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Weaving stories and art into Columbia’s topiary landscape

Mike Gibson, a topiary artist in Columbia, transforms landscapes into living stories with his unique ‘illusion topiary’ style.

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Mike Gibson preserves Pearl Fryar’s topiary art at the SC State Museum. | Photo via Mike Gibson

When you walk up to the Columbia Parks and Recreation headquarters in Earlewood Park, the topiary artwork greets you.

Look closely, and with a little imagination, the shrubs transform. Some evoke the shape of a tennis ball, echoing the nearby courts, while others resemble a frisbee, a nod to the park’s popular disc golf course. This imaginative greenery is the creation of Columbia’s own Mike Gibson, affectionately known as “Gibby-Siz,” a visionary in “illusion topiary.”

Mike’s unique style, a blend of artistry and horticulture, is redefining the traditional topiary landscape. His recent piece at the SC State Fair, “Rooted in SC,” tells a personal story, intertwining his ancestral ties to SC with his artistic flair. “It’s more than shaping plants; it’s about carving out memories and legacies,” Mike said.

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Gibby Siz at work on a small shrub. | Photo via Mike Gibson

His journey into topiary art started in Youngstown, Ohio. Inspired by his artist father who introduced him to topiary legend Pearl Fryar, Mike began to see each property as an opportunity for creative expression.

“Every home, every hedge, it’s a story waiting to unfold,” he said. His relocation to Columbia in August 2021 marked a significant turn in his career, bringing him closer to his mentor, Pearl, and deeper into the topiary art world.

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A photo from Mike’s topiary workshop where he shares his skills and knowledge with the community. | Photo via Mike Gibson

Mike’s impact in the Soda City is evident beyond the artistic designs that grace the Midlands landscape, like the SC State Museum, where he preserves Pearl’s work. His “topiary therapy” workshops offer a unique blend of creativity and mindfulness, underscoring the therapeutic nature of his craft. “It’s therapeutic, it’s empowering — that’s the message I want to bring to my community here,” he said.

Through his topiary art, Gibby Siz is not just beautifying Cola’s landscapes; he’s weaving stories and fostering a sense of well-being, one snip at a time.

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