On our way to spend Christmas at the beach, we made a side trip to Bishopville, SC where we toured the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. This destination has been on my list since seeing the documentary “A Man Named Pearl” several years ago.
More importantly, the film tells the story of a determined and patient man who has a way of coaxing the potential out of the plants he encounters. Many of the plants in Pearl’s garden were rescued from the compost pile of local nurseries. Not having formal horticultural training, Pearl wasn’t afraid to take a chance on these specimens. He studies them to determine their strengths and then patiently molds them into stunning creations, often using innovative techniques that defy what should work in gardening.
Pearl’s ability to see potential and nurture new creations applies to the people he encounters too. In addition to giving young people the opportunity to work in the garden, Pearl also has a scholarship fund that offers opportunities to average students who might fall through the cracks without a little help. Just like his plants, these students blossom with a little attention and encouragement.
Visiting Pearl’s garden was a wonderful and uplifting experience. While walking through this lovely garden I could feel the love and care that Pearl showers on the garden. Since Pearl does not try to make specific shapes, visitors can use their own creativity when looking at the garden. It’s a bit like finding characters in the clouds. There is such sense of joy and whimsy.
The highlight of the visit was meeting Pearl and listening to him talk about the garden, his techniques and life in general. If he ever decides to hang up the trimmers, Pearl could make his living as a career counselor of philosopher. He said if you want to get noticed, you have to do something that no one else is doing. He also advised that if you are the smartest person in your group of friends, it’s time to make some new friends. While the garden was gorgeous (see more images below), it was Pearl’s words that were the highlight of the trip for me.
If you have the opportunity to visit Pearl’s little garden in Bishopville, you really should. There is something magical and inspiring there.