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Fryar Topiary Gardens

Fryar Topiary Gardens | Bishopville,  SC

Bishopville SC Fryar

Photo credit: Bob Pettit

Yard of the Year

It all started with an effort to try to win “Yard of the Month” from the Bishopville Iris Garden Club. Today, 25 years later, a visit to the gardens around Pearl and Metra Fryar’s home feels like a visit to sacred ground.

If you’re driving on I-20 between Columbia and Florence, consider a stop along the way. In the tiny town of Bishopville, down a typical neighborhood road, you’ll see a row of trees, carved into magical designs. And then, everywhere you look are more fanciful topiaries, each one an homage to both the plants from whence they are carved and Mr. Fryar’s vision of the world as it could be.

There are junipers, hollies, Leyland cypress, pines and oaks, among others. Interspersed among the plants are sculptures, usually made of discarded metal and always offering the artist’s interpretation of his message to the world – Peace, Love and Goodwill.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find Mr. Fryar working in his garden. An amiable man who is sure of his craft, he’ll stop what he’s doing and walk around with you, pointing out this design, explaining his vision for that tree in the corner, emphasizing his philosophy of life – that we love and respect one another in a peaceful way. “I was 40 before I could afford my talent,” he said to me during a recent visit. And what a talent it is.

Each year, folks visit from everywhere, including Russia, Japan, Germany and China, plus all corners of the U.S. They may have seen his documentary film, A Man Named Pearl, which was shown to critical acclaim. Or, they may have discovered him from the Garden Conservancy, which has agreed to help preserve the gardens. If you like, you can put a small donation in the box at the end of his driveway, but that’s up to you. If you’re like me, you’ll be honored to help support his work.

Wow factor: It is simply amazing. Who knew what could be done with throwaway plants from nurseries? You’ll be touched by the man, his message and his work. And, you’ll be pleased to know that he did win “Yard of the Month” in 1985 – the beginning of well-deserved decades of recognition for this self-taught artist.

Hint: The gardens are open year-round, Tuesday - Saturday, from 10am - 4pm. Exit 116 North on Hwy 15 and travel one mile, turning left on Broad Acres Road. You can turn around at the end of his short road.

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