Posts Tagged ‘English Topiary Gardens’

I love it, and once wrote a book on it, titled English Topiary Gardens, for which I traveled the length and not-so-wide breadth of England hunting for topiary gardens. topiary-cover1They weren’t hard to find since topiary breeds a showmanship of sorts, with the best examples of the pruner’s art ghettoed in the front garden, framing front doors and generally shouting, “OVER HERE.”

Topiary lends itself to strong emotion. It’s a pure art, and as such appeals to emotions. Hence the phrase, “I know what I like,” which is generally followed by “You call that art.” So, topiary. Love it or hate it. And when a gardener loves topiary watch out, as I witnessed on an Ovation TV program that aired last nite (and will air several more times this month; Ovation is rather new, I think, and programming is a work in progress). Titled A Man Named Pearl, the story is about the redoubtable Mr Pearl Fryer who embarked on his topiary path as a personal statement about the fallacies of racial stereotypes. A proud African American man who lifted himself out of poverty, Mr Fryer learned the art by watching a few nursery demos. The rest, as they say is history. Today, Mr Fryer’s suburban garden, in a financially challenged South Carolina community, is a stop on the garden-visiting, red-hat wearing, tourist-in-search-of-the-“real America” trail. He keeps his garden gate wide open, and his tractor and trimmers buzzing until all hours; the neighbors used to wonder, what could he be doing by floodlight?

Resistant at first, the same neighbors now ride the topiary bandwagon, firing up the trimmers to add yet more topiary texture to their trim ranch houses. A local diner-owner asked Mr Fryer to prune up her shrubs in the parking lot. Now he tends them weekly, and Mr Fryer, and the charming Mrs Fryer, dine there for free once a week. Gardeners are such good people…and Mr Fryer is extremely fortunate in his tolerant wife: as she says, “if he’s happy, I’m happy.”

Now, anyone reading this who calls themselves a gardener will renember that they learned their best and most valuable lessons at the knee of an older gardener. In that spirit, as well as sharing his skill and knowledge with anyone who visits, Pearl Fryer visits local schools and brings the kids into his garden. There they learn lessons about more than topiary and gardening, absorbing from Mr Fryer and his obsession the virtues of patience, tolerance, diligence and belief in one’s own self worth. And that, in my opinion, meanshe has accomplished his mission, and made something beautiful in the bargain.As well as earning his name; he’s a real pearl among gardeners.


Click here to watch the Ovation TV online video of A Man Named Pearl.


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