THE UNBEATEN PATH
A South Carolina Garden That'll Grow on You
Spirals, arches and velvety geometric shapes carved from trees and shrubs. Whimsical figures welded together from discarded metal. Four-foot-high letter forms cut into a field, literally spelling out the artist's message of peace, love and goodwill.
What was once a cornfield in Bishopville, S.C. -- a small farming town between Florence and Columbia -- is now a three-acre topiary gallery created by Pearl Fryar, a retired can factory worker. Fryar, 67, began carving the vegetation surrounding his brick ranch-style house in 1984 in an effort to win the local Yard of the Month award. Now busloads of visitors pull onto Broad Acres Road off Highway 15 to experience his manicured oasis.
Though appointments aren't necessary to visit the garden, they're recommended if you want to meet Fryar, who passionately explains his art forms to anyone who asks. While it can take years to shape and train trees and shrubs, Fryar's metal sculptures and fountains -- he calls them "junque art" -- offer the artist a more immediate sense of satisfaction. He sometimes paints words on a combination of found objects: "Hate Hurts" on one side of a sculpture, "Love and Unity" on the other. As the sculpture seesaws, the "hate" side sinks and the "love" side rises, reinforcing Fryar's message of positive actions.
Fryar welcomes the impact of weather on the metal surfaces and proudly demonstrates how the tops and bases of many of the sculptures are interchangeable, quickly giving the garden a different look. With no formal training, he has twisted and turned his yard into an abstract living gallery -- and since he works with evergreens, the garden is voluptuous year-round.
Sure, I pointed out a shrub-turned-elephant to my 6-year-old, but it's the chunks of groomed greenery randomly pierced by a branch or piece of sky that give this garden its energy and spirit. "Real satisfaction," says Fryar, "comes from doing what no one else can do."
-- Marty Barrick
· Fryar's Topiary Garden (145 Broad Acres Rd., Bishopville, S.C., 803- 484-5581, http:/