How to win the Yard of the Month Competition

How to win the Yard of the Month Competition

On a residential street in the sleepy town of Bishopville, North Carolina, there is a 3½-acre homestead that attracts visitors from all over the world.

The modest brick house that has been home to Pearl Fryar for the past 30 years is surrounded by landscaping so unique and smile-inspiring that it has been the subject of full-length documentaries and countless magazine articles. It’s a compelling story because the man behind the landscaping is a living monument to the triumph of will over the negative forces that so often turn men mean and bitter.

When you look at the bizarrely beautiful landscape Fryar has created with living trees and shrubs, it is at once amazing to think that this man has never had any formal horticultural training; yet at the same time, one wonders if a formally trained arborist would ever dare to try such rule-breaking techniques that are on display everywhere on his property.

“People are always coming into my garden and saying to me, ‘Well, the book says that plant can’t take that kind of pruning,’” Fryar says, “And I say, ‘I didn’t know that!’” What Fryar lacked in book learning, he has more than made up for with his intuitive understanding of plants. Most of the topiary gracing his property started out as sickly giveaway plants rescued from the recycle pile at the local nursery. Nowadays the universities are inviting him to give lectures on how he can do what their own books say can’t be done.

The same discipline and lust for life that transformed a cornfield into a feel-good botanical wonderland has characterized Fryar’s approach to life in general. He won’t talk about any of the troubles he’s experienced, though it’s pretty clear he’s seen more than his share. The son of sharecroppers, he must have suffered discrimination growing up in the Jim Crow south. He apparently took it all in stride, however, pursued a degree in mathematics, and was living a middle-class life with his family in New York when his company transferred him to Bishopville in 1980. The racism there was more front and center than it was in the North. One of the reasons he started his garden was to disprove a comment he heard when he was frozen out of buying a house in an established neighborhood. He figured if he could win the community’s “Yard of the Month” award, it would contradict the notion that “black folks won’t keep up their yard.”

For more information about Pearl Fryar’s garden and his philanthropy, I recommend you see “A Man Named Pearl,” the award-winning documentary (2008).

Have a Great Month!

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