Freeland & Sabrina Tanner’s Unforgettable Garden

freeland sabrina tanner garden

I’m re-writing this post (originally written over 12 years ago!) to introduce my newer readers to the unforgettable garden of Freeland and Sabrina Tanner.  

After a several-year absence, I recently revisited this garden, and while I didn’t think it was possible to get any better than it was – boy was I wrong. 

There are SO many changes to this garden that it warrants a brand new post.

As a landscape designer and garden writer, I’ve been fortunate to have met many talented people with exceptional gardens.

What makes a garden exceptional?

freeland sabrina tanner garden

To me, breathtaking gardens are those that cause your heart to skip a beat. 

Time slows down as you find yourself taking in every little detail. 

You know you’re someplace special.  

I believe this is a result of the garden’s soul, which is a direct reflection of the gardener who created it, and it’s something that can’t be duplicated.

So, with that, I’d like to introduce you to the most unforgettable garden I’ve ever seen, created by my dear friends-Freeland and Sabrina Tanner of Napa, California.

When talking with Freeland about the different roles each of them plays in the garden, this is what he said:

“When it comes to planting, we banter back and forth about what goes where.  But, Sabrina usually wins – Happy Wife, Happy Life!

Structures, however, are my creations.  Then, I have to sell  the idea to Sabrina, who then helps finesse the final placement within the garden.”

Freeland grew up on this 1-acre property, having been in their family for several generations.

Strolling through the garden under the towering trees his grandfather planted decades ago, you can’t help but feel the garden’s energy.

According to Freeland:

“A garden should be a series of events that unfold as you walk thru the pathways.  The eye gets tired if you see too much of one thing.”

freeland sabrina tanner garden

This statement is especially true when designing a large garden.

When visiting their 1-acre garden, you’ll be taken on a journey, meandering through and around various garden rooms.

Therefore, to make it easier to understand the flow of this garden, I’ll guide you through each of the ‘rooms.’

Guest House Vegetable Garden

Upon entering their garden, you’ll first pass through a garden tool gate, made by Freeland.

One of my favorite gates ever, this leads directly into the Guest House Vegetable Garden.

freeland sabrina tanner

At the center of this vegetable garden are symmetrical raised vegetable beds made of local fieldstone.

Edging the beds are bent willow branches (some sprouting new little leaves!) 

freeland sabrina tanner

A trio of towering green tuteurs (also made by Freeland) is the focal point of each raised bed, supporting a variety of climbing vegetables. 

(Click here to learn the difference between a tuteur, obelisk, and trellis.)

freeland sabrina tanner

A flagstone pathway, flanked on each side by espaliered apple trees, leads to a garden bench.

freeland tanner garden

Surrounding the central raised beds are lush, deep, and wide borders filled with a dazzling array of perennials, succulents, and colorful shrubs.  

This is not your typical front garden, but one that’s both edible and stunningly beautiful at the same time. 

Not an easy feat!

freeland sabrina tanner
freeland sabrina tanner garden

An oversized birdhouse that Freeland made from recycled bits of wood and twigs provides a bit of whimsy in this garden bed.

Below is quite possibly my favorite example of using the very bright foliage of senecio ‘Angel Wings’ in the garden.

Its almost-white color makes it  difficult to integrate with surrounding plants, as it usually looks too bright and out of place.  Not here!

Grouping it together creates an impact, especially when surrounded by lush greens.

freeland sabrina tanner

Exiting the guest house vegetable garden, past the succulent borders and cypress arbor, leads to Freeland and Sabrina’s newest creation.

 

freeland and sabrina garden

Hybrid Greenhouse

freeland sabrina tanner garden

Welcome to the Hybrid Greenhouse!

When Covid struck and the world shut down, Freeland and Sabrina transformed an out-of-the-way corner of their garden into a showpiece.

This Hybrid Greenhouse is a multi-purpose space, not only serving as a functioning greenhouse (complete with an all-glass, open cupola) but also as a magical setting for outdoor dinner parties.

Take a look below at just a few of the close-ups that show the level of detail Freeland has put into this structure.

freeland tanner garden
freeland tanner
freeland and sabrina tanner
Wine Barrel Stave Light, created by Freeland
freeland sabrina tanner garden
freeland and sabrina tanner
freeland sabrina tanner garden
Garden Tool Door Handles
freeland sabrina tanner
Love the rake holding up the shelf

Cluck’s Garden

freeland sabrina tanner garden

As you exit the greenhouse, you pass by Cluck’s Garden (named after their beloved hen, whose coop was once located here.)

The combination of apricot, soft oranges, and burgundy colors is quite possibly one of my favorites in the garden.

I love how these colors harmonize with the rusty corrugated metal roof of the greenhouse that lies beyond.

Okay, let’s keep walking.

Ready for the next part of the garden?  Let’s keep walking…

sabrina tanner garden

The Parthenon (aka: the outdoor kitchen)

freeland and sabrina tanner garden

Welcome to The Parthenon (aka: their new outdoor kitchen!)

Freeland had an image of this structure in his mind for the past 20 years, but it took a pandemic to bring it to fruition.

I’ve tried to capture the feeling of standing in this amazing space, surrounded by his artwork and vibrant garden beds.

Take a peek at some of the details, particularly how he’s up-cycled old hoses, garden tools, corrugated metal, etc.

THIS is what helps to make a garden unforgettable!

freeland tanner
freeland sabrina tanner
freeland and sabrina tanner garden
tanner garden
Spot the hiding dove?
A bold scrub jay loves his peanuts!

The Cutting Garden

freeland and sabrina's garden

Located on one side of the outdoor kitchen is the cutting garden.

Mixed with stunning combinations of perennials and edibles, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a morning cup of tea.

freeland sabrina tanner
sabrina tanner garden

The Tapestry Border

freeland sabrina tanner garden

On the other side of the outdoor kitchen is the Tapestry Border.

The grand dame of this border is the giant arching plumes of the Cape Restio (rhodocoma capensis).

According to Freeland:  “Texture, shape, and form – creating a tapestry – this is what drives the garden for me.” 

I couldn’t agree more!

 

freeland sabrina tanner garden
freeland sabrina tanner garden

Sabrina’s Temple

freeland sabrina tanner garden

Exiting the outdoor kitchen, you’ll pass under another rose-covered arbor leading to Sabrina’s Temple.

The ‘Temple’ was created a few years ago as a way for Freeland to cope with Sabrina’s breast cancer diagnosis (she’s doing great, now, btw!)

I’ll show just a few photos of this area below, as you can click here to read more about this heart-warming tribute to his wife.

freeland tanner garden
dead trees branches
freeland sabrina tanner
freeland tanner art

French Wedding Pavilion

freeland sabrina tanner garden

The next gate leads to a curving lawn pathway that encourages leisurely strolling from one garden area to another.

This area of the garden has a very different feel to it – stately, serene, and elegant.

The wide herbaceous borders surrounding the pathway are filled with established climbing roses, unique specimens of shrubs, and of course Freeland’s structures.

 

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

A cascading ‘Purple Fountain’ beech tree acts as a curtain, providing just a peek of the French Wedding Pavilion.

Freeland first saw this pavilion several years ago in a French magazine. 

He quickly snapped a picture of the image, and using it as inspiration, created this one for his garden.

This pavilion is an example of a ‘garden folly’, which according to Wikipedia, is defined as:

…’a building constructed primarily for decoration…of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of usual garden buildings.’

In this garden, ‘transcends‘ is an understatement!

freeland tanner french pavillion

While talking with Freeland, this is how he explained his inspiration for these creations:

“For me, it all starts with Nature.  Everything I make is basically the end product of a thought based on Nature.  

Everything evolves from Nature – the shapes, the forms, everything.  For example, the bell-shaped roofs are like an upside-down hollyhock flower.”

Take a look below at other garden follies Freeland has created for his garden:

freeland tanner garden follies

freeland tanner garden follies

freeland tanner garden folly
freeland tanner garden folly
freeland sabrina tanner
freeland sabrina tanner garden
freeland tanner garden
freeland sabrina tanner garden

And last, but certainly not least, are the inspirational containers created by Freeland and Sabrina.  

Succulents, edibles, bromeliads, perennials – anything’s fair game for one of their magical combinations.

For more examples of their containers and how they tuck them in here and there throughout the garden, click here.

And with that, we’ve come to the end of the tour.  I hope you enjoyed seeing this treasure of a garden that’s near and dear to my heart.

 

freeland sabrina tanner containers

Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment below

63 Comments

  • A beautiful and inspiring garden! Thank you for the tour, I went back and read all the previous posts you wrote about the garden. Would you mind finding the name of the weeping evergreen tree with the bright green tips? (Not the Cypress) Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hello Cheri, I’m so glad you enjoyed their garden! Can you clarify which post has the pic of the tree you’re interested in? I’ll then try and find out the name for you.

      Reply
  • Oh my gosh! Free land and Sabrina continue to astonish! Rebecca – you spoke to our Garden Club recently- our founding member of the Club, Bernice Oakley was very close to the Tanners and referred to Freeland as her son. Your blog bought back so many happy memories, such as The Tanners hosting our Club’s first every tomato tasting. I hope I get to go back to visit again.. Thank you for the wonderful virtual tour.

    Reply
    • What a wonderful story, Barbara – I’m so glad it brought back such wonderful memories for you. I’m happy you enjoyed the tour and seeing how their garden has changed over the years!

      Reply
  • An exceptional and extraordinary garden. It’s hard to imagine how this all fits into only an acre. Is it possible for you to add a sketch plan of how it all fits together?
    Catherine (South Coast NSW, Australia)

    Reply
    • It’s amazing, isn’t it Catherine? I only wish I had the talent to put pencil to paper, but alas my drawings are horrific! Hopefully starting the tour through the front gates, leading you through room by room sort of gives you an idea of how it all fits. So glad you enjoyed the tour.

      Reply
  • All I can say is WOW! So much creativity!
    Thank you for sharing these photos.
    Nancy Dyer, President, Discovery Bay Garden Club

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy, WOW is right. Every time I visit I’m speechless. So glad you enjoyed seeing this garden!

      Reply
  • Absolutely STUNNING garden!. I would take forever taking in all the plants, designs, niches, extraordinarily inventive and artistic building designs, use of old garden tools, oh gosh, I could go in and on! Thank you Rebecca for sharing this fabulous garden with us once again. I’m saving this post to savor again later today when I have more time.
    ~Vivian

    Reply
    • Yes, this garden takes a looooong time to appreciate. There’s treasures tucked in here and there, everywhere you look. It’s truly a wonderland and a feast for the senses. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! WHEN will it cool off so we can visit again? I wish I could say my garden is even a third as good as the Tanners, but boy did it ever take a beating this summer. 🙁

      Reply
  • Rebecca, I have read about Freeland and Sabrina through your words for years, glimpsed at pieces of their property from time to time and I understand your respect and friendship, the 3 of you are kindred spirits. Freeland has a spirit with his designs I can just feel, see ‘so more’ and want to touch. Sabrina’s magic with plants and natural beauty is equally evident. What a luck of the draw of life to become dear friends with kindred spirits. The 3 of you are extended family, I’m guessing. I’m WOWED.

    Reply
    • ‘Luck of the draw of life’ is so perfectly put, Sheila, you’re so right. I feel so lucky to have them as friends as they enrich my life so, so much. As do YOU! 🙂

      Reply
  • Our garden club visited the Tanner garden numerous years ago. I do not see your answer to the question if there is currently a way to arrange for a visit? Otherwise, would you consider putting together a program touring their garden with a selection of these wonderful photographs?

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy, lucky you to have visited their garden! Occasionally they’ll host fundraisers at their garden, but quite honestly they’re so busy that they value their downtime and have really minimized the tours they offer. If my life slows down a bit (please, oh please slow down!!) I just might put together a presentation of their garden – that’s a wonderful idea. I hope you’re doing well and enjoying the beginning of fall. 🙂

      Reply
  • What a wonderful garden! Is this garden open to the public and/or by appointment?
    If so, how do you contact to make appointment?

    Reply
  • Just stunning, I also live on one acre, how long has this garden been in the process? Keep giving us those fantastic tours!

    Reply
    • Hi Susan, this garden has been in Freeland’s family for generations but I’m not sure how long Freeland and Sabrina have been working on it. If I were to guess, I’d say somewhere between 20-30 years. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply
  • Amazing garden. I would love to see a birds eye view to picture how all the rooms knit together. Just spectacular!

    Reply
  • Wonderful Wood carving!!! What kind of paint did you use on the last one? And also what impressive work you have done on your garden! This is truly amazing picture! Thanks for posting all of them to give us some ideas!

    Reply
  • Hi Rebecca, I sow an episode on hgtv the Gardener’s diary about this beautiful couple Sabrina and Freelan Tanner in their garden. The episode was call ” Napa Denign garden” and in their garden they show that they have this beautiful red climbing rose against a fence. I would like to know what’s the name of that climbing red rose? They said it blooms almost all the time. I found the article about their garden but it doesn’t mention the name of that red climbing rose.
    Thanks so much and I’ ll be waiting for your response.

    Reina.

    Reply
    • Hi Reina – I heard back from Sabrina re: the rose and here’s her reply: “I believe the climbing rose is a small red rose named “Chevy Chase”. I does, however, only bloom in the spring for about 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the weather situation that spring.”

      Reply
  • wow. how amazing. thank you for sharing this. Freedland’s art and their gardens really do look like they came from the same artist. So much attention to detail and making things ‘sing’ in their beauty.

    Reply
  • Rebecca: What a lovely garden… from the metal gate to the gardens mixed with edibles and ornamentals. Thanks for such a delightful garden tour. There were lots of good ideas to take away from this one… All the best, Teresa

    Reply
  • I’m so in love with that gate. Matter of fact I love all the metalwork they have included in the garden. The width of the metal in the towers and that lovely green color throughout is so beautiful.

    Reply
  • Love the idea for the series, and this inaugural post is just spectacular. The Tanners have it all — amazing garden structures, woodwork, great eye for planting. Thanks, Rebecca.

    Reply
  • How wonderful to create a garden within the ‘bones’ of your families’ gardening history…a true legacy for the future. How large is this property? I get the impression it is much smaller than it looks?
    Thank you for sharing it with us

    Reply
    • Their property is 1 acre, fully landscaped. Because of the way it’s laid out, though, it seems much bigger and you could spend HOURS there wandering from ‘room to room’…glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  • Wow. One of the most interesting gardens I’ve seen in a long time. I would want to live smack dab in the middle of the Beatrix Potter part though, rather than in the more formal area. And what is that white-leaved plant next to the conical conifer? Drool!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly – I’d like to live there, too – just curl up in that little potting shed! That white-leaved plant is a Fallopia japonica ‘variegata’ (and they’re holding one for me because I loved theirs so much – yippee!).

      Reply
  • What an amazing garden! I’m blown away that they care for it all themselves. In addition to the amazing structures, sculptures and collections, it seems like they are getting a lot of beautiful, colorful effects from shrubs and grasses – I didn’t notice many flowers. Is that a reflection of the time of year? Because if not, it really shows that flowers can be just one tiny element of a successful garden – if you’ve got the talent and the commitment to pull it off.

    Reply
  • The garden structures and hardscape really add to the magic, don’t they? Just like the studio in your own garden, they offer a destination and vouch for the fact that this is an inhabited garden, rather than one merely for show. The peaked roofs hearken to fairy tales and pull from visitors childlike wonder. His woodworking is amazing, too. I’m glad you took so many photos!

    Reply
    • Thank you Debra – you’re absolutely right – this garden creates a childlike wonder in everyone who sees it.

      Reply
  • Your tour of the Tanners’ home and garden is breathtaking. Now I can put the name with exceptional images of their personal space next time I run into one of their design projects.
    Thanks, Rebecca!
    xo Alice

    Reply
  • What an incredible garden and incredible gardeners. It’s all just breath-takingly beautiful. I’d love to spend a couple days just wandering around. So inspiring.

    Reply
  • I enlarged and studied the details of each and every photo. You definitely have my attention. Rebecca, I don’t know how you can top the artistry and charm of the Tanner’s garden but i am eagerly awaiting part II of your series.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, for your comment. I sure hope I can live up to this post’s success! The next featured will certainly have some pretty big shoes to fill!

      Reply
  • I’M DEAD!!! Another beauty overdose courtesy of Sweetest Rebecca!
    It is just TOO incredible – this is the kind of garden that inspired me to garden in the first place! When I started opening my eyes to the fact that some people were creating WORLDS in their gardens, I wanted a piece of that!!!
    This garden beautifully illustrates all of the tenants of good design, but it adds something else – the magic. You explain it so well … it is a spirit that is unique to this place, and is so well done that it transcends any attempt to categorize it. So fantastic, and you unfolded it for us so well!
    Thank you DOLL!!! Extra BIG thank you’s!!!
    XOXOIvette

    Reply
    • Thanks Germi, DP, Charlotte, Townie, Annie and the rest – you’ve all been so generous with your compliments and believe me, it makes me so unbelievably happy that you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Thank you all SO much. MWAH!!!

      Reply
  • That’s pretty incredible, and also so encouraging. Some people think you can only have a beautiful garden if you have a big staff ready to do your bidding. It’s clear what you really need is passion — and a willingness to do what needs to be done.

    Great post!

    Reply
  • Oh my gosh, this in INSANE. I hardly even know where to start commenting. The Cypress Arbor was the first thing to make me swoon, then their foliage combinations and their good use of containers in the garden…

    And then his ART! Amazing. I have trouble comprehending how it’s all put together, but wow oh wow. It’s spellbinding.

    Thanks for the tour into the Tanners’ garden and work. Beautiful.

    Reply
    • Thanks Gen, Pam, Angela and Eileen – it’s truly an incredible place and I’m so glad you got a little ‘taste’ of this gem through my post! I wish you all could see it in person, though, as I’m sure it would touch your soul as it did mine….thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • Eileen is right. What a magical and extraordinary garden. A perfect marriage of plants and hardscape, with the personal touches that make it uniquely theirs. I like how they tied all the woodwork together with that blue-green paint color. Thanks for giving us a tour!

    Reply
  • Rebecca, what a magical place. I think you are on the mark about Beatrix Potter, I thought I saw Peter and his cousin Benjamin and Squirrel Nutkin all scurrying around the Tanner’s property!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful place with all of us.

    Eileen

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top