left: The Woodstock Emperor gong is a dynamic addition to the garden. The bronze gong catches and reflects the sunlight brightening your garden while the subtle tones evoke a sense of peace. right: The lyrical ring of delicate garden bells brings wonderful music to a quiet garden.
Step into your garden, close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? Does your garden sound as pretty as it looks? Along with texture, color and fragrance, sounds help create a unique environment in your garden. Enhancing and manipulating these sounds make you the backyard conductor of your own garden orchestra. Composing a garden symphony is easy, just start with what you already have and build on it. So grab your wand (trowel) and begin.
The gentle hum of Mother Nature’s beauty is a great foundation. The sound of running water, the rustling of foliage, the call of birds and the buzz of bees create the underscore of your garden. Preserving and enhancing these garden sounds is a priority. Providing birdhouses, and nesting areas for wildlife will ensure a steady supply of natural sounds. Planting flowers that attract insects and bees will help keep these natural musicians in your garden.
left: An outdoor water fountain enriches the garden with mesmerizing water sounds while also providing visual stimulation. top right: A large fountain makes a grand statement in the garden. It can block out unwanted background noises while adding a distinct element of elegance. bottom right: A gently cascading waterfall is the most soothing of all sounds in a garden. Stacking flat stones is a perfect method of imitating the natural flow of water while enhancing the visual appeal of your garden.
Consider a fountain, brook or waterfall as the string section of your symphony. Rustling leaves murmuring in the wind add harmony. And when creating your garden’s design, choose plants that not only look good but “sound” good as well. Bamboo shoots braying side by side create rhythm. These are the woodwinds. Trees such as beech and oak cling to their leaves long into the winter where the whipping winds create soulful sounds. Soft hemlocks and pines can help mute unwanted noises by providing a green sound barrier while crescendos of dropping acorns add the element of surprise.
Metal gongs and silver wind chimes make up the brass section. Chimes, gongs and bells fill the air with a variety of sound. The addition of hand-tuned musical metal brings healing sounds to your patio or garden. The tranquil melodies of these outdoor musical instruments, powered by nature’s gentle breezes add to the harmony of your garden. Their physical movement contributes to the overall intrigue of the composition.
left: Rain chains and bells softly contribute to the sounds in the garden. Placing a rain barrel underneath enhances the sound of the falling rain while also conserving water. center: Wind chimes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials and are one of the most common sources of garden sounds. right: A garden bell hung near an entryway or gate is said to attract luck. Just another reason to include one in your garden.
Sometimes, the natural world brings an element of sound to brighten up your garden. Big fuzzy bees like these create a soothing hum as they go about finding nectar and spreading pollen.
Bullfrogs and cicadas are the percussion in the symphonic garden. Lush plants and secluded ponds foster habitats that will encourage these natives to keep the beat. Raindrops hitting the surface of a birdbath or dripping from a gutter chain also help keep time in the garden. Wind socks, wind spinners and flags crack and thrash in the current adding their voice to the garden song.
When creating your garden symphony leave no stone unturned. Consider walkways, wind chimes, flags, plants and fountains as your instruments. Their movements should harmonize with each other while creating distinctive sounds of their own. The most interesting garden symphonies combine a wide array of sounds. A well-balanced garden symphony will combine natures beauty with man made accessories to create a melodious paradise restorative to the soul.
A version of this article appeared in Carolina Gardener Volume 22 Number 9.
Photography courtesy of Kelly Bledsoe.