Friday, August 10, 2012

Making Beautiful Music

      When a garden is designed, certain design elements are used, such as, form, texture, shape, color, and scale.  One of the most overlooked design elements is sound.  Sound is often taken for granted and just assumed that nature will provide, which it usually does, but when you incorporate sound into your garden, you enrich the gardening experience. 
      There are a few types of sound we find in the garden.  Geophony is sound created by geophysical activity in the earth system such as wind, rain, thunder and water flow.   With this in mind, planting certain trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials can create unique sounds in a breeze, such as, whispering, rustling or rattling.  A fountain or a stream and pond can bring the sound of water to your garden.
     Biophony encompasses the array of sounds generated by the earth system’s living entities.  These include birds, amphibians, insects and mammals.  Planting large growing trees will attract squirrels, which can fill the air with their chatter.  Trees and shrubs offer protection and nesting areas for birds and planting plenty of berry bearing plants seed head perennials will supply winter food.   A pond will attract frogs which not only help control mosquitoes, but will provide a nightly chorus.
     Finally, there is anthrophony, or man-made sounds.  These are the sounds of traffic, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, or rowdy neighbors and playing children.  Some of these sounds we welcome and others we can do without.  Planting a dense hedge not only creates a visual barrier, but it can also block sound.  A well placed water feature can also help to reduce unwanted noise.

From the sound of birds and squirrels over head to the sound of cicadas from all sides, frogs croaking or splashing into a pond and the crunch of gravel or crackle of leaves under your feet, the sound of garden music can surround you. 


  1. We are out in the country far enough that seldom do we hear anything from humans. Most of the time it is birds, frogs, cicadas, leaves rustling, squirrels, lizards(they make a lot of leaves rustle as they run through the woods) and all sort of other critters. I love our music.

  2. I think you are right that sound is an often overlooked garden design element. I actually find myself thinking about sound quite a bit, but not in the way you might imagine. We live near a very busy intersection and there are lots of sounds; horns, blaring, tires screeching, etc. Sadly, I am always in the position of trying to mask those other unnatural types of noises with the natural ones.

  3. Excellent terminology! I love the sounds of nature much more so than those of a city. I'm pretty sure I was being cussed out by a squirrel the other day but his irate chatter cracked me up. :o)