Gabion walls – when do you take the rocks out?


Seriously, that is the most frequently asked question.  My answer is that the rocks are wild and can not be released from their cages.

I recently hosted one of my favorite projects, Oakdell Sanctuary, on the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden tour.  Many people were fascinated by the gabion wall that I had designed.  Unfortunately there are the vocal few that don’t get it and flat out don’t like it.  There are some that have changed their minds once they see the plants grow in and soften the effect of the wall.   Still others clearly understand when they get out of their cars and stand on the inside of the wall.

I always wanted to do a gabion somewhere and this location presented the perfect opportunity.  The project is on a curve on a main street that is heavily trafficked.  The wall will protect anyone walking on the path from any stray cars.  No car will go through that wall.  The wall needs zero maintenance and it is not coming down in an earthquake.

For those and any others that are fascinated by the wall, I thought I would share some of the construction process.  A shout out to Andreas Hessing of Scrub Jay Studios for his generosity in sharing advice and tips.


The cages were delivered flat, much the same as a moving box you would purchase and then have to assemble.  There are various methods used in lacing the boxes together, but ours came with lengths of wire in an Archimedes coil.  This was very cool because if you got the sides lined up correctly and just started inserting the coil, it would then take off and run itself down and sew a perfect seam.

The boxes needed to be filled and reinforced one foot at a time.  It is a bit tricky at the end to make sure you fill the box completely but not too much that it bulges, so you can get it laced up nice and tidy.



The plantings add the finishing touch.  In this case, I chose plants that are suited for bird habitat, creating a mini bird sanctuary.  “Are you getting a lot of birds?” they ask.  If you build it, they will come.

For those who are still confused, the rocks stay in the cages.



iris in sunlight

It was more than a garden party, it was a gathering of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.  A little bit daunting was the thought of professional designers descending upon my little garden.  How silly of me to even have had the slightest trepidation.  Because the designers are the ones that roam around observing the slightest little details, commenting, touching, smelling, exclaiming, questioning.  After everyone left, I had a greater appreciation for my own garden and took the opportunity to stroll around and look at it from a different pair of eyes.  It is glorious spring and so much is happening in one little space.

DSC_0201 goldfinches DSC_0196

landscapers who lunch


Who would think that in the fall and winter you could make such beautiful arrangements straight from the garden?  One of my native gardens has so much going on right now, that I could be cutting for days and you wouldn’t know it. All of these arrangements came from that one garden.  I have been having such fun with it that I would like to share some of my creations.  Since they all have mostly the same flowers, I will save the plant list until the end.

The first one I made for a client.  They have a brand newly planted garden, so I thought I would give them some instant color on their patio.  The mix of blue, gold and red berries make for a dramatic splash of color.  The only non-native in there is the Phormium ‘Maori Queen’ , which I added from their garden.

Since I became jealous of my clients arrangement, I decided to make one for myself.  So this one went out on my patio.

Well, then I needed one for inside the house…and I will tell you now what this is because you are probably going to be as instantly in love with it as I was.  It is Eriogonum Giganteum, or Saint Catherine’s Lace, and this one inflorescence measures about 18” in diameter.  Add the Leymus and the whole thing is about 3’ wide.

Finally, my holiday swag.  So simple, it took me longer to tie the bow than to bunch the greens.

Plants used are Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’, Sambucus mexicana, Heteromeles arbutifolia species and ‘Davis Gold”, Artemisia tridentata, Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, Eriogonum Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum fasciculatum


I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to someone’s house and they have these ugly green extensions running from their downspouts.  Or else the downspouts empty out right at the base of the foundation.  And, of course, the old standby of sending the rain water into the street.  None of these is a good situation.

Oftentimes the fix is so simple and so much more attractive.  In this garden, we created a small creek bed, digging down around 18” and filling in with rocks that the owners already had on the property.  It was a handy use for the rocks and now the water is directed away from the house in a more attractive way and will head out towards the Meyer Lemon tree and other plants that will appreciate the extra water when the rains come.