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. One that’s brimming with Freeland’s deeply personal art.
I try and visit their Napa garden at least once a year, so by now I feel like I know it pretty well. Boy was I in for a surprise. There were so many changes, it was 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 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 their world as they knew it stopped in its tracks. And 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. It’s what allowed him to deal with the fact that his world could quite possibly shatter (which it didn’t, thank God.) 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.
Welcome to Sabrina’s Temple
I’ve always been fascinated with Freeland’s mounds of interesting shaped sticks and twigs, his stacks of old grape-stake fencing, piles of pots and artfully displayed groupings of watering cans, antique sprinklers and hoses each carefully tucked away in the far corners of the garden. You’ll see they’ve found their true purpose in life!
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, however, there’s a new focal point – Sabrina’s Temple.
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.
In the center of the cutting garden is this antique urn with a twist – flower pots instead of flowers.
Just say ‘No’ to naked vertical surfaces
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.
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.
Arbors, gates, and tuteurs
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!
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 © 2010-2017 by Rebecca Sweet for Harmony in the Garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.