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Lani Freymiller’s Garden – Green and Serene

by Rebecca Sweet

As part of my ongoing series, Gardeners and their Gardens, I’d like to introduce you to a garden I visited a few months ago in southern California.

I believe each garden is an expression of its creator’s soul, and that if you pay attention, you can literally feel the blood, sweat and tears that went into it’s creation.  You know that feeling when you walk into a garden, no matter how large or small it is, and you’re taken by surprise, completely caught off guard by the feeling it stirs deep within you?  That’s its soul, and it’s something that can’t be duplicated. Come with me and see for yourself….

A few months ago I had the privilege of visiting one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen, coupled with meeting one of the most generous women I’ve ever met.  This was the garden of Lani Freymiller, and it’s rustic yet elegant style took my breath away the moment I drove down the driveway.

See the blacktop in this photo?  This is her driveway.  Notice the vignette Lani has created on a traditionally utilitarian part of the home. I’ve never seen a driveway entrance this alluring.

Lani uses a limited color palette in her garden, mainly choosing plants in the green family. In design, this is referred to as a monochromatic planting, meaning it consists of the main color’s many different tints, tones and shades. While it may seem simple to do, it isn’t.

It’s actually quite challenging to create a successful monochromatic garden such as this, requiring a skillful blend of a color’s subtle variations as well as foliage size, form, texture, etc.  Colors ranging from cheery chartreuse to the restful tones of dark green help create an overall feeling of lush serenity.

Many people are afraid to try their hand at creating a monochromatic garden for fear of it becoming boring – but you can see from these photos it’s anything but!

To keep a limited plant palette exciting it’s important to not only mix in various shades of green, but the occasional gray-green as well.  The silvery color helps break up the sea of green, adding much needed subtle (yet interesting) contrast.Silver is especially important when using a combination of very dark greens. While dark greens are beautiful, creating a lush and elegant atmosphere, if you use too many they can all begin to blend together.

The gray-green of this pittosporum helps to add a jolt of excitement to this alluring combination.Lani isn’t a purist, however, and in addition to all the green in her garden she has strategically placed a few colors, such as yellow and blue, to cheerfully mingle throughout.  The colors are placed near one another, such as the yellow flowers of the helianthus on the right side of the path which mirror the yellow lemons on the left side, creating an overall effect of perfect harmony and balance.

Even the little details are given attention, helping to knit all areas of the garden together; such as the bouquets of flowers on one of her many seating areas in coordinating colors.

Lani is clearly an artist.
Lani is an artist in so many areas of her life.  After meeting her for just a few hours it’s clear she’s a very special woman who has touched many, many people.

To give you an example, when she taught grade school, every year she’d have her students read Linnea in Monet’s Garden.  And at the end of the year, Lani took them to her garden to relive the experience of a Linnea in a true Provencial style garden.   Lucky, lucky children!

Many of these children remained friends with Lani through the years and as adults, have returned to the garden (some even getting married here!)  Lucky, lucky grown-ups!

Throughout her expansive garden are many intimate garden rooms secretly carved out among the boxwood hedges, each containing seating areas and charming vignettes.

This garden is not one that you want to zip through, but rather one that you want to spend an entire afternoon (or two!) slowly savoring every detail…These are the lovely ladies whom I toured the garden with – all delightful, all very special to me.  From left to right: Phyllis Flood, Devonna Hall, Debra Lee Baldwin and Lani Freymiller.

I’m so thankful to have been brought into their world for the day!




sheila schultz December 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Lani’s garden is a dream that will take time to digest. You are so right that she is an artist, one that is a gift to those of us that just want time to poke and prod through her work. Thank you.

Rebecca Sweet December 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

You’re absolutely right, Sheila, this garden definitely is a dream that takes time to digest! In fact, I have several other posts about this garden that I’ll write focusing on different concepts. Hope you find them just as enjoyable!

Curbstone Valley Farm December 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

A stunning garden! I love well executed monochromatic gardens, and I agree, it’s not easy. My first garden was very shaded, not much direct sun at all, so plants that bloomed were rare. It took me some time to learn to be brave with textures, rather than colors, but I absolutely loved the effect, and was sad to leave that garden behind. I really like the vertical elements in the garden too, as they draw the eye upward, and provide more visual interest. I think everyone should have a swing, or two, in their garden. A wonderful idea!

Rebecca Sweet December 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

Yes, everyone should have a swing shouldn’t they!! We have one that my daughter and her friends (16 and 17 years old!) still use whenever they’re outside. You’re never too old for a swing!

Fishtail Cottage December 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

oh, i love your gardens….i too am a gardener & can appreciate all your hard work that goes into your passion! hope you come visit me! i host a garden party on Thursdays (will start up again in March ’12) hugs. tracie

Rebecca Sweet December 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Tracie – I’m so glad you stopped by and enjoyed seeing this garden. If I’m ever in your area, I’d most definitely love to stop by!

Debra Lee Baldwin December 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Hi, Rebecca — It was so much fun touring Lani’s garden with you that day! Interesting point about silver grays and gray-greens. I see what you mean — nearly every photo shows how expertly Lani uses them.

Theresa Loe December 7, 2011 at 9:40 am

I met Lani and visited her garden over 14 years ago! I am so thrilled to see it is just as beautiful as it was then. I had no idea you were going to see her. There are several “over-the-top-talented” gardeners in that area, each with the most gorgeous gardens. It is a great place to visit. So glad you had the chance to see that.

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

Theresa – I can assure it’s only improved! I went with Debra Lee Baldwin and she, too, had visited it many years ago who said it’s better than ever! Wish you could’ve been with us that day!

lisa mitchell December 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

Wow…what a gorgeous and peaceful garden. As someone who has very limited opportunity for color I know all too well how challenging it is. Her garden is breathtaking and inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

You’re welcome, Lisa. Knowing your taste in gardens, I can honestly say you would’ve dropped over dead had you been there. It’s THAT beautiful.

Kathleen December 7, 2011 at 8:41 am

Oh, how beautiful. I’m one of those people who would be afraid I couldn’t pull off the monochromatic scheme ~ Lani’s garden is very inspiring! How wonderful to have a space like hers to enjoy every day. Happy holidays to you & your family too Rebecca ~ I’m hoping to find your new book under the tree!!

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

Oh Kathleen, thank you so much for stopping by! I’m so glad you liked Lani’s garden. It’s truly one of my favorite gardens I’ve ever visited and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to do so! I hope Santa brings you a copy of our book!! He’s a gardener in his down-time so I think your chances are pretty high! :)

Wife Mother Gardener December 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Wonderful tour with some beautiful photos! I love the green arch over the seating area. So inviting.

I find myself often introducing at least a touch of silver to help lighten plantings and add a fresh life.

Beautiful blog! Glad I stumbled over for a visit.

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hi Julie – I love that arch over the seating area also. Isn’t it just gorgeous? I’m really glad you stumbled by, as well!

Katie December 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

Just beautiful! I especially love all the divisions that keep a secret about what is coming next. Thank you for sharing!

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 8:47 am

Hi Katie, yes those divisions are perfect for creating hidden rooms. Without them, the large space might’ve been a little too overwhelming to take in. Lani did such a brilliant job with her garden!

Pam/Digging December 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I love your garden tours, Rebecca. This is a special one.

Rebecca Sweet December 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

Thanks Pam. I know you would’ve loved touring with us.

Barbara H. December 5, 2011 at 6:55 am

What a beautiful garden. I love that Lani’s outfit goes with her garden! It looks huge and the ability to keep it so interesting with shape and texture is no small feat. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Rebecca Sweet December 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Barbara, Lani was such an amazing person to meet. Her entire ‘world’ is coordinated with her garden – her outfit, the interior of her gorgeous home, her lifestyle. She’s such an inspiration!

greenwords December 5, 2011 at 1:46 am

Amazing, glorious, beautiful!

Rebecca Sweet December 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm


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