Youngstown’s Mike Gibson to Compete on Topiary Competition Show ‘Clipped’
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Mike Gibson first got started in topiary, he didn’t even know there was a name for it. But he was quite good at clipping and sculpting shrubs into “property art,” as he called it.
The Youngstown resident launched his own business – Gibson Works Property Art – a few years ago, creating living décor on the lawns of businesses and homes throughout the Mahoning Valley.
After this week, the reputation of Mike Gibson will be spread even wider.
Gibson is one of seven competitors on “Clipped,” a new show that premieres Wednesday on Discovery+ as part of the first batch of original series the streaming service is launching this year. Starting with the 90-minute premiere, one contestant will be ousted – clipped – each week. The last one standing wins a $50,000 prize.
The trio of judges on the show include none other than Martha Stewart, along with topiary expert Chris Lambton and landscape architect Fernando Wong. Actor Michael Urie is the host.
For Gibson, it’s the latest example of how his unique but little-known skill continues to change his life.
When the show’s producers first reached out to him, Gibson thought someone was pulling his leg.
“It’s like a dream come true but I thought it was spam at first,” he said. “I didn’t think it was real because everyone knows I love topiary.”
Gibson is ambidextrous and can clip at a rapid pace using both hands. It’s a trait that earned him the nickname “Gibby Siz” – short for Gibby Scissorhands, a reference to 1990 film “Edward Scissorhands.”
Gibson is a 2005 Chaney High School graduate who also attended Youngstown State University for fine art and Columbus State College for graphic design.
He traces his artistic talent and love for topiary to his childhood.
“When I was 7, my father started teaching me how to trim the bushes and that was the beginning of my love for landscaping,” Gibson said.
His father is Michael Gibson, an artist who has won Best in Show of The Butler Institute of American Arts’ Area Annual Exhibition. The younger Gibson credits his father with furthering his budding career.
“I started doing property art 10 years ago,” Gibson said. “My dad saw it and [said it looked like the work of] Pearl Fryar. So I [searched online for] him and that’s when I got into the world of topiary. Until then, I didn’t know it was an art form.”
Fryar, 81, is a renowned topiary artist who lives and works in Bishopville, S.C.
“I met [Fryar] three years later and went to his garden in South Carolina,” Gibson continued. “He became my mentor. I’ve visited him every year since 2016, learning and getting bits of information every time. He is the grandmaster of topiary.”
Gibson was at Fryar’s property Monday when he was interviewed for this article.
After living in Columbus for eight years, Gibson moved back to Youngstown in 2014 and launched his own full-time business a year later.
He has been working to beautify his hometown since his return.
“I saw a need and knew I had a skill that I had been developing and I wanted to beautify Youngstown,” he said.
His business goal was to create 330 topiaries around town, a number he reached within his first six months. In 2018, Gibson created an exhibition of topiary at Fellows Riverside Gardens. He has also appeared at home and garden shows across Ohio.
His next goal is to do a series of topiaries along the streets of the South Side, where he grew up.
The producers of “Clipped” discovered Gibson on Instagram and invited him on the show, which was shot last fall in Tarrytown, N.Y.
If he wins the $50,000 prize, he said he would use the money for a down payment for a new home for his wife and daughter and also to start a topiary garden in Youngstown.
His experience filming the show was “awesome,” he said.
“It was nice how they assembled the group of contestants from all over the country,” he said. “We joked on the set that we were like the Topiary Avengers, and we will assemble again somewhere in the future and beautify an estate. We developed a great friendship. We were on the set for 14-hour days so you get to people very well.”
Described by Discovery+ as the first competition show about topiary, “Clipped” is structured like many similar shows. Contestants face a series of challenges on each episode and every effort is made to show the contestants’ reactions as naturally as possible.
That meant keeping them in the dark about the judges on the premiere episode.
“We had no clue who they were going to be,” Gibson said. “So the reactions were real when Martha Stewart came out, and even Chris Lambton. I was binge-watching his series [“Going Yard”] on HGTV not long before and it was a surprise to see him walk out as the judges were introduced.”
Gibson said the feedback he received from the judges was valuable and he has applied their advice to his career.
After the premiere, new episodes will stream on Discovery+ every Wednesday for the ensuing five weeks.
Pictured: Mike Gibson in a scene from “Clipped” with judge Fernando Wong and host Michael Urie.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.