One of my favorite things is meeting others who are equally passionate about gardening as I am. As a designer and writer I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many incredible people with unforgettable gardens.
A gardener’s personal garden is an expression of their soul – the result of the blood, sweat and tears that went into its creation. You know that feeling when you walk into a garden, and you’re caught off guard, heart pounding? That’s the garden’s soul, and it’s something that can’t be duplicated.
I’d like to share some of these people and their gardens with you, as part of a series I’m creating called ‘Gardeners and Their Gardens‘. Some will be professional gardeners, some will not. But all have their hearts firmly planted in their gardens.
I’d like to introduce you to an amazing, creative, powerhouse couple – Freeland and Sabrina Tanner of Napa, California.
They’re both professional garden designers with their company Proscape Landscape Design, and whether you realize it or not you’ve most likely seen their designs featured in countless garden magazines.
What I appreciate most about the Tanners is 1) their boundless energy, 2) their humble nature, 3) their generous spirit, and 4) the sheer talent that oozes from every pore in their body (more about that later).
Seriously – these two do it ALL. They tend their garden themselves, no hired hands to do the bulk of the work, and for them it’s truly a labor of love. The property has been in Freeland’s family for several generations. Strolling through the garden, under the trees his grandfather planted years ago, you can’t help but feel the garden’s energy.
I realize there’s no way I can capture the essence of this garden in just a few photos, but I’ll give it my best shot. But don’t leave me just yet – after the garden pics it gets even better! Not only are they incredible artists in the garden, but Freeland has another unbelievable talent, which I’ll talk about at the end of this post…
The front of their garden consists of a massive vegetable bed which you enter through my favorite gate in the whole wide world! (All the structures on the property are hand-made by Freeland, mind you.)
This is not your typical front garden, but one that’s both edible and stunningly beautiful at the same time.
Not an easy feat!
As you stroll around the side of their home to the rear garden, past the cypress arbor, you enter what I like to call ‘Tanner World’.
This world consists of garden room after garden room, each with its own distinct charm, and each masterfully created.
Around the bend and through the next gate, you spy a secret room – the cutting garden. All of a sudden you’re a character in a Beatrix Potter story, complete with the cutest tool shed you’ve ever seen (and yes, there’s a bunny and a chicken).
What else would you expect?
When you exit the potager you find yourself on a winding pathway of crunchy pea gravel, leading you to a charming seating area (another creation of Freeland’s).
Everywhere you look is another vignette, another pathway to follow, another view to take in…
At last, you arrive at the entrance to their main house – the stunning focal point of their garden.
Their garden now takes on a different feel – perhaps a little more formal (thanks to the clipped hedges), yet still a bit informal at the same time with the billowing shrubs within the borders.
And, as if that’s not enough, there’s the Tanner’s collections. Throughout the garden, you’ll find groupings of watering cans, vintage lawn sprinklers, garden tools, all artfully placed ‘just so’.
And just when you think you may have seen it all, you’re hit with a whole other side of Freeland (at this point, you may want to get a refill on your coffee before continuing – it gets even better!)
Not only are the Tanners amazing gardeners, but Freeland is equally at home in his wood shop.
He’s a renowned artist and one of the few people in the world who creates tramp art. His pieces are so remarkable that Freeland will be the Featured Artist at the Napa Valley Museum new American Folk Art Festival (running May 1st – July 5th, 2010).
I was treated to a behind-the-scenes look as to what goes into creating his art. What I love most about these pieces is it blends his love of nature into yet another stunning art form. Each piece is made with over 5,000 pieces of wood – and thousands and thousands of hand-carved notches.
These pieces are so intricately carved that I’ve tried to show you a few of their complete images, with lots of close-ups. You’ll noticed that most pieces have hearts – lots and lots of hearts. And birds, and flowers, and most other elements of nature.
Most have one or more hidden compartments within each piece – boxes here, pull out drawers there – you never know what you’re going to find when you start taking a closer look.
In his workshop everywhere you look you’ll see half-finished pieces just waiting for Freeland’s attention. He prefers working on several at once, so he doesn’t get bored. BORED???
I found this little box sitting on a table and thought it summed up the Tanners to a tee.
Patience is a crucial ingredient in both nurturing a garden as well as creating such stand-alone works of art.
And patience they have!