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Designing out sound in the garden

The garden in our Norfolk project is set back from the road but still there comes a whoosh every five minutes from the cars driving past in the nearby road. We wanted to create a calmer environment with pockets of tranquillity. So, what is the best way to eradicate unwanted sounds in the garden? We investigated some ways to help relieve the ears from traffic noise and help us enjoy the garden.

  1. Adding water features

The sound of moving water can be a relaxing addition to any garden and create a welcoming distraction. Sound can be created by creating a waterfall or using a fountain (differing scales will give varying results) from light splashing, gurgling or trickling to cascading and crashing into rocks. Not only a delight to look at water can disguise unwanted sounds.

designing out sound in the garden

Gurgling water fountain

2. Noisy plants

Plants themselves can make noise especially in particularly breezy sites. Our Norfolk site is surrounded by grass which creates waves of sound, giving a powerful but pleasing rustling.  There are also a number of swaying shrubs like the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena); that have dazzling bright blue flowers which form puffy seed-heads that rattle when shaken, Japanese Silver grass (Micanthus oligostachyus) and Bamboo

designing out sound in the garden

Love in a mist

designing out sound in gardens

Japanese Silver Grass

3. Plants that bring wildlife into your garden

Picking plants that attract both birds and insects will aid the concealment of sound. Nectar rich plants will attract pollinating insects and then birds will follow, so there will be a lot of acoustic activity from the birds chirping and the bees buzzing. Popular plants for insects are Honeysuckle (Lonicera), lavender (Lavandula), Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis), Foxglove (Digitalis) and Paradise Joyce (Hosta hybrid cultivar paradise Joyce).

Japanese Anemone

designing out sound in the garden

Honeysuckle

4. Underfoot noise

During the autumn months the leaves of deciduous plants will create a crunching sound underfoot , as will loose gravel/ shingles material laid in pathways. Stems of plants that edge and lie on pathways will rustle or snap when you brush past. All these elements should be considered as they form part of the layering of sounds within the garden.

5. Physical barrier

Using hedgerows or dense evergreens may be your first thought to ward off noise but even at a depth of 25-30ft evergreen will only reduce sound by 25%. A solid man-made barrier is much more effective. A brick wall or solid timber fence will reduce traffic noise significantly if it is at least 2 metres tall giving a 50% reduction in sound creating some relaxing pockets of tranquility in the garden.

 

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