Gabion fences at Canada Blooms 2016

Canada Blooms 2016 may be over, but my mind keeps returning to this show garden from Jacob’s Gardenscape. I don’t know which criteria earned it the Most Innovative Garden award, but the gabion fences were really interesting.

If you’ve spent time on the trails along Toronto’s Don or Humber rivers, you’ve probably noticed the original purpose for gabions. Typically, these big, galvanized-wire-caged boxes filled with hunks of stone offer a cheap and effective way to shore up slopes and prevent erosion.

Recently, though, landscape designers have recognized their utility and even their style in the garden. I’ve seen them elegantly curved as low retaining walls, or capped with glass for tables or with wood for benches. And the big hunks of stone have become more refined. I’ve even seen them replaced with colourful wine bottles. Let’s look at some of the ways they were used by Jacob’s Gardenscape.

Jacob’s trimmed theirs to roughly the thickness of a glossy design magazine, and the fill is mostly pea gravel. But how do you like that central strip? It sparkles slightly as you walk past and, lit from behind, it glows.
The translucent material is crushed glass which, from the cube-shaped shards, must be safety glass. Two different-size wire grids sandwiching it all in place add their patterns to the mix. Probably, they also helped keep those lines perfectly level.
Along the long sides of the garden, the lighter strips had a warmer, pearly glow. A closer look showed why: they were filled with small white shells. In a real-life Canadian garden, it would be hard to know how shells would stand up to weather extremes. But it was a nice surprise to see, and fun to think of possible alternatives. Marbles, perhaps?
Jacob’s used pea gravel as patio paving, too. Permeable and “olde-worldey,” this softer hardscaping is relatively quick and easy to lay and crunches satisfyingly underfoot. (And note that Jacob’s show garden was one of the few to also include a ramp for people who’d find the surface and steps a challenge. Kudos for that.) When your furniture has thick legs like these rustic seats, why would you need harder paving? By the way, see the small gabions edging the garden?
The exit mirrored the entrance for this pleasant space. Altogether, it had a nice fusion: the simple lines of pergolas and fences gave it a little Asian zen; the pebble paving contributed a pinch of old-world Europe; while the Muskoka chairs gave it North American familiarity. And, now, it has me thinking creatively about gabions, and hoping they aren’t the “recycled pallets” flavour of the month. What do you think?



  1. This was actually my and my husband's favourite garden this year! It was the only one that made us say "Whoa!" the minute we entered. We found out later that the designer is a friend of a friend so that made it so much nicer!

    Thanks for your explanation of the gabions. I had no idea what to call them and was resorting to "wire, rock thingy" when telling my husband that I liked the small garden edging that was being used in this sample.

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