Sound: another element for the garden

Sound: another element for the garden

From the bold flavors of the harvest, to the salubrious scent of fragrant herbs and the innate beauty of clematis flowers, gardens are a feast for the senses. Yet one sense—sound—is often overlooked. Adding chiming, or deep resonating sounds with wind-chimes or hammer-generated gongs, is often the finishing touch to a garden setting.

Gongs represent one of the oldest forms of sound. The broad selection at Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland comes from China, where they know how make them"¦ it's part of their history, says shop owner Kathy Uhtoff. Gongs add an artistic, tranquil element to gardens, one Uhtoff has seen become increasingly popular "as people meditate and work to become more centered."

Centering is just what Ashland residents Udo and Sabina Gorsch-Nies, sought when completing their spiral-path garden. "I wanted to have a 'lifting-up' and meditative area"¦ that's why the center is the highest point of the spiral," says Sabina Gorsch-Nies.

Her sound dreams were answered by a gong crafted from a recycled CO2 tank, the brainchild of neighbor and handyman Tom DuBois.

DuBois had always wanted a gong, but knowing that they can be made from CO2 or acetylene tanks, he'd kept looking for the raw material. "When we opened Grilla Bites, there were two CO2 tanks in the basement," he says. So, DuBois had a welder remove the bottoms, then he painstakingly removed the paint, sanded and cleaned the tanks, adding heavy duty hooks for mounting.

DuBois hangs his "gas gong" from a wooden arch, while the Gorsch-Nies gong is displayed on a simple copper-topped four-by-four post. Commercial gongs are generally circular, from 1-3 feet in diameter and suspended from porch beams or free-standing structures. Installing gongs and large wind chimes, Uhtoff says, is a two-person job. She recommends using heavy-duty hardware, like a hook and eye assembly secured to a solid beam.

Wind chimes present a more playful sound. Crafted from various lengths and thicknesses of metal pipes, each wand of the chime has its own pitch. Uhtoff prefers hand-tuned varieties, because they provide more melodic sounds when striking against each other in the breeze. Some are crafted with musical chords to favorites like Amazing Grace, the Wedding March and America the Beautiful.

For a bigger, bolder sound, Uhtoff recommends the Music of the Spheres wind chimes. These heavy-duty chimes can weigh over 40 pounds and measure up to 90 inches long. With various tones and ranges, these heavy, powder-coated tubes add a luxurious layer of sound. On the lighter side, little garden bells add a bright note of whimsy to a garden. Hanging from a branch, or bunched like bell-shaped flowers on wire stems, these musical sculptures are appealing to both the eyes and the ears.

Even when the seasons change, the aesthetic beauty of chimes, bells and gongs endures. A welcoming strike on the Gorsch-Nies' gong (with a wooden hammer handle) fills the air with a thick, almost palpable sound. The sublime tones summon us outdoors, where we can appreciate the garden's beauty with all our senses.

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