Landscaping Made Easy

Gabions Add Industrial Flare to Your Landscape

In addition to industrial uses, gabions can also be used as planters.
Mike Dooley, February 2018

“Gabion” is not the name of your daughter’s old boyfriend. Stemming from the Italian “gabbione,” or “big cage,” gabion is the term used to describe big cages of rock used for many purposes throughout history. The ancient Egyptians used gabion-like reed baskets filled with rocks to prevent erosion along the Nile River.

Leonardo da Vinci designed a type of gabion that served as the foundation for the San Marco Castle in Milan.

In more recent history, they have been used as temporary fortifications for the military, or for controlling river bank erosion and retaining walls along highways. You may have seen them along Route 4 in the Jemez Mountains retaining steep slopes.

Designers now use them to get that “industrial look” both commercially and in residential landscapes. Gabions are constructed using woven wire, particularly heavy galvanized wielded wire.

Gabions can also be fasioned into planters. These structures are basically a wire box inside a larger wire box. The rock goes in between the boxes and the interior of the smaller box is lined with a few layers of heavy weed barrier or a large plastic garden pot, then filled with soil and planted.

Gabions can also be used around a mail box or as a free standing “pot” that only a thief with a forklift can steal. Picking the rock for the interior determines the look of your planter so be creative. Kits can be purchased online or at locally-owned, Maccaferri, located at 8909 Washington Street. Nice sized gabion cages can be purchased for under $30.

For the DIY’ers, gabions can be put together using rolls of concrete form steel. Keep in mind the gabion is only as good as the steel so spending a little more for galvanized steel is money well spent. A trick to installation: tie the sides together at every 1’ of height to prevent bulging sides.


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