, and Pearl proudly showed us the article, which highlighted a generous donation from the local Waffle House in order to support the garden’s scholarship fund. A self-proclaimed “average student” with no training in horticulture, Pearl was passionate about supporting at-risk youth and “C-level” students in their creative and career goals.

Pearl and the Fellows

Pearl and the Fellows

“My point to students is: don’t allow someone to tell you what you can and can’t do by some test score, […] because you may be average academically and very talented in some other area.” The Friends of Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden scholarship was most recently awarded to two local high school students who would be attending technical college in the fall.

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Pearl’s organic sculptures often start as rescue’s from the discard pile

The same love and nurture was evident as we toured the garden. Starting in the 1980’s, Pearl defied stereotypes and prejudices towards black/African-American homeowners by winning Yard of the Month. He then continued to astound neighbors and plantsmen with his abstract topiary sculptures. Of all the specimens in his three-acre garden, over 70% came from discarded nursery plants meant for the compost pile. The message is united throughout the garden: with love, encouragement, and a steady hand, something that might have slipped through the cracks can become something incredible. One person can achieve incredible things against seemingly impossible odds.

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One of the more infamous pieces of work, this topiary has a distinct African art influence

The Fellows were deeply moved and inspired by Pearl’s creativity and positive spirit. We look forward to seeing how the garden will progress as part of the Garden Conservancy, and hope to see it remain as a beacon of Love, Peace, and Goodwill (the garden’s motto) in Bishopville and all of South Carolina.

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl's motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl’s motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

To learn more about the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, please check out their website and documentary, “A Man Named Pearl“. Donations for both the garden and its scholarship fund can be made at or through the Garden Conservancy Donation page.



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