The Transylvania Times -

By Nicola Karesh
for The Transylvania Times 

The Creative Topiary Genius Of Pearl Fryar – Brevard NC


Last updated 11/4/2013 at 10:09am

Nicola Karesh talks with Pearl Fryar during her visit to Bishopville, S.C.

Pearl Fryar was the son of sharecroppers. Poor, black, born on a tobacco and cotton farm in Clinton, N.C., he now makes Bishopville, S.C. his home. A visionary, philosopher and gardener with a creative genius, Fryar does things with plants that the textbooks say that you shouldn't be able to. He has rescued many throwaway plants, nursing them back with love and care to be admired as thriving pieces of art.

My family took the time a few years ago to journey down the mountain to visit Fryar's topiary gardens. We were enchanted by incredible art forms that reflected the artistry of his soul. Equally amazing was the opportunity that we had to speak to him after the self-guided tour. I was spell-bound listening to him share his perspective on creativity and how inspiration guides him. He has a style of his own and has people scratching their heads in wonder. He steps outside of the box and enters the realm of free form. Inspiration guides and Fryar follows to sculpt the shape that he sees within his mind.

Soft-spoken and humble with a creative fire that is evident in all that he does and who he is, Fryar's garden is filled with incredible topiaries that draw visitors from around the world. It is also home to "found-object" metal sculptures. Walking through his garden is an emotional and memorable experience. Fryar views the gardening experience as intertwined with love, peace and goodwill.

He is self-taught, unlimited by rules about what can and cannot be done with plants. With an inner vision that directs his sculpted topiaries, he moves beyond the words, "Not possible!"

I have heard him say that you cannot speak about gardening without making the connection to love. What an incredible message to deliver and with every turn that you take through his gardens, the evidence is there to bring that message home.

Last year, I started to think about inviting Fryar back to North Carolina to speak to our community. He was not originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, but in our conversation a few years back, he did take to the idea and mentioned the fact that he might have relatives in the area.

Wilma Lewis, a Rosen-wald alumnae who is celebrating 50 years of integration of our Transylvania County Schools, has confirmed that Fryar is indeed kin to her family. Lewis is one of a growing group who are working to bring to life the Rosenwald Memorial Peace Park. Like Fryar's gardens, we envision the Peace Park as having an uplifting impact on everyone who visits.

Rise & Shine scholar Madison Pulley said, "Going to see Mr. Pearl a few years back was awesome. I loved how he shaped the trees and planted flowers in a certain order to make cool designs in the ground. It takes some serious skill to do that type of [garden] architecture. Can't wait to see him again!"

Becky Young, program director for Neighbors In Ministry and Rise & Shine, said, "I love having another creative expert coming into Brevard to share with us. The fact that Mr. Pearl Fryar is going to be involved with the Rosen-wald Memorial Peace Park and introduce Transylvania County students to the art of topiary is absolutely terrific!"

Fryar can sculpt plants so that they can both conceal and emphasize manmade sculptures.

The City of Brevard will sponsor the speaking engagement, "The Creative Genius of Pearl Fryar" Nov. 12, in Brevard. Continuing the celebration of 50 years of integration of Transylvania Schools, 11th and 12th grade Transylvania County students are invited to hear Fryar speak at Brevard High School. Later that afternoon at 3:15 p.m. the public is invited to a free session with Fryar at the Transylvania County Library.

(Karesh is a local writer and poet, who has been a resident of Transylvania County since 1993.)


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