Engage sense of sound robin
From the gentle babble of water to the rustling of leaves and chatter of wildlife, sound is an important dimension of a sensory garden but one that can be overlooked.

It may seem challenging to plant with the sense of sound in mind, but in this article, we look at different ways we can achieve this.

We are aware of sound, even when we are not aware that we are aware of it. That’s quite a tongue-twister but so true! Sound forms a huge part of how our brains build a picture of the environment we are in and has a tremendous effect on whether or not we feel relaxed and at ease in that space.

Organisers of nature studies often find listening activities are a good way of calming adults and children and tuning them in to their environment. Whilst we may not be able to control a lot of the external sounds that come into our garden, we can create and add our own sounds to help us shape the audio environment and experience of our gardens.

  • Sound in a sensory garden can help create a space where we feel relaxed and at ease
  • It can be especially important for people who are visually impaired or have memory-loss conditions
  • It plays an important role in encouraging and helping children to actively engage with the environment around them
  • By simply closing our eyes and listening to the sounds around the garden is a great way of 'being in the moment' (practising mindfulness)
  • Sound can be a fun feature for children when creating a sensory garden and can play a key role in helping children connect and understand more about nature and the environment around them.
  • To stimulate their sense of hearing, you may want to include elements that create contrasting sounds. For example, the rustle of leaves on trees, bamboo stems and ornamental grasses as children walk past them, birdsong, a water feature or pond, a path made of small stones or gravel – each contribute unique sounds to the garden.
  • There are also lots of activities children can get involved in so as to experience the sounds around them in the garden and make it fun. By sitting with the children in the garden, encourage them to listen to all the sounds of nature around them, such as the bees buzzing, the birds singing and the sound of the wind rustling the plants and then get them to write down all the sounds they hear to see how many they can identify.
  • You can also get them to imitate the sounds they hear and then find the source of where the sounds are coming from.
  • How about encouraging them to keep a sound journal? So for a whole month, get them to spend time in the garden, recording what they hear and to see how the sounds change over time. Suggest to them to find new ways to describe what they are hearing, for example, they can make their sounds on a map, try drawing the shape and movement of the sounds or maybe take some photos too.
Engage sense of sound garden windchimes

Below are some ideas on how to incorporate sound features into our gardens:

Sound of stones

The first impact you can have on your garden’s sound is the sound of your own impact! Whether the crunch of gravel underfoot pleases your ears, the thud of wooden decking or paving stones, or the soft and quiet effect of bark chips – you can’t enter your garden without becoming a part of the soundscape yourself.

Add some crunchy gravel, slate chippings or small or large stones to an area of your garden or use them to fill in the empty spaces between flower beds or to create a little pathway with them.

Water features

Water features are an attractive element in any garden but can be particularly useful in sensory gardens as they satisfy a multitude of senses: you can touch and feel the flow of the water, watch as the water trickles down the fountain and most importantly, listen to the calming sound of the running water.

Contrary to popular belief, water features don’t have to be costly to be effective; there are inexpensive and DIY options available for creating beautiful and economical water features.

They aren't limited to big spaces either, if you've got a small yard or balcony to work with, there's plenty of options. Here's some inspiration on Pinterest.

Engage sense of sound water feature

Birds and other wildlife

Birds, bees and butterflies make a garden so much more enjoyable and are essential for sensory stimulation. Birdsong is one of the most calming and uplifting noises for people to listen to. Keep birds present and happy in your garden by adding a bird feeder and bath and maybe a nesting box too.

If you don't have a garden, you might be able to fix a bird box to the wall of your home, where you'll be able to watch and enjoy listening to visitors from your window.

Bees can also create a lovely natural background hum and are easy to attract with the right plants. Planting flowers such as native wildflowers are a great way to attract bees and other insect pollinators.

Wind chimes

Wind chimes can make a distinct and beautiful addition to your garden sound design. They can be bought or constructed manually to get an added rustic feel. They can be made using a variety of materials which all produce slightly different tones and sounds. Wooden tubes, rods and bells are materials frequently used to make wind chimes for use in an outdoor garden.

Wind chimes are best placed in a small secluded area of the garden away from your property, where they will respond to the wind without disturbing the rest of the garden. This could also be a great place for a seating area, where you can sit in peace and enjoy the music created by the wind chimes and the rustling of the garden.

‘Noisy’ plants

The rustle of leaves is one of the loveliest pieces of the natural soundscape and leafy plants such as bamboo stems and ornamental grasses create a soothing rustling sound in the wind.

Bamboo works particularly well as its pretty foliage whispers in the wind while its stems knock together, creating a hollow sound. Larger bamboo canes are also great for making wind chimes with.

You can change lives with gardening

Rebecca H potting up Charlie Garner 2019 3