The art and soul of Freeland Tanner

FreelandWhat 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.

I’ve written about this exceptional man and his equally impressive wife, Sabrina, many times before (here and here), as well featuring their garden in both of my books.

Some of you might even think I’m a bit of a stalker (debatable).

But in this post, instead of focusing on their glorious, skillful, and artistic planting combinations, I wanted to share with you another side of their garden.  The side that’s brimming with Freeland’s deeply personal art.GreenBar

antique Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor artI try and visit their Napa garden at least once a year, so by now I felt like I knew it pretty well. Boy ,was I in for a surprise.

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

Keep in mind, both Freeland and Sabrina are in-demand landscape designers who juggle several major projects at a time.

And there isn’t a team of people who tend their personal garden, either – it’s just the two of them.  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.   GreenBar

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden DecorAnd while everyone handles crushing news like this however best they can, Freeland’s own coping mechanism was to create.

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

I’m thrilled to say they’ve come through the other end of this frightening tunnel, with Sabrina being cancer-free now for over a year.

And instead of leaving a destructive path of wreckage in its wake, this life-altering scare transformed their already breathtaking garden into the most soulful one I’ve ever seen, overflowing with Freeland’s love for Sabrina.GreenBar

Welcome to Sabrina’s TempleGreenBar

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!

sticksFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-watering cansGreenBar

In the middle of their large 1-acre garden is an enclosed, colorful, and whimsical cutting garden, where flowers happily intermingle with herbs, edibles, and Freeland’s garden art.

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

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuildlingGreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden artFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden artGreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-Sapling edgingSapling edgingGreenBar

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 Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-clocheGreenBar

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden artSabrina's TempleGreenBar

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

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-flower pot decorGreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-flower pot decorFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-flower pot decorGreenBar

Just say ‘No’ to naked vertical surfacesGreenBar

Thank heavens for all the garden rooms that surround the cutting garden – each one enclosed by vine clad walls, trellises and fences.  They’re the perfect easels for Freeland’s glorious art.

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-watering cans-garden hose art

GreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden art-watering cans-garden hose artFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden tool art-garden art-garden hose art

GreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden art-garden tool art-antique garden tools--garden hose artFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden outbuilding-garden art-watering cans-garden hose art-Antique frog art

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Bird EstatesGreenBar

The Tanners love the wildlife that visits, pointing out the pair of owls that live in their tree, the fox that stealthily creeps along the 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.

Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-bespoke bird houses-garden art

GreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-bespoke bird houses-garden artTuteurs-Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-bespoke bird houses-garden art

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Arbors, gates, and tuteursGreenBar

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 without it going down the ‘uh oh – someone’s gone down the wrong road‘ look.  A rare gift, indeed!

Garden Tool Gate-Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden artFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden art-garden tool art

GreenBarTuteurVegetable tuteurs-Freeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-garden art

GreenBarFreeland Tanner-Garden Designer-Napa-Garden Decor-Bespoke Garden Decor-garden temple-bespoke bird houses-garden tool art-garden artBlue trellises

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

All material © 2010-2019 by Rebecca Sweet for Harmony in the Garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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23 Comments

  • 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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