The Sound of Music

Nature is a feast for the senses. Gardens are most often thought of as a sight for sore eyes. Gardening is seen as a visual, tactile and olfactory experience. Sight, touch and scent often come into play when one gardens. It's these senses rewarded that comfort and draw the gardener to the garden. Sound, and what it means in the garden is less of a consideration to many.

The sounds of nature are indeed music. The soothing sound of the ocean, the comfort of a steady rain, the whisper of a breeze through the leaves and their dance of delight in response--these and so many more sounds echo through the halls of the mind. Sounds are powerful enough to evoke images from our past. It's only natural that we, as gardeners, hear nature's song in many things and strive to enhance those sounds as one more way to seek and find comfort in our natural surroundings.

Creating sounds to block outside distractions
Sounds, of course, have different effects on people. Children laughing and playing might be music to their mother's ears, but to the neighbors trying to relax it's noise. If you're subjected to sounds from the world around you that infiltrate your garden nirvana, then replacing those with ones you find pleasing only makes sense. You might hang wind chimes to mask noise from the neighbor's yard. Something as simple and understated as that will take the focus off the perceived noise and soothe without becoming obtrusive to you or others.

Attracting the sounds from nature
Providing a habitat for wildlife goes far in bringing nature's symphony to your nirvana. Attracting birds is an excellent way to do this. Providing birdfeeders, birdhouses and water for various species specific to your area will fill your ears with their melodies while providing you a visual feast as well. An added benefit is that birds eat insects, which is a natural way to keep pest problems in check.

Encourage toads to come into your garden by also providing them with food, shelter and moisture. They can tolerate much drier conditions than frogs and dine on an array of garden pests, such as slugs, grubs, flies and grasshoppers, to name a few. Another bonus is they won't mistake your crops and plants for dessert. If you treat them well by providing for their basic needs, they will hibernate each winter and return again each spring. Even the humble toad knows a good thing when he sees it. It's like having a permanent baritone for your garden orchestra.

Adding water features
Water: the rush of it, the trickle of it, the stillness of it, just the very presence of it in the garden somehow alters a garden's mood. It is mysterious yet comforting, powerful yet calming. If nature hasn't seen fit to provide it for you, there are a myriad of ways to bring it into your space to delight nearly all the senses. You can build water features or you can buy them in many shapes and sizes and adapt them to fit in the smallest of locations. There are fountains and ponds with waterfall effects. The sound of moving water is one of the most soothing known to man. The reflective quality of water is nature's mirror. Water adds to the sight, sound, feel and overall essence of a garden in addition of being one of the best ways to tone down invasive sound.

Bringing indoor sounds outside
Waterproof outdoor speakers are more commonplace than ever before. They can be an extension of your indoor sound system. There are speakers designed to look like rocks in the landscape. They are unobtrusive and one of the best ways to deal with sound issues like traffic. Outdoor speakers can make areas of your landscape available for gatherings that might otherwise have been too polluted with noise. If you don't have the resources to incorporate a water feature into your garden, you can always employ one of the widely available tapes or CDs of prerecorded water sounds and still reap the benefits.

Chooses plants for sound quality
The choice of which plants to use is as individual as the people who create gardens. When thinking in terms of creating or enhancing sound, the choice of plants becomes important. Planting ornamental grasses, perennials, trees and shrubs with foliage and seedpods is essential. They offer an accompaniment to the breeze or a gentle wind. They softly clang like cymbals against each other, they rustle like satin against the breeze. It's these kinds of subtle nuances in the garden that draw us in, take center stage within us and effectively minimize offending sounds.

It really comes down to observing what needs change and then working with nature, not against it, to create harmony for the senses on varying levels. Trust in yourself, be creative, close your eyes and look with your other senses. This layering of experiences adds depth and warmth, and it invites you and your guests to immerse, from head to toe, in the pleasures of your garden.

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