Pearl Fryar creates graceful archways, whimsical characters, gigantic abstract shapes, and hedges carved into intricate designs.
For a guy who just wanted to win Yard of the Month, Pearl Fryar has come a long, long way. Nearly 30 years later, he’s an accomplished topiary artist whose 3-acre garden in Bishopville, South Carolina, is a pruned and snipped fantasy of shapes. He started it in the early 80s, coaxing shapes from masses of green—and, thank goodness, he never stopped the tireless pruning and the pampering. You’re welcome to stroll his grounds, taking your time to see about 124 separate works there. You can also see a number of spots enhanced by his creative touch around the state.
Pearl’s designs make visitors feel as if they are visiting a mystical land. He uses canvases of balsam and Fraser firs, Leyland Cypress, and holly, among other plants, to create each piece with a personality of its own.
A fanciful-shaped arch frames a statue in Pearl’s garden. Elsewhere in the garden, he fashioned the funky sculptures set around the yard from salvaged appliance parts, old flowerpots, and scrap metal from the factory where he used to work.
Pearl has rightly been called an “evergreen surrealist.” He fashioned these hedges in his garden into circular and triangular-type shapes.
It’s hard not to notice Pearl’s sculptures at the South Carolina State Museum. Standing like sentries on either side of a wide staircase, 20-foot-tall works sculpted from Leyland cypress feature stacks of circles, split rectangles, and egg-shaped orbs. Around them, ball-like shrubs sport portholes; mushroom shapes, squares, and globes emerge from flat planes of the lush greenery.
Beyond blacksmith Philip Simmons’s intricate Heart Gates at St. John’s Reformed Episcopal Church, Pearl repeated the heart motif to create a swirling wonderland in green. Here, stones embossed with hearts and crosses lead to the fanciest concrete birdbath in the city. Throughout the walled space, trees carved into lush serpentines, sharp triangles, and perfect spheres show that nature can, in fact, be improved upon.
Pearl groups similar topiaries, such as these circular-topped hedges, in parts of his garden design.
Pearl collaborated with art majors and the head of the art department at Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, to create a lavish hedge-rimmed fountain. The water feature is flanked by trees adorned with carefully shaped spirals of foliage climbing their sturdy trunks.
Pearl’s signature swirl-shaped trees line a two-block median in downtown Bishopville. Pearl has also added topiaries in front of the local Waffle House and eats there daily —for free—in exchange for his art.