Pearl Fryar is a sculptor. He uses live plant material to create original, elegantly abstract forms of topiary. He is self-taught and as such he has taken risks and developed techniques, which are outside the normal bounds of horticulture. He is not afraid to try new things and has been said to “tame trees” by his unique techniques.
Much of the plant materials in his garden were cast-offs, nurtured by Pearl into incredibly expressive topiary sculpture. It is in his nature to look for the potential in each plant, to encourage the growth and creativity within. This is the message of his garden and those who visit or come in contact with Pearl soon understand he has the same desire to inspire people, particularly youth, to find their own potential.
Born in 1939 in rural North Carolina, the son of a sharecropper, Pearl Fryar has overcome obstacles in his personal and professional life largely as a result of his positive attitude. He came of age in the racially segregated South, attended college, served in the military and worked 36 years as a production-line engineer for a soda can factory, but it is his garden which has brought him the most satisfaction.
In 1984, in the first yard he and his wife Metra had ever owned, Pearl put his high energy and creativity to good use. After working a 12-hour shift he would come home and cut plants under the illumination of a street lamp. He initially sought the local garden club’s Yard of the Month honor. More than 20 years after he was so honored, Pearl and his garden have now been featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers as well as national television programs.
Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden is recognized by art and botanical enthusiasts from around the world. It offers a range of topiary styles, from tightly manicured geometric compositions, figurative shapes, and monumental abstractions to “junk art” sculpture.
As a cultural and educational asset for the state of South Carolina, the garden transcends racial, ethnic, social, and economic barriers. It is a Preservation Project of the Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization that preserves exceptional American gardens.
Pearl is committed to reinforcing and sharing his personal learning journey; he has visited numerous public schools and colleges, and as an artist-in-residence, has collaborated with art students at nearby Coker College to create a topiary garden so students see their designs take shape in topiary and mosaics. His garden receives approximately 5,000 visitors per year. These visitors include elementary, middle, and high school classes, college students, church groups, garden clubs, artist groups, and senior citizens. while others examine the visual elements for their own photography and other artistic pursuits.