The Way God Makes Them Grow

A visionary gardener receives the recognition he has dreamed of.

By Pearl Fryar, Bishopville, South Carolina

As appeared in

I had to shove that dream aside for my own practical purposes. My job in manufacturing took me to big cities and apartments. I went from New York to Atlanta, then landed here in Bishopville to help open a new plant for my employer.

My wife, Metra, and I bought a piece of property that I figured I’d do something with...but what? I was just a nuts-and-bolts guy looking for a way to unwind at the end of my 12-hour days.

I bought a few hedges, trees and shrubs, planted them and went back to the nursery for more. I stared hard at the scrawny bushes and trees and something spoke to me, something that was as deep as my reaction to that garden in Korea.

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I imagined how I could transform them into shapes of soothing beauty, patterns of shadow and light. Much the same way God saw more than just a scruffy sharecropper’s son in Pearl Fryar. With his help, I’d made something of myself. Couldn’t I do the same thing with this patch of earth?

My neighbors must have thought I’d lost a screw. Metra just shook her head. “Pearl, what’s got into you?” I was going back and forth to the nursery, gladly taking the inventory they were throwing away.

I set up lights to work at night and was never without my clippers or twine to train a bush the way it seemed to want to go. I knew nothing, but followed what I saw in my mind’s eye.

They call it topiary—a word I’d never heard—cutting bushes into shapes. Some people make a bush or a tree look like a dog or a giraffe. I wanted my plants to grow the way God made them grow... just shaped and sculpted.

How would I have explained that to the Garden Club lady? I couldn’t have put my vision into words. The garden took form one day at a time; it was my hobby, my passion, my calling.

People started to take notice. “Pearl, you’ve really got something here,” my neighbor said, pausing in front of the garden. “It’s mighty impressive.” Drivers slowed down. The garden spoke for itself, like anything that shows God’s beauty.

I shrugged off suggestions about Yard of the Month. Truth was, this part of Bishopville was outside the city limits and therefore not technically qualified. But when I saw other folks’ properties featured in the paper, I admit I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice someday?

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That lady was my big chance. I guess I’d blown it. I’d try not to be disappointed. Put it right out of my mind. There was work enough to do on the garden anyway.

I’d won my prize already. It was before my eyes in lush green. It was in the gifts God had given me in life. This garden was for him and I could be content in that. Perfectly content.

One morning I looked out my window and saw a sedan pull up and a woman—that same polite lady—pick up a sign from her trunk and put it in the front yard, pounding it in with a hammer.

I could see the words when she was carrying it, but couldn’t really believe my eyes. I had to put down my coffee and go investigate. “Yard of the Month.” Was there ever a finer honor? Let’s face it, everybody enjoys a little appreciation now and then. Even free-form gardeners.

That was several years ago. The occasional car slowing in front of the house has now turned into a regular cavalcade of drivers who stop and visit, touring the place like I did those gardens in Korea.

I’m told that some 10,000 people visit Pearl Fryar’s garden every year. That first mention in the local paper has turned into magazine spreads, a calendar, even an award-winning documentary.

I don’t think the garden will ever be finished. It certainly didn’t end with my Yard of the Month honor. That was only the beginning.

View our slideshow of Pearl’s fantastic creations!

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