Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden in Bishopville, S.C.
By Patricia A. Patton
If you believe in magic, then make time to visit the topiary gardens created by A Man Named Pearl. The legend is that after an half hour lesson, Mr. Pearl began planting “throwaway” plants he had either rescued from nurseries or that were given to him by friends. Mr. Pearl, allegedly, took the plants that were too “ugly” or too sick to sell and turned them into impressive topiaries. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but you need not be a gardener to appreciate these topiary gardens.
Even a seasoned traveler will be excited by this surprise encounter with nature’s unexpected monumental beauty in one of the poorest counties in South Carolina. Once you have seen a Hollywood juniper shaped like a ship’s sail blowing in the wind in Pearl Fryar’s topiary garden, I assure you that your definition of beauty and art will expand.
One night I was watching PBS and saw a documentary titled, A Man Named Pearl. It was a simple and engrossing story of a man who found his calling as an artist at age 40. His story revolved around a desire to win “Best Garden” in his community. In the dark of evening I saw an older black man on a ladder working with a chainsaw creating art among very tall trees. The 2009 documentary captured Mr. Pearl’s evolving dream. It kindled an ember in my imagination and filled me with hope in much the same way as medieval Renaissance architecture has in the past. Because with my own eyes, I could see the self-trained hand of a man named Pearl creating the kind of beauty that only he could help me see.
I decided to stop in his hometown of Bishopville on my drive from Charleston, SC. On Highway I-95 after in the direction of Florence,S.C., I picked up SC- 527 , Exit 122 to reach Bishopville. This is all you will need to know. For although the town claims five tourist destinations, once you are at this point the only one you’ll be interested in seeing is Mr. Pearl’s topiary gardens.
You will begin to see signs for Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden as soon as you hit Bishopville. The town is home to less than 3,500 residents . You may be surprised to learn however that more than 15,000 people came here to visit the gardens last year. In this small impoverished town, visitors are free to wander the gardens of a Man named Pearl that are growing on a former corn field personally cleared by Mr. Pearl in 1981 .
The gardens are located at 145 Broad Acres Rd, Bishopville, SC 29010.
Mr Pearl is always happy to share if you are in the area.If you’ve not had an opportunity to see the documentary, you can get a copy from Mr. Pearl in the garden.
The Garden’s Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am – 4:00pm
Patricia A. Patton
I am a self-described cosmopolite who was born to travel. And for the past several decades, that is exactly what I have done. Travel has given me a globally-minded aesthetic, an openness to life and a joie de vie that would have been hard to develop without the travel experience. Welcome to my world.