Gabions can be versatile elements in landscaping architecture – they can offer sturdy, unique solutions for several different projects while being highly customisable and having an aesthetic appeal. As the overall popularity of gabions has shown a growth in the past years, most self-builders or landscapers are already familiar with the concept of gabion architecture. However, with the wide range of choices among gabion cages, you may be looking for some guidance on what types of gabions are best for different landscaping projects.
One of the most common gabion projects are certainly gabion benches and other types of seating features made using gabion baskets. These are crowd favourites for a reason – they are environmentally friendly and highly customisable, bringing a modern, clean look into your garden. You can choose anything to fill the baskets as long as the fillers are bigger than the hole size. Gabion seating is especially beneficial during the summers, as the spaces between the stones give room for air to circulate, making it less prone to overheating. They are free draining, allowing water to move between the stones, seen in the photo above. This way, water won’t get stuck inside your structure.
Another benefit is that stones aren’t held in place by mortar, giving the bench additional stability, as the stones can move around, adapting to the ground. A way to ensure further stability is placing the gabions on a flat surface, such as paving stones. However, you can also place them on the ground; just remember that if there is any visible unevenness, it’s better to do some digging in order to make it more secure.
A slightly more elaborate, but impressive, way to use gabion baskets is a summer kitchen or barbecue area. As it’s important for such structures to be stable and refrain from moving over time, gabions can be a great option – given their sturdy nature, you can rest assured that they will pass the test of time. It is recommended to place the baskets on a flat surface in order to achieve the best results. Alan Titchmarsh and his team collaborated with Wire Fence in order to build a Mediterranean-style summer kitchen, seen in the photo on the right.
As with any other type of outdoor cooking area, you would, of course, need a worktop, which you can customise any way you like. This particular project features colourful tiles on top, furthering the Mediterranean style of the garden. However, you can opt for any surface material, as long as it’s suited for outdoor use. Wooden tops can give your summer kitchen a rustic vibe, while choosing a marble top can help you achieve a clean, modern look.
Since the gabions are made of galfan-coated steel, the baskets, as well as the cooking surface, would be rust resistant, so you can clean your kitchen areas as you like. This type of outdoor furniture is easy and cheap to maintain, you wouldn’t need any special products to clean it, a steel brush at most. For wooden cooking surfaces, you’d need oil to treat the surface before putting it to use; however, afterwards you can clean it by simply using dish soap.
Another fun project for your garden is building a gabion planter. One of its advantages is the fact that you can make it as small or big as you like – the right-hand photo features a rather large example, following the length of the garden. However, you can make a smaller planter as well, by using just one gabion cage for your project.
There are multiple ways of creating gabion planters. You can place smaller panels into the gabions to make a smaller planter inside the basket and fill the gap between the cage and planters with stones or pebbles. This is especially effective in the case of smaller planters, as you can make the ‘wall’ of the planter thinner this way. Alternatively, for results seen in the photo, you can form a planter using gabions as the whole barrier.
There are several perks of gabion planters – they offer good drainage, so the plants don’t experience root rot while giving a sleek, aesthetically-pleasing look to your garden. They also tend to be long lasting, having a much longer lifespan than most other planters. Some plants, like strawberries and lettuce, tend to thrive in these types of raised planters. For better results, line the inside of the planter with geotextile to prevent the soil from seeping through the gaps between the stone.
Last but not least, one of the most versatile things you can create with gabions are walls – these can be retaining walls (used commonly in garden architecture for creating levels) or decorative walls. However, a wall can be both decorative and retaining, as seen in the right-hand photo. This structure also doubles down as a seating feature, allowing its users to sit on its lower levels while providing shade on the area it surrounds.
Gabion walls are an inexpensive alternative to other types of walls. They offer good drainage, preventing the water from building up behind the wall and making the overall structure more stable. Since the baskets are made of flexible materials, the wall doesn’t crack. This means that they are really sturdy, and they only fail when their wire breaks. Typical gabion walls nowadays are expected to have a lifespan of 40 to 60 years.
Such walls have a relatively small carbon footprint since they can be filled with already-discarded materials. However, even pebbles or stones are more environmentally friendly than most other wall-building materials. Smaller retaining walls in your garden, for example, can be used to create seating areas, just like in the picture or even larger planters, by placing potted plants between the stones, so it gives the illusion that the plants are growing between the stones.
When deciding to build a gabion wall, there are some things you should consider. First, you need to make sure you have a stable and hard sub-base for the wall, like compacted MOT or cement. For each meter in the height of the wall, you would need 10cm of sub-base. For example, for a 2m tall wall, you’d need 20cm of sub-base. Additionally, if you are planning on installing taller walls, the 5mm wire diameter should be used as it minimises the bulging and gives the wall more longevity.
Overall, the most important thing when building any type of landscaping structure should be proper documentation. Every material has its own perks and disadvantages, and at the end of the day, you are the one who knows your needs the most. When in doubt, consulting with an expert can go a long way and save you some headaches in the long run.