When factory-worker Pearl Fryar and his wife moved to Bishopville, South Carolina, over twenty years ago, they looked at homes in a certain neighborhood, but were told that nobody would sell a home in that area to a black person. The reason given was that the white people figured that black people would not keep their yards up properly. And the local (white) ladies in Bishopville were very concerned with yards. They even had a garden club which toured their small city regularly, and every month gave out a plaque for "Yard of the Month," which the winner got to display in their yard for the whole month.
(Pearl Fryar's "yard" in Bishopville, South Carolina)
So Pearl Fryar and his family bought a home in another neighborhood where black people were allowed to live. He decided that he was going to make his yard look so good that the local women's garden club would have to award him and his family with the "Yard Of The Month" plaque. And he did win that award. But that was just the beginning.
Today Pearl Fryar and his family live in the same small town of Bishopville, where they own 3 acres covered with 400 plants which he has carved and shaped into an artistic and gardening wonderland open to the public. His work draws busloads of people to the tiny town of Bishopville, and has earned him a national following not just for his gardening, but also for his wisdom about life.
When the owner of a small local restaurant in Bishopville named the Waffle House told Pearl Fryar how much she liked his work, and asked him if he could do something with the little tiny spot of land in front of her restaurant, he said absolutely. And he did. In exchange, the restaurant owner offered Pearl Fryar and his wife free breakfast for life.
Pearl Fryar has been written about in national newspapers including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. He also is the subject of a charming documentary film called "A Man Named Pearl."
"The film explores the passion and philosophy of tree sculptor Pearl Fryar. Born to a sharecropper and retired from the Bishopville, S.C., can factory where he worked for 36 years, Fryar rescues trees from the compost heap of his neighborhood nursery and nurtures them in his garden. "
"Armed with an electric hedge clipper, he goes to work, often at night with the help of a spotlight, a rickety ladder and a jury-rigged lift. He can invest years into perfecting an arch, a spiral, a box atop a sphere or a cone atop a box. Some trees take on the shapes of fish skeletons; others are fantasy forms from Fryar's imagination."
"The artist's foray into topiary began in the 1980s, when Fryar and his wife looked for a new home. One neighborhood spurned them, fearing that an African American couple wouldn't keep up their yard. In response, Fryar set his sights on being the first black recipient of the local garden club's Yard of the Month award.With no training in art or horticulture, Fryar followed an instinct that soon became a passion. Today he carves more than 3 acres of amazing topiaries, attracting other artists, gardeners and national media.""'It may seem that a man who does topiary is an unlikely superhero, but Pearl is a hero to people in his town and people who come to visit him,' said Brent Pierson, who produced and directed the film with Scott Galloway. 'His message about how to tend your garden and tend your life is touching people.'"
(Picture of Pearl Fryar, standing in front of some of his work, and one of his garden sculptures entitled "Pot Head.")
The documentary movie about Pearl Fryar is named "A Man Named Pearl." It was an audience favorite as well as winning several awards. Here's a link to the movie website for more information: http://www.amannamedpearl.com/
See also, Washington Post article on Pearl Fryar and his gardens: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/10/AR2007081000790.html