Home & Garden Columns

Music to Your Ears

By Ron Sullivan
Friday February 08, 2008

I’m listening to the mow-n-blow couple working their way through the neighborhood. I’m about bored with things that roar and go bang, especially in the garden, especially at midday because, surprise, I work right here at home. To judge by the time they’ve spent on the token lawn in front of the apartment next door, the various gas-powered gadgets don’t save much time and they must make the work as hard with their weight as the average push mower, weed whip/scythe, or rake would with just repetitive motion. Don’t get me started on what errant weedwhackers do to tree trunks; I ranted sufficiently last week to keep my diastole high. 

Some garden sounds are perfectly pleasant. It’s possible, for example, to overdo it with windchimes, but on their own they’re good. One set, please, and in a soothing rather than ebullient pitch because ebullient becomes excruciating in short order. Want to make it art? Hang them in a spot where the wind doesn’t usually reach. They become a rare treat and also a source of information: Listen! The wind’s shifted. The weather’s about to change. 

Water’s another common source of garden music, and lately you can shop for every choral range from falsetto to seafloor bass. It’s easy enough to make your own fountain out of an interesting stone or a pot or other artifact. Remember how folks used to make lamps out of old bottles, spools, oilcans, small pets who sat still too long? I guess they still do, actually.  

Now, with a low-power recirculating pond pump and a length of plastic tubing, you can follow that same inclination, only toward fountains. Forget the Mannequin (or Manneken) Pis—please!—and the standard drooling lion or spitting fish. Pipe a stream through a broken hula-hoop or a copper spiral from that still you never got finished. Bounce it down a ladder of old serving spoons. Pour it from a jug into a bowl. Run it over an umbrella or plumb a bowling ball.  

Natural fountains are easy enough, if that’s more your style. A pile of stones and a basin with plants to soften the rim: instant waterfall. It’s a good idea to cement or putty your stack of rocks together, but try them out in a few different poses first; then run your tubing up the back. If you’re daring and fickle you can just balance them unglued and leave the option of rearranging them on a whim. You might find the local raccoon or possum doing the rearranging for you some night, though. 

Moving water does attract wildlife, including the musical kind. It doesn’t take much to do that: just a drip into a shallow bowl will bring in birds you didn’t know you had in the neighborhood, and it can happen overnight. You get bird music—they’re starting already, as the hummingbirds are nesting and the robins singing in rehearsal before they migrate—and if you have a dead tree handy you might even get woodpeckers to play the drums.