Meet Pearl Fryar…Plant Artist Extraordinaire
We all know that with every rule there is an exception. In this case, it is an exception to the “No More Meatball Bushes” rule. Meatball bushes are the shrubs that are sheared into submission and spend their sad, shortened life in the shape of round green globes…landscape meatballs.
And once in awhile you have the great pleasure of visiting a garden or meeting a person that defies your tidy gardening rules and really sticks in your mind…that lingers somewhere in the recesses of your memories. In this case, both garden and person go hand-in-hand.
Allow me to introduce you to plant artist, philosopher and gardener extraordinaire, Pearl Fryar. Pearl Fryar didn’t just defy the rule, he smashed it and the results are spectacular!
I had never heard of Pearl Fryar until I attended a conference several years ago. During the conference there was an early evening showing of a new documentary featuring a gardener named Pearl Fryar. I popped into the showing and found myself mesmerized, inspired, and touched by this extraordinary person featured in the film. The next morning as I entered the elevator in search of coffee, Pearl Fryar was standing in the elevator. We greeted each other and struck up a conversation that continued as we rode the elevator and walked through the lobby of the hotel. I ran into him later the next day, and he greeted me by name. Wow. After meeting hundreds of people, he remembered my name. That is the kind of person Pearl Fryar is.
Following this wonderful introduction, I made a point of visiting his garden in Bishopville, South Carolina. His three acre garden of living sculptures packs more punch than many gardens I’ve visited that are several times that size.
Upon arriving in Bishopville, you notice that things are not quite the ordinary.
Driving down the street and into his neighborhood there is further evidence that Bishopville has been touched by an artist of great influence.
Pearl Fryar’s artistry began in 1984 with a hedge trimmer, salvaged plants, and a determination to receive the honor of Yard of the Month.
Ironically, the neighbors didn’t really welcome Fryar and his family when they first moved into the neighborhood because the neighbors were concerned he wouldn’t keep up his yard.
Having a limited budget and no prior experience with gardening, he frequently visited the pile of neglected plants behind his local nursery and salvaged those that no one else wanted. These trashed plants became the medium for his fabulous sculptures.
Needless to say, Pearl Fryar takes a long-term approach to his creations. He looks at what he can do in five and ten years versus tomorrow. Consequently, this patience has produced a unique and wonderful garden.
“‘He that does no more than average will never rise above the average’…If there is any phrase that will sum up all that I am doing, that would do it, because what I have done is just one cut above what the average guy can do.” – Pearl Fryar
Visitors will enjoy many works of art throughout the garden. Many of these are Fyrar’s own pieces.
“From the moment I plant a tree, I start pruning it into the design I want. The designs are all in my mind.” – Pearl Fryar
“Every individual can make a difference. I think everyone has a contribution to make.” –Pearl Fryar
Indeed Fryar has made a contribution. Throughout the neighborhood and town, residents have embraced Pearl Fryar’s style and have joined in the fun.
My daughter, Caroline, and I enjoyed visiting with Pearl while touring his garden.
Put Pearl Fryar’s extraordinary garden on your list of places to visit in 2015. You most certainly will not be disappointed! And poke around on the web to learn more about Fryar’s contributions in education as well. Finally, make sure you watch the inspiring documentary A Man Named Pearl
For more on Pearl Fryar:
the Pearl Fryar topiary garden
National Geographic video
A Man Named Pearl trailer