How to Incorporate Soothing Sounds in Your Backyard Retreat

Your garden is your own personal oasis—a place where you can focus your attention on the natural world, leaving the hectic business of everyday life behind. Whatever plants and features you have in your garden, you probably added them for their appeal to your senses.

Maybe you're tickled by the sight of tall, playful zinnias stretching toward the sun, or transported to a different time by the delicate scent of the fragile sweet pea. Perhaps you find velvety lambs ears irresistible, so you tucked them into nooks where they could brush against your ankles as you walked to the bed of strawberries, sampling them still warm from the sun.

Whatever inspired the design of your backyard retreat, let the clink of the ice in your margarita remind you of the one remaining sense that still needs to be addressed in your garden oasis: the element of sound.

Consider the predominant sounds already around you. Are you close to your neighbors? Is traffic rushing past nearby? Close your eyes and take a moment to imagine what you'd like to hear in your garden instead. For inspiration, here are some popular sources of outdoor sonic soothing.

Install a Water Feature

A water feature can be large or small, formal or casual, natural or prefabricated. Before heading to a big box store for a DIY kit, consider the size of your garden, your budget, and your dedication to upkeep.

A tabletop fountain that plugs into an outlet will make a pleasant gurgling all day long. If you have more space and some skill with tools, a wooden barrel turned into a multi-tiered waterfall is a fun option. Those skilled in aquaculture might enjoy creating a natural pool for koi and water plants.

Think about your water's proximity to seating, and how much sound you find appealing. Do you want something that bubbles softly in the background, or are you drawn to the more dynamic splashes of a waterfall tumbling into a deep pool?

fountain close up

Choose Responsive Plants

Ornamental grasses planted en masse have a way of catching the wind that generates a restful rustling sound. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors that can complement any space.

Make sure the type of grass you choose is accepted in your area, since some are considered invasive. The stately pampas grass, for example, can send its beautiful feathery seedheads several miles, so some municipalities discourage its use. It may look beautiful on your property, but it has the potential to wreak havoc on nearby native flora.

Bamboo is another plant that should be used with caution, but properly chosen and installed, delivers both movement and sound to the garden. Running varieties that can pop up uninvited in your neighbors yard are best avoided. Sometimes barriers can be installed, but they are not always effective. Thankfully, there are clumping varieties that do well in containers, so you can enjoy the soothing sounds without the stress of damaging neighborly relations.

Trees are especially welcome in a garden, providing shade, beauty, fragrance in some cases, and even sound. Wind rustling through a canopy and rain pattering on leaves both make for magical aural experiences.

Invite Wildlife to Explore

Birdsong is a welcome and relaxing music in the garden. You may have already provided bird feeders for feathered friends on their yearly migration, but don't forget about the lazy hum of the pollinators exploring the diverse array of plantings you've so carefully curated.

If you haven't extended the invitation, consider plants that beckon bees to pollinate their flowers, like scarlet bee balm and purple coneflower. Plants like lavender and rosemary have an added bonus of boosting fragrance in the garden. And with a water feature already installed, you may also attract frogs and toads croaking sweetly in the evening, and dragonflies zipping into the light spray of a fountain.

wooden wind chimes

Hang a Wind chime

For those not partial to the tinny, high-pitched tinkle of the wind chimes of yesteryear, there are chimes calibrated to specific notes in a musical scale, crafted with artisan skills to produce rich, soulful tones evoking the soft murmurings of a faraway church bell. They come in a range of sizes and materials. Wooden chimes can be particularly sweet and unobtrusive.

You may find you prefer the sound of little bells that peal softly with a whisper of wind. Again, consider the proximity to seating areas and neighbors when taking into account the placement, and avoid especially windy sites in your yard. This can make the difference between a pleasant, occasional grace note and a non-stop jangle that might get on your nerves.

Tune In To Your Surroundings

As you appreciate your new sonic landscape, go even deeper into your awareness of the world around you. Take a step onto the garden path. Is it gravel or mulch? Grass or wood planks? The satisfying crunch of gravel underfoot might appeal to the kid in you. Or maybe the quiet padding of bare feet on wooden planks soothes your gracefully aging ears.

Whatever your preference, taking notice of the sounds around you will help cultivate an increasing mindful awareness of the world around you. The more present you become in your space, the more peaceful you will feel.