Soundscaping The Garden: Creating An Audible Landscape
The garden can be the most magical place in your home.
For many people, their garden is a safe haven. Surrounding yourself with foliage and flowers that you’ve grown is satisfying! It can also be a wonderful place to relax and absorb nature.
But the garden needs more than just beautiful sights and smells. Another essential element in the garden is sound. This adds more life to your garden and makes it even more inviting.
Here are some simple ways for you to bring audible elements to your garden.
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Make It Inviting To Avian Wildlife
Imagine walking through a peaceful forest or park. What do you hear? There are sounds of birdsong, twittering, or fluttering wings.
Many of us associate nature with the sound of birds. Inviting birds to your garden can add life, color, and peaceful serenity.
Enticing birds to stay is surprisingly easy and hassle-free. A few simple items can give your feathered friends a year-round home.
Begin by setting up bird feeders to provide food. Be sure that you opt for the types of bird feed which are best for your local wildlife! Some birds will also happily eat garden pests.
Adding a birdbath provides the necessary water for drinking and bathing. People in colder climates should opt for a heated birdbath to prevent winter freezes.
Nesting boxes or bird houses entice these birds to move in and live where there’s ample food and water. Ensure these are placed out of the range of predators for their safety!
Be sure to position these bird-attracting tools away from the sides of structures. This prevents accidental collisions with windows and protects the birds from your pets.
With these items, you’ll have the cheerful chittering sounds of birds year-round. You’ll be able to enjoy the sights of many different species visiting. You might even get to see fledglings take their first flight!
Make A Splash With Water Features
Trickling, running water provides a relaxing atmosphere in your garden. A waterfall or fountain can ensure you’ve got that beautiful burbling sound year-round.
If you like to do DIY projects, you can build your own waterfall. These can be easy to make with materials from your favorite big-box store. Pumps to keep the water circulating, tubing, liners, and the like are readily available.
Waterfalls can be built with stone, concrete, or even wood or plastic. The sky is the limit when envisioning your future water features!
Want something simpler? A basic fountain may be easier to place. Found in garden and home-improvement centers, a wide variety of styles are available. These are easy to install and offer you instant gratification.
Even a pond that houses koi or other fish can provide audible elements. The fish will occasionally splash and play in their habitat. Be sure that the water is always in motion to prevent mosquitos from breeding in your water element!
Water sounds are relaxing and wonderful elements to add to your landscaping. By adding these features, you’ll be bringing sweet tranquility into your backyard space.
Add A Crunch Underfoot
Don’t neglect what you walk on, which can also make noise!
Adding stone mulches can create clattering effects. Gravel nicely crunches underfoot, as does wood chip mulch. Even the shifting sound of grass crumpling under your weight can be lovely.
Consider the function of your ground-level material as well as its sound. If you’ve got rocky soil, the last thing you’ll want to do is to add more rocks. Wood chips add body to the soil but break down over time and require replacement.
Areas with high traffic may need a different treatment. Paving stones can give you a steady surface to stroll across in these regions. Other mulches can be placed around them to prevent weed development.
Be sure to add some form of weed blocker beneath your mulch or pathways. Landscaping fabric allows water to seep through while preventing weeds from developing. Although a thick layer of mulch may deal with most weeds, this stops even persistent ones. Even some cardboard layered underneath the pathways can act as a short-term weed deterrent.
Low, broad-leafed plants can add another sound element. As you walk past, they create a soft sound as they brush against your legs. A slight overhang of plants over your pathways looks lush, and invites sound in.
Tempt The Wind With Plants And Toys
Have you ever heard the surreal sound of bamboo whistling in the wind? It can create the most haunting harmonics in your yard.
But bamboo isn’t the only plant that responds well to the wind. Plants with round leaves or hollow stems provide soft rustling or whistling sounds. Tall grasses shift with a soft hissing susurration.
A wide variety of plants will provide multiple different sound effects to your yard. And for that matter, they’ll respond well to rain hitting them too!
But plants aren’t the only toys that the wind likes to play with. There’s an array of manmade options which can heighten your senses, too.
Wind chimes are probably the most well-known of these. Ranging anywhere from inexpensive to pricey, these create multiple types of sound. Sonorous and low or high-pitched and tinkling, even clattering if they’re made of wood or shell, these chimes create a tapestry of sound.
Simply hanging bells from tree branches can work in a similar fashion. This is traditional amongst some cultures abroad. It can create the perfect environment in a meditation garden, especially on a breezy day!
Not all wind toys must be hung up high. You can place pinwheels or spinners in various locations, too. These provide visual complexity and sometimes a soft sound as well.
If you live in an area that has regular breezy conditions, make use of it to create beautiful music!
Prevent The Sounds You Don’t Want
Not only is it important to add sounds, but it’s essential to subtract those you don’t want in your sacred space. This is especially true for people who live on busy streets or who have noisy neighbors. Outside sound can interfere with peaceful activities like meditation or relaxation.
Sound travels in a straight line and bounces off hard surfaces. To soundproof your garden, use hard surfaces like tall fencing. External and undesired sound will reflect back toward its origin.
But don’t forget that acoustic fencing will also reflect sounds from the inside. This can act like a magnifier, making the existing audible sounds of your yard much more obvious.
Be mindful of your neighbors when creating a sound wall. The last thing you want to do is subject your neighbors to sounds they don’t want to hear!
Add An Audio System
Sometimes, a little classical music can heighten your mood. You might enjoy the sounds that nature’s bounty creates, but a little music may be required. Don’t forget, your yard is for entertaining, too, and it might be hard to dance to wind chime sounds!
In situations like that, consider an outdoor sound system. There are a wide range of options available. Waterproof speakers can be placed on the ground or mounted on walls. Other types may require sheltered locations.
If you’ve got a pool, special speakers are made to install underwater. You can pipe in the sound of whale songs while you swim if you’d like!
And these speakers aren’t just for musical endeavors. You can play a thunderstorm during a midsummer evening. A little birdsong may encourage your local garden dwellers to sing. And who doesn’t like the sound of frogs on a humid evening?
Whether you choose relaxing or invigorating, your outdoor sound system can provide it.
Seek Inspiration From Cultural Elements
Have you ever experienced a Japanese zen garden? These culturally-inspired gardens are filled with traditional sound devices that entice the senses.
At a Japanese tea garden, you might find tsukubai. This is a low stone basin often fed by a pipe made of bamboo. It’s traditionally used to purify one’s hands and mouth before entering the tea house.
The sound of water dripping into the tsukubai is a soft, meditative drip or a trickling sound. On occasion, there is a hidden metal piece that the water strikes, mimicking the sound of a koto bell.
A shishi odishi, or “scare the deer,” is another addition to zen gardens. This bamboo pipe catches flowing water on one end. When it fills to nearly overflowing, it tips to one side to drain out the water.
The sound of the bamboo pipe striking the bamboo framework as it tips creates a clacking sound. This would scare off deer or other wildlife who were encroaching on the tea house or sacred space. It’s also a very relaxing sound to humans!
But the Japanese are not the only culture to employ sounds in their landscaping. A tradition at Hindu temples is to hang bells at the entrances to their temples or around shrines. It’s believed that deities manifest where the bells are rung, making it a holy space.
In ancient Rome, tintinnabulum were placed in outdoor spaces. These were a form of wind chime believed to ward off evil spirits. Hung in porticos, covered walkways, or in gardens, these would chime in a passing breeze.
Not all cultural garden decor needs to be ancient in origin! I’ve seen some fantastic examples of repurposed or recycled materials used. Old forks and spoons, pieces of broken pottery, or other items can create symphonies of sound.
Even pop culture can be represented in the garden. My all-time favorite windchime was made out of old Star Wars action figures. It clacked and clattered whenever the wind made contact!