Blog by Joshua Darfler, photography by Sara Helm Wallace and Lindsey Kerr
Several months ago I was talking to my mom on the phone and mentioned the documentary “A Man Named Pearl“.
For those who are not familiar with it, you should go watch it right now! It is a fantastic documentary produced in 2005 about Pearl Fryar – founder, creator, and artist behind the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. This independent film explores the history and motivation of Pearl, the dire (but optimistic) economic conditions of Bishopville, SC – where the garden is located – and the truly moving message behind the garden. It is an award-winning film that can be enjoyed by all, even those who are not obsessed with Public Horticulture as we are here.
I tried to explain all of this to my mom, and eventually got her to hesitantly agree to watch it. After a few more prods, I got a text saying she had rented the DVD and her and my dad would watch it that night. I got another text and a phone call later that evening from both of them saying how the good the movie was, how motivational Pearl was, and how they now really wanted to show it at the local library as part of their movie series.
There then ensued many more emails, texts, and phone calls, and a program started to come together surrounding the showing of this movie at the Lansing Community Library in Lansing, NY (my hometown). The highlight of the program though, was to be a special speaker – the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden’s Communications Director, Lindsey Kerr. Yes that Lindsey Kerr, the Lindsey Kerr who is currently a second year fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program. Not only is she busy writing a thesis to help preserve historic cultivars of plants, serving on the University of Delaware’s Graduate Student Senate, Leader of the Speakers Team for the 2014 LGP Symposium, and volunteering at various gardens around the area, but she has also been continuing her job at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.
So on Friday, February 21, Lindsey and her cheering squad (five other members of the LGP, including myself) all piled into a car and took a fun trip up to Lansing, NY (a few miles north of Ithaca, NY)! We arrived Friday evening and were able to meet up with some Fellows from the Cornell University Professional Garden Leadership Program, as well as other former Longwood interns who are now up at Cornell University continuing their studies, for dinner in downtown Ithaca.
The next morning we went to the Lansing Town Hall (the audience was too big to fit in the library) to help set up for the event. The afternoon started at 11:00 with a showing of the documentary, and was then followed by Lindsey’s presentation and a Q&A session. Lindsey did an incredible job providing more insight into what it is like to work with Pearl Fryar as well as in Bishopville, SC. Since it’s been almost eight years since the filming of the documentary, Lindsey also talked about how the garden has changed over the years, and what is being done to help ensure the continued existence of Pearl’s topiary art in the future.
Once the audience left, the chairs were stacked, and all the A/V equipment put away, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore Ithaca. We headed down to the commons, a pedestrian mall located in the heart of Ithaca, where we enjoyed both the outdoors, with its almost spring-like weather, and the numerous indoor shops the commons has to offer. The day ended with a fantastic dinner at Moosewood Restaurant, a famous vegetarian restaurant.
The next morning we packed up our gear, got back in the van and headed back down to Newark, DE. It was a great weekend, and wonderful weather…which seems to have quickly disappeared this week….