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Wedding & Event Venue Near Bishopville, SC.

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Your Magic Moment Awaits

Your wedding day. Without a doubt, it's one of the most significant events you will ever experience - when you and the love of your life officially seal the deal and get married. On this day, your friends and family will gather to celebrate the next step in your life. Photographers will be running around snapping photos, catering plates delicious food for guests to enjoy, and the DJ sets the mood for a night of fun and libation. You've worked extra hard to make everything look perfect and run smoothly. You have examined every moving part down to the tiniest detail. At the center of all your effort is your wedding venue in Bishopville, SC.

Your event space can mean the difference between an unforgettable event and an average occasion. Capturing your uniqueness as a couple is paramount to a memorable wedding. But, without the right venue location and staff, your unforgettable event can turn into a painfully average occasion. Fortunately, at Abney Hall, you won't ever have to worry about dingy reception spaces and crummy chow halls.

Constructed in Bishopville, SC, in 1962, Abney Hall is 15,000 square feet and sits on 500 acres of land, making it a large wedding venue unlike any other. Abney Hall was originally the home of Mrs. Josephine Abney, a Bishopville native who was a lifelong philanthropist. Mrs. Abney devoted much of her time and effort towards supporting charities, educational institutions, hospitals, and other noble efforts. Today, Abney Hall stands tall as a symbol of love, both in our community and for the couples who choose to get married here.

Abney Hall is an exclusive event experience unlike any other, surrounded by verdant forests and sparkling ponds. Our venue is a natural fit for several occasions, including:

Special Event Space Bishopville, SC

Weddings

 Event Venue Bishopville, SC

Bridal Showers

 Event Space Bishopville, SC

Bridal Portraits

 Rehearsal Dinner Venue Bishopville, SC

Rehearsal Dinners

 Bridal Shower Venue Bishopville, SC

Corporate Events

 Business Event Space Bishopville, SC

Much More!

 Wedding Space Bishopville, SC

The Top Wedding Venue in Bishopville, SC

The beginning of your life starts at Abney Hall. With our team by your side, we can create the fairy tale wedding you have dreamed about since childhood. Whether you have 100 guests or 1,000, our waterfront ceremony locations and French-inspired courtyard are perfect for your big day. Celebrate in luxurious style surrounded by shady magnolia trees, a private forest, large ponds, and the beauty of Mother Nature. While our venue location and aesthetic have been praised far and wide, so too have the practical aspects of Abney Hall. Looking for a relaxing, comfortable spot for your bridal party to get ready in? We offer an entire floor in the Abney Hall residence to get the bridal party ready. Want to make your groomsman feel extra-special too? We've got a private, plush house just feet from a sparkling pond that is a proper hangout spot for the guys in your group.

To make life easier on you, we also offer Abney Hall as your go-to spot for rehearsal dinners. Why book an expensive restaurant or travel to another location when unmatched beauty and convenience are right at your fingertips? Abney Hall is just the place for that very important dinner the night before your big day. We are also happy to host your bridal shower at Abney Hall. Our venue makes for one of Bishopville's most unique bridal shower settings, where your family and friends can gather to give gifts and be merry before you walk down the aisle.

With such a large, magnificent house and a vast property, Abney Hall also makes for an unforgettable location for your bridal portraits and other wedding-related photography needs. Don't take our word for it - book a tour and see for yourself why so many new brides and grooms choose Abney Hall as their wedding venue in Bishopville.

 Wedding Venue Bishopville, SC

What Sets Abney Hall Apart from Other Wedding Venues in Bishopville?

You've already found the person you want to spend the rest of your life beside. The next step? Finding the perfect wedding venue for your ceremony, reception, and celebration of your lifelong commitment to one another. Remember, the backdrop for photos, dancing, eating, and all other activities will be at your wedding venue. That's why we work so hard to set Abney Hall apart from our competitors - so you and your guests can focus on love and living your new life while we work with your vendors and photographers to make your magic night a reality.

Here are just a few reasons why guests choose Abney Hall as their wedding venue in Bishopville, SC, along with some helpful tips from our experienced wedding venue staff:

Venue Size

Choosing the appropriate-sied venue for your desired guest count is a critical decision. A venue's capacity affects the number of people you need to consider having at your ceremony and reception. As you're first starting out, we recommend having a guest count in mind as you're searching for the right venue. Try to stick with that number. You may fall in love with a particular venue, but if its max capacity can't accommodate your guest count, it may be time to cross them off your list.

 Corporate Conference Hall Bishopville, SC
Abney Hall Pro Tip

Abney Hall Pro Tip:

Keep in mind that this is your big day. You shouldn't feel obligated to invite the college roommate you shared a dorm with for one semester. At the end of the day, your wedding venue should be one that can accommodate those closest to you. Abney Hall is equipped for both small and large weddings, consisting of 500 acres of forest, ponds, and lush natural beauty. Whether you want an intimate wedding with only your best friends or a grand ceremony with hundreds of people, we have the right amount of room to make you comfortable.

Location and Nearby Lodging

On your big day, you're likely to have friends and family traveling in from other parts of the state or country. These folks will need a place to stay during and even after your wedding. Accessibility and ease are important factors when it comes to choosing your wedding venue for both you and your guests.

Located in Bishopville, SC, Abney Hall is situated in a memorable, natural setting, giving your wedding a private vibe in the midst of Mother Nature. While we pride ourselves on having a secluded wedding event space, our venue is within an easy driving distance of hotels and vacation rentals.

Abney Hall Pro Tip

Abney Hall Pro Tip:

When you contact us for a tour, make sure to speak with our experienced venue manager about nearby hotels and shuttle service options. We understand that your guest's comfort and convenience are important, and we're happy to work with you to figure out the best way to get your guests to Abney Hall.

Venue Staff

At Abney Hall, our staff has earned its reputation as one of the industry's most friendly, accessible teams. We will provide you with a purpose-minded point of contact that can help answer questions relating to timelines, preferred vendors, and every aspect of your wedding. When you tour our wedding venue in Bishopville, SC, for the first time, we want you to feel like you have all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision.

We would be happy to go over:
  • Venue Pricing
  • Ceremony Specifics
  • Reception Specifics
  • Catering Possibilities
  • Decorating Possibilities
  • Entertainment Options
  • Photography and Photo Opportunities
  • Venue Amenities
  • Bridal Party Needs
  • Groomsman Needs

At Abney Hall, our goal is to be your first resource when it comes to setting up and coordinating the details of your wedding day.

Decor

When it comes to your wedding's decor, you probably already have a few ideas in mind. We love it when our brides and grooms have a vision in mind because one of our greatest joys is turning that vision into a reality. At Abney Hall, our team is available to help you and your decorator fit, accent, and accommodate your fairy-tale wedding - whatever that may be.

Are you looking to dress up your wedding with decorations galore? Just want to add a few accents that tie into your preferred color palette? Abney Hall is versatile and ready to help however we are able.

 Reception Hall Bishopville, SC
Abney-Hall-Pro-Tip

Abney Hall Pro Tip:

If you're thinking about bringing in your own greenery, lighting, floral pieces, and more, we recommend discussing your vision with us on your initial tour of our event space. That way, we can get a head start on making your big day exactly how you envision it.

Photo Opportunities

10 years from now, when you and your spouse are celebrating your anniversary, you will pull out photographs from your wedding and will reminisce about the unforgettable time you spent at Abney Hall. Your wedding photos will be with you forever, and as such, we work closely with you and your photographer to suggest extra-special photo op spots that you can only find on Abney Hall grounds.

From the grand staircase and French-inspired courtyard to our manicured gardens and lovely pond, there is no shortage of photo-op locations for your photographer to choose from. As one of the most popular wedding venues in Bishopville, SC, we have worked with dozens of photographers over the years.

Our experience has allowed us to cultivate a list of preferred photographers - all of whom have the talent to take your pictures to the next level in a setting they're familiar with. We encourage you to check out our gallery to get a sense of the scope of our wedding venue and gain inspiration from other happy couples.

Abney-Hall-Pro-Tip

Abney Hall Pro Tip

The gallery on our website is extensive but be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages as well. We keep our social pages updated with recent wedding photographs, giving you an incredible resource that you can use for your own photography purposes.

Special Event Space Bishopville, SC

The Premier Corporate Event Venue in Bishopville, SC

Abney Hall is known across the United States for our stunning weddings, but we also play host to some of the largest corporate events in South Carolina. Why choose a bland, lifeless meeting space when you can enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature coupled with a professional atmosphere? If you have an important team-building event or corporate conference that you have to coordinate, look no further than Abney Hall.

The epitome of class and style, our corporate event space is large, lavish, and chock-full of onsite amenities for you and your co-workers to enjoy. If your team needs a morale boost, don't bring them to the local Olive Garden for a cheap lunch. Treat them to a refreshing experience in our main dining room, where we can work with you to incorporate your catering options with the goals of your event.

When the hard work is done, and your team needs a breather, what better way to relax than with a quick dip in our pool? To burn off a little steam, head over to our brand-new tennis court - the perfect place to get some exercise in an ultra-private setting while you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Don't forget to bring your fishing poles for a couple of hours of fishing. There's even an opportunity to go hunting if you wish.

 Event Venue Bishopville, SC

Elegance at Its Finest - Only
a Phone Call Away

If you're ready to learn more about Abney Hall as your wedding venue, don't hesitate to reach out. We would love to hear more about your plans, your vision, and your needs. We know that planning a wedding isn't easy. It takes time, attention to detail, and a whole lot of patience. Our goal is to help provide you with all the info you need to learn more about our venue. Once you decide on a date, we'll work closely with you and your vendors to craft a wedding experience that you will treasure for the rest of your life.

Our available dates for your big day are going quick, especially during peak seasons like spring and fall. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Contact us today for a FREE initial consultation
 Event Space Bishopville, SC

Latest News in Bishopville, SC

Officials eye future of historic downtown Bishopville

Lee County and the City of Bishopville received $900K to revitalize their historic downtown area.BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — Lee County and the City of Bishopville received nearly a million dollars in grant funding to revitalize their historic district.City and county councils worked with the their legislative delegation to secure $450,000 in funding through a direct state appropriation. A $450,000 grant from the Department of Commerce for economic development was also obtained with the assistance of the LINK (the County's Econom...

Lee County and the City of Bishopville received $900K to revitalize their historic downtown area.

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — Lee County and the City of Bishopville received nearly a million dollars in grant funding to revitalize their historic district.

City and county councils worked with the their legislative delegation to secure $450,000 in funding through a direct state appropriation. A $450,000 grant from the Department of Commerce for economic development was also obtained with the assistance of the LINK (the County's Economic Development Partnership with Sumter County).

"We were flourishing, we were good," said Bishopville resident David Wiley. "And now, everything is no good, man. It’s no good, man."

Wiley has lived in Bishopville for more than 40 years. He said since the 1970s, the city has turned into a ghost town.

"We need help, and we need a change, man. We need change, we really do,"Wiley said. "That money and funds that they got, I hope they do the right thing with it."

Bishopville city administrator Gregg McCutchen said the grants will help turn old vacant building into new spaces that can be used.

"It’s gonna help in the fact that we won’t have to use any local money to do this with," McCutchen said. "And therefore, we can go ahead, rather than do it in phases, we have enough money that we can initiate the project and rapidly get through with it."

McCutchen says the goal is to bring more businesses into the area. "Just anything that will survive, businesses, something that will help people."

The city is also planning to restore the former railroad deport on North Main Street and East Cedar Street, and convert it into a farmers market or a similar type venue.

Lee County administrator Alan Watkins said the former railroad deport was built and used in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"Rail was the vital way of transportation for many decades. Lee County was a major agricultural county," Watkins said. "The railroad depot was used to bring in materials, as well as take out things like cotton and other agricultural goods that were made in the community."

He explains the depot played an important role in building Bishopville—bringing supplies that were needed for residents in the city.

"It helped paved the way for the development that came later," Watkins said. "We want to try to salvage that building."

Over the decades, the depot fell into disrepair, becoming a dilapidated building taken over by overgrown bushes.

"I’ve lived in this community for over 50 years in my life, and I have seen a single rail car come through that area," Watkins said. "So, it has not been used in many decades."

The funds are also intended to provide opportunities for community activities like a green space for outdoor recreation, concerts, or festivals. City and county leaders also plan on creating more parking spaces, and a lighted sidewalk in for people to use.

McCutchen says there is no set date on when construction will begin or when they hope to have the revitalization and restoration complete.

Clarendon Hall Athletic Department welcomes new faces

When the 2022-2023 school year begins, Clarendon Hall will have new faces leading its athletic programs. On Friday, April 29, Head of School Kelley Wannamaker and Associate Head of School Russ Jordan introduced Todd Larrimer and Justin Logan to the Saints student body and staff. Larrimer will serve as Athletic Director, Maintenance Director, and Head Baseball Coach. Logan will be the Head Football Coach.Larrimer received is bachelor’s degree in accounting from Clemson University in 2018. Upon graduating, he moved back to the Sum...

When the 2022-2023 school year begins, Clarendon Hall will have new faces leading its athletic programs. On Friday, April 29, Head of School Kelley Wannamaker and Associate Head of School Russ Jordan introduced Todd Larrimer and Justin Logan to the Saints student body and staff. Larrimer will serve as Athletic Director, Maintenance Director, and Head Baseball Coach. Logan will be the Head Football Coach.

Larrimer received is bachelor’s degree in accounting from Clemson University in 2018. Upon graduating, he moved back to the Sumter area and has been involved in local high school and recreation roles, serving as assistant and head baseball coach. He has also assisted with multiple fundraising efforts and daily operations in the athletics department. Following the announcement, Larrimer stated “I am very thankful for this opportunity to become a part of the Clarendon Hall family and look forward to serving the Clarendon and Sumter communities as a Christian role model for our student athletes.” He replaces Athletic Director Ritchie Way, who recently stepped down, and Head Baseball Coach Jackie McIntosh, who notified the school several months ago that this would be his last season. Larrimer will begin his new role May 23.

A native of Bishopville, SC and a graduate of Lee Academy, Logan graduated from Clemson University in 2015 with a Community Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Management. He began his coaching career as an assistant football coach the Lee Academy JV football team and started as an assistant with the varsity program in 2017. Logan was a part of back-to-back 1A State- Runner up teams in 2020 and 2021. He works full-time for Carolina Filters as Inside Sales and Customer Support Manager. Logan and his wife, Jordan Warren Logan, live in the Ashwood community with their two-year-old son, Rowan. He replaces former Head Football Coach Anthony Reitenour, who announced his departure in February to accept a full-time position with Jefferson Davis Academy. Logan will begin with the Saints immediately.

As one of the most well-established schools in the area, Clarendon Hall has provided superior elementary and secondary education in a non-denominational Christian environment since 1965. Clarendon Hall is an independent co-educational school for kindergarten three years old through twelfth grade. In addition to being a founding member of the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA), Clarendon Hall is accredited by Cognia/SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). Clarendon Hall is located at 1140 South Dukes Street in Summerton. For more information, contact the school office at (803) 485-3550 or visit the website at www.clarendonhall.org.

City leaders planning to revitalize downtown Bishopville

Nearly a third of shops in downtown Bishopville are vacant. City leaders are planning to revitalize the area, starting with building renovations.BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — City leaders in Bishopville are looking to revitalize the historic downtown district.There are around 53 buildings in the district and 18 of them are vacant, according to Councilman Wayne Hancock."It was busier when I was growing up and that was in the 90’s," said Bishopville resident Hailey Garrett. "Any place can go through a time...

Nearly a third of shops in downtown Bishopville are vacant. City leaders are planning to revitalize the area, starting with building renovations.

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — City leaders in Bishopville are looking to revitalize the historic downtown district.

There are around 53 buildings in the district and 18 of them are vacant, according to Councilman Wayne Hancock.

"It was busier when I was growing up and that was in the 90’s," said Bishopville resident Hailey Garrett. "Any place can go through a time when some businesses go through a downturn, but I think it has the potential to grow for sure, especially since a lot of people are moving to South Carolina."

Hancock said the city plans on revitalizing old buildings and streetscaping with grant funding.

"There’s certain buildings down there now, that the roofs are falling in and there’s been no attention and we’re going to address those," said Hancock.

In February, the City received $900K to revitalize the former railroad depot. City and county councils worked with the their legislative delegation to secure $450,000 in funding through a direct state appropriation.

A $450,000 grant from the Department of Commerce for economic development was also obtained with the assistance of the LINK, the County's economic development partnership with Sumter County.

There is no set date on when construction will begin or when they hope to have the revitalization and restoration complete. Meanwhile, Hancock told News 19, council members are prioritizing what needs to happen first.

"Stabilizing the buildings first," Hancock said. "Assisting current business owners so they can continue operating, and then try to address increasing the amount of retail businesses that come downtown so we can run more foot traffic."

City Council is creating a plan and budget to fix the area by the new fiscal year in July.

Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins said Bishopville is vital to the county's economy.

"Lee County has always traditionally been basically an agricultural rural community, and we're trying to transition, we've been working on it for a number of years, to a little more industrial commercial job-based," Watkins said.

Watkins said with a more vibrant downtown area, more people will come visit and want to do business. In an effort to achieve that goal, the county is working with the city to secure more state and federal grants.

"These are all expensive projects and so we’re working very closely with the city of Bishopville making sure, anything that we can do to help to facilitate their plans downtown, we certainly want to be apart of that," Watkins said.

Both the city and county hope they receive enough grants so no residents will face a tax increase. Watkins said in the past 10 years, there have only been two increases.

Pearl Fryar’s Living Legacy Continues

The treasured South Carolina artist and topiary gardener now trains an apprenticePearl Fryar’s medium is plants. His message is crystal clear even among his forest of swaying green creatures, his topiary garden spread across three acres in Bishopville, South Carolina. Now in his eighties, Fryar planted his garden over decades and opened it to the public in the 1980s.As a young man, when he worked full-time in a can fac...

The treasured South Carolina artist and topiary gardener now trains an apprentice

Pearl Fryar’s medium is plants. His message is crystal clear even among his forest of swaying green creatures, his topiary garden spread across three acres in Bishopville, South Carolina. Now in his eighties, Fryar planted his garden over decades and opened it to the public in the 1980s.

As a young man, when he worked full-time in a can factory, Fryar rescued plants from the cast-off pile of a nearby nursery, and then guided every single stem. With a chainsaw, he shaped bushes and trees into whimsical arches and curves. Fryar’s topiary garden became a local sensation, and then a national one. Over time, his abstract-art garden—and his message of love, displayed on signs throughout the yard, and voiced in interviews—brought tourists from around the world.

But as Fryar aged, the garden declined. (I’m a Southern horticulturalist and garden designer myself. Over the decades, gardens I’ve left change, grow, and sometimes die.) Easy sinuous swirls got fuzzy and sluggish. Lumps grew in branches, and sympodial sprouts went wild. Plans for saving the garden started and stopped in fits.

In March 2021, a young man named Mike Gibson returned for a visit. Gibson’s connection to topiary began when Gibson was just a little kid growing up in Ohio. “My Dad was a Navy man, like a drill sergeant,” Gibson remembers. “Every Saturday morning, he had us in the yard doing work. At seven years old, I fell in love with pruning bushes.”

“My dad was also an artist,” Gibson says. “Later, when I went to art college, painting fell flat for me. I hadn’t found my medium. But I still loved to prune. One morning, Dad saw one of my abstract-shaped bushes. He said, ‘You need to go see Pearl Fryar in South Carolina.’”

The name confused Gibson. “Who is she? Who’s this lady?” he remembers thinking. “I looked up this ‘lady’ named Pearl and what I saw blew my mind.” Fryar is a tall man, all muscle. Built like a superhero of the plant world. “I already knew about topiary artists. I thought there probably were not any black men topiary artists. I drove from Ohio to South Carolina and blew my mind again.” Gibson found a role model.

“As a young man, I’d work with Pearl each summer,” Gibson says. “Then I went back to Ohio, and I developed my own style, my own landscape business. I’d even been on HGTV, doing topiary in New York.”

In 2021, when Gibson drove to South Carolina to check in, he was shocked by the state of the garden. “I came down and found some landscapers working. They said Pearl was very sick,” Gibson says. “It’d taken him a few years to accept the help, so the garden was really in ruin. Before I even said hello to Pearl, one of the guys with hedge trimmers led me to the folks who were spearheading the renovation.” He met Jane Przybysz, the executive director of the McKissick Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, and Amanda Bennett, vice president of horticulture and collections at Atlanta Botanical Garden. “After interviews and negotiations and talking to Pearl, I became the Topiary Artist in Residence at Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.”

Gibson and his wife and three-year-old moved to South Carolina. “With so many people and institutions involved, I hope we can reach even more children, more people,” Gibson says. “Anybody can learn topiary.”

It was meant to be. From his Dad’s inspiration, Fryar’s mentorship, and Gibson’s own need to speak to the world through topiary, the garden is on track to teach peace and love through creativity once again.

In the long run, what might happen to a home garden, a singular vision like Fryar’s? Besides all the care it needs, this garden faces big questions. How is Fryar’s vision documented and preserved? Is there a database of plants and sculptures? A guide book to living art? What sorts of plant labels identify the plants? As things die, who decides on replacement species and style? Will there be classes, weddings, or plant sales? And critically, who pays for all of that?

Volunteers from across the South have helped by providing everything from labor to loads of mulch. “We’re still in recovery mode,” Bennett says. “Mike’s the perfect person for this, and has garnered the help of so many South Carolina botanical gardeners, like the staff and volunteers from Riverbanks Botanical Garden.”

Bennett also shared a note of hope from the Atlanta Botanical Garden: “The world needs this garden, this vision,” she says. “We’re figuring all that out now. We are here for the long haul to help secure the future of this garden.”

Most South Carolina public gardens started out as pleasure gardens on plantations or were established by rich businessmen in the 1900s. Fryar’s is the only topiary garden in the country, the world, that was birthed, trained, caressed, and spoken to life with the voice of an African American man, a farm kid turned factory worker turned self-taught artist. Children once inspired by Fryar now seek their own passions. They make decisions about our world. And some, like Mike Gibson, return.

“Finding passion. That’s what Pearl is about,” Gibson says. “He spoke to every child who ever felt the world had given up on them, who couldn’t see the light. He said to them, in words and through his art, ‘You are a treasure. Find your passion, work hard at it and it will pay off and you’ll live a dream. Like I am. I know. I was one of you.’”

Renowned topiary garden makes a comeback with help from UofSC

McKissick Museum leads the effort to restore SC landmark Back in 2014, Mike Gibson was proud of his “property art” — sculptures he carved in the foliage of trees and shrubs — so he showed some photos of his work to his dad.“I did a huge sculpture that I thought was a game changer,” says Gibson, who lived in Ohio at the time. “I thought no one else was doing this type of thing.”But his dad set the record straight. It’s not “property art,” it’s topia...

McKissick Museum leads the effort to restore SC landmark

Back in 2014, Mike Gibson was proud of his “property art” — sculptures he carved in the foliage of trees and shrubs — so he showed some photos of his work to his dad.

“I did a huge sculpture that I thought was a game changer,” says Gibson, who lived in Ohio at the time. “I thought no one else was doing this type of thing.”

But his dad set the record straight. It’s not “property art,” it’s topiary. And South Carolina’s Pearl Fryar was king of topiary.

So Gibson made a pilgrimage to Bishopville, South Carolina, to see the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in person. He walked the well-worn paths through the 3-acre garden, following in the footsteps of countless schoolchildren, vacationers and aspiring topiary artists who had looked there for inspiration. He spent hours talking to Fryar, known as the nation’s preeminent African American topiary artist, and learning about his techniques.

“I fell in love with not just Pearl, but also with topiary.” Gibson says. “Seeing his sculptures in person and meeting him, and seeing how he was doing it, inspired me even more.”

Today, Gibson spends a lot more time in Fryar’s garden. With a pair of shears and the occasional use of power hedge trimmers, he snips bits and pieces of holly bushes and trees to refine their shape. Gibson is the topiary artist-in-residence for the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina, and his job is to restore Fryar’s living sculptures to the shape that thousands of visitors from around the world enjoyed for years.

“It was kind of full circle that I even had this opportunity,” Gibson says. “He’s a direct inspiration for my work and the work I've been doing over the years.”

So how did Gibson, a landscaper and topiary artist from Ohio, end up renovating a garden in rural South Carolina on behalf of a museum at the state’s flagship university? To answer that question, you must first understand what the garden means to people far and wide.

Fryar first saw topiary art while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and he later decided he wanted to experiment with it himself. In the mid-1980s, he started crafting topiary sculptures on his property in South Carolina, often transplanting throwaway plants from local nurseries, nourishing them to health and trimming branches to bring his ideas to life.

The swirling shapes and whimsical designs in living trees caught the eye of visitors. The garden’s message — love, peace and goodwill, spelled out in larger-than-life letters made from garden beds — caught on, too.

“It truly was inspiring,” says Bettye Scott, a longtime friend and former neighbor of Fryar. “I personally witnessed a lot of the hours and efforts he put into it. Because of that transformation, people from all over the world have come to view that garden.”

Fryar has been on national television and in major gardening magazines, and his garden became a global tourist stop. Fryar’s artistry also can be seen along streets in Bishopville, at the State Museum in Columbia and on the South Carolina campus. Fryar and his garden were the subject of the award-winning 2006 documentary, A Man Named Pearl. Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fryar was in talks with the Atlanta Botanical Garden about doing topiary sculptures there.

“The legend should be maintained because of what he's been able to do,” Scott says. “We should work hard to maintain it because of the impact it’s had on the nation.”

Preserving this garden is just the right thing to do.

Jane Przybysz, director of the McKissick Museum

But as America grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, Fryar’s health was declining with age. The 81-year-old topiary artist speaks matter-of-factly.

“I can't do what I used to do,” he says.

In November 2020, Jane Przybysz, director of the McKissick Museum at South Carolina, got a phone call from a teacher who took students on field trips to Fryar’s garden and was concerned about the garden becoming overgrown. Because the museum had worked with community gardens in Columbia, the teacher wondered if Przybysz could help Fryar with his garden.

Neither Przybysz nor her staff are topiary artists, but she immediately wanted to help. In her mind, it is more than a garden. It’s a monument to African American resilience in shaping the Southern landscape.

Community members in Bishopville came to multiple town hall meetings to express their hopes for the garden’s long-term viability as well.

“They are just passionate about preserving this garden,” Przybysz says. “They think it’s really important for the world of horticulture, and I think it’s important from a social justice perspective. Preserving this garden is just the right thing to do.”

A grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation made it possible for the museum to support efforts to revitalize the garden. Przybysz contacted the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which agreed to help. In March 2021, they sent staff members to trim some of the topiary sculptures that needed immediate attention. Gibson was there that day, revisiting the place that meant so much to him (since 2014, he had been back several times, including one time to propose to his wife). When he saw crews working to restore the garden, he picked up a set of shears and started helping.

Przybysz drove from Columbia to Bishopville to meet Gibson, who was enthusiastic about getting involved.

“I pitched her on, how do I become a part of this project? What do I need to do to be a part of this?” Gibson says.

This summer, Gibson moved his family from Ohio to South Carolina so he could focus on Fryar’s garden full time. Even while moving at a good clip, it will take a full year to restore the garden. After that, he plans to turn his attention to ongoing maintenance. He also will teach topiary techniques to people in the Bishopville community inspired to follow in Fryar’s footsteps.

“I see this as a long-haul project,” he says.

But people already are noticing the work in the garden. Gibson recently sent Przybysz a photo showing Fryar at the doorway of his house lecturing to a group of college students, and a tour group from China reached out to schedule a visit for 2022.

Przybysz says she hopes the renewed attention to Fryar’s garden will lead to long-term solutions to preserve it for years.

“It’s the right thing, it's the right time, and Mike is the right person to be leading it,” Przybysz says. “He sees himself as a protégé of Pearl. He's passionate about what Pearl has done and wants to preserve his legacy.”

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