How Sound Travels Through Your Sensory Garden

Updated: Jan 19

How to use plants and other garden materials to create a peaceful oasis free of harsh sounds.


Why we care about sound


One of the primary purposes for creating a sensory garden is to create a place of peace where people can relax, slow their heart rate, watch some animals, and feel more at peace. This may be particularly important for those who struggle with anxiety, ADHD, or Autism.


Needless to say, finding peace is difficult when the world outside threatens to pull us back to the outside world and remind us of our worries. It may be impossible to eliminate all outside distractions, however, being intentional and incorporating some simple tricks in the garden may help to mitigate outside noises.


Noise pollution harms the health and wellness of both people and animals. For people, it can interfere with sleep and raise, raise blood pressure, and increase stress levels. Animals, however, often require sound to communicate, feed, and reproduce. Noise pollution can cause significant stress on both people and animals.


How sound moves throughout the garden


Sound in the garden moves in four ways: reflection, absorption, scattering, and diffraction.


Concrete and other hard surfaces reflect sound waves back in the same direction from whence they came. This is called reflection and it may create some particularly noisy places in your garden if the sound is “bounced” to a particular spot. You may want to be careful when using hard materials when you are designing a garden to reduce sound.


Absorption is perhaps the most ideal way to mitigate sound pollution in your garden. Materials that are porous and soft can actually absorb some of the sound waves and reduce their strength. Materials such as soft leaves and grass make great sound-absorbing materials.


Scattering and diffraction both work by sending a single sound wave in multiple directions. The effect is that the sound is shared throughout more of the garden, which makes any sounds feel less harsh. Diffraction occurs when the sound goes around smother substances like smooth tree trunks. Scattering happens when sound waves come in contact with rough surfaces. The sound waves bounce off these rough surfaces, but they do so in many different directions, thus weakening the sound.


Take it to the next step: layering vegetation


Understanding how sound moves through the garden is the first step in mitigating its effect. Knowing how to layer vegetation to reduce reflection and increase absorption, diffraction, and scattering are important when designing your sensory garden.


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