The art and soul of Freeland Tanner

What do you get when you combine a pile of twigs, sprinklers, and watering cans with the right side of the brain that just won’t quit?

It’s not what you get; it’s who you get – Freeland Tanner.

You may have read about Freeland and his equally impressive wife Sabrina here and here.  Or, you may have even seen their garden featured in both of my books.  

But in this post, I want to share another side of their garden.

The side that’s brimming with Freeland’s deeply personal art.

I’ve visited their garden several times over the years, and thought I knew it pretty well.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.

freeland tanner garden art

There were SO many changes, it felt like I had been away for decades!

As you tour this garden, it’s important to understand there isn’t a team of people who tend this garden – it’s just the two of them.  

In addition to working in their garden, keep in mind both Freeland and Sabrina are in-demand landscape designers who juggle several major projects at a time.

So how Freeland manages to generate so much original artwork is nothing short of mind-blowing.

This visit, however, revealed part of the answer.

In 2012 Sabrina was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the world as they knew it stopped in its tracks.  

tanner garden art

While everyone handles crushing news like this the best they can, Freeland’s coping mechanism was to create.

Turning to the right side of his brain for comfort, he would spend endless hours creating art.

Instead of leaving a destructive path of wreckage in cancer’s wake, this life-altering scare transformed their already breathtaking garden into the most soulful one I’ve ever seen.

The garden overflows with Freeland’s love for Sabrina.

sidenote:  (I’m thrilled to say they’ve come through the other end of this frightening tunnel, with Sabrina now cancer-free for several years.)

 

Welcome to Sabrina’s Temple

freeland tanner

I’ve always been fascinated with Freeland’s piles of interesting shaped twigs, his stacks of old grape-stake fencing, and artfully displayed watering cans, antique sprinklers, and hoses.

You’ll see they’ve found their true purpose in life!

In the middle of their large 1-acre garden is a colorful and whimsical cutting garden.  Here, flowers happily mingle with herbs, edibles, and Freeland’s garden art.

Now there’s a new focal point – Sabrina’s Temple.

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland tanner
freeland tanner art

Directly across from the temple’s entrance is the colorful tool shed, with Freeland’s fabulous green cloches anchoring the corners of each garden bed.

freeland tanner garden art
tanner art

Aren’t these the most wonderful cloches you’ve ever seen?

Over the years, dozens and dozens of readers have emailed me, asking where they can purchase these.   

Alas, I’m sorry to say they’re not for sale. 

However, I hope they inspire you to make a simplified version for your own garden (and if so, please send a pic so we can all see!)

 

In the center of the cutting garden is this amazing antique urn with a twist – flower pots instead of flowers.

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner containers

I re-visted this garden a few months ago and loved how the pots have aged over time!

 

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art

Transforming vertical surfaces

Surrounding the enclosed cutting garden are several garden ‘rooms.’  Enclosing the individual rooms are fences that double as easels to display Freeland’s art.  

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art

The metal rings that surround wine barrels (called bilge hoops) are transformed into fence lattice and woven to form a chair that’s surprisingly comfortable!

 

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art

Bird Estates

The Tanners love the wildlife that visits their garden. 

Their favorites are the pair of owls that live in a giant tree, the fox that quietly creeps along their back fence (hoping to snack on Cluck, their 9-year-old chicken), and the frogs that live in their pond.   

But it’s the birds that bring them the most joy.  Lucky birds who get to live in one of Freeland’s bespoke birdhouses!

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art
spire shaped flowers

Arbors, gates, tuteurs, and more

Not only am I amazed at Freeland’s boundless talent, but also the skill at placing such a staggering amount of artwork in the garden.

It would be pretty easy to go down the ‘uh oh – someone’s gone down the wrong road‘ path, but in this garden the art seems right at home.  A rare gift, indeed!

freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland sabrina tanner art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner garden art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner art
freeland tanner
freeland tanner art

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of one of my favorite gardens of all time, and more importantly I hope its inspired you to go out into your own garden and create!

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25 Comments

    • Hi Patty, Freeland Tanner made the cloches (maybe the clothes, too? 😉 but unfortunately he doesn’t make them to sell to others. I’ve been asked SO many times before if he’d sell them and alas, he does not.

      Reply
  • SO much inspiration here! Are Freeland and Sabrina artists who garden or gardeners who make art? Either way, they’ve created a place of beauty and joy. Thanks for sharing it again, Rebecca.

    Reply
    • Good question, Pam, and one that I can’t answer. They’re simply amazing and I wish you could see their garden in person. You’d love it and the way they incorporate succulents throughout.

      Reply
    • Pretty amazing, isn’t it Brent? Though you’re no slouch either when it comes to artistic creativity. 😉

      Reply
  • That was an in incredible look at what someone with an incredible imagination can accomplish. What a talent he is. Sometimes people just amaze me with their brilliance and this is the perfect example.

    Reply
    • Incredible imagination is right, Candy. He’s truly one of the most talented people I’ve ever met – I feel so lucky to call him my friend.

      Reply
  • Rebecca,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! The photos are amazing and I am completely inspired! Feliz Cinco de Mayo and I hope to see you before too long. You continue to inspire and make me happy! Be well and an early Happy Mother’s Day!
    Devonna

    Reply
    • You’re so welcome, Devonna. I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos! Hope all is well with you and early Happy Mother’s Day to you, too! XO

      Reply
  • What a fascinating and beautiful garden. And such a touching story. My brain is now racing, thinking about more art in my own garden! The spring clean up is done, so this must be the next step!

    Reply
  • Dear Rebecca, Thank you so much for all your kind words and great photos! What a wonderful story you wrote and shared. Your friend always, Sabrina Tanner

    Reply
    • Oh Sabrina – you are so, so welcome. It is I who should thank YOU for welcoming me into your life as well as your garden. XOXO

      Reply
  • Simply stunning and heartfelt – oh my! I kind of teared up with this – the love he shows is so sweet…

    Reply
    • It’s so touching, isn’t it Jeanne? I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  • This is absolutely amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing with us such an unusual array of beauty!

    Reply
    • You’re so welcome, Suzanne. I wish you could see it in person. My photos don’t do it justice.

      Reply
  • Wonderful post on a wonderful garden Rebecca, thanks for sharing it with us! I’m glad to hear that they are through their health issue. It is inspiring to see Freeland’s love and admiration of his wife come through in such a beatiful and creative way.

    Best,

    Scott

    Reply
    • Hi Scott – I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! If you ever get out this way we’ll have to figure out a way for you to see their garden in person. It’s truly my favorite one of all and I could spend an entire weekend in it without ever leaving! I hope you’re well!!

      Reply
  • Thank you so much for this magical mystery tour. What an enchanted place.

    Reply
    • Hi Jo and Diane – I’m glad you enjoyed the ‘magical, mystery tour’! You certainly do feel like you’re in another land when you’re there. One far, far away from ordinary gardens! 😉

      Reply
  • Thank you, Rebecca, for taking me for a stroll into Freeland and Sabrina’s world once again. Their gardens are a place of such creativity, passion and beauty… they always take my breath away.

    Reply
    • The first time I visited, Sheila, I literally had a headache by the time I left because my brain couldn’t comprehend everything. It was as if it was exploding with ideas. Even though I’ve visited many times, I’m still always left breathless. This garden is so spectacular on so many levels.

      Reply

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