I turned the corner into the show gardens at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show this past weekend to be ultimately impressed with the use of gabions. What can be cooler than gabions? Simple, welded wire baskets made into functional sculpture. Really they’re the hard goods that tie the designs together, creating walls and planting opportunities.
It’s easy to see where people were gathering, within the confines of the garden itself, tucked in between river stone and succulents — mix in fab lighting and an oasis is made.
Gabions are a preferred erosion control measure. Used as retaining walls along hillsides and other sensitive areas. They can be made from any gauge of wire to suit the needs of a project, for load requirements or aesthetics.
I’ve seen them used along highways and the like but love their more recent use as design elements in commercial and residential landscapes. They’re rugged and modern, my favorite combination.
6 Uses for Gabions in Residential or Commercial Design:
- Create walls to retain soil and manage water or place them purely for aesthetics. Divide and create space, making garden rooms, direct foot traffic or lead the eye to a focal point.
- Create paths by lining walkways with gabions. Take cues from the landscape and how a space is to be used to determine size, style and placement.
- Gabions can double as planters. Grow drought tolerant plantings, succulents or whatever the climate will bear but choose plants that prefer sandy, well draining soils or ones you might include in a rock garden. However, I have seen bulbs growing from them. Your options change with the right planting medium and the amount of available water.
- Make a bench. Build it into an existing retaining wall or as a free standing seating area.
- Use them as an area of interest. They could simply be a design element or material taking the place of wood or concrete.
- Improve and manage water flow to a rain garden or other planting area. This is an idea I’d like to explore. I’ve just put it on my list of gardening techniques to investigate and put through trials.
Another idea I found and loved at the show was the use of bottles and moss to fill the gabions. And there are so many different choices for stone. The sky’s the limit.
Combine them with plants that run wild or that have their own, unique sculptural form and you might be on to something.
Thanks to all the designers, vendors and presenters at this year’s show. And special thanks to the gardens featured in this post, created by Treeline Designz and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. It was a weekend of inspiration and a perfect way to kick-off spring.
GROW WHAT YOU LOVE and pass it on.