Most of us are drawn to the spectacular sights of a stunning garden but how many of us quite literally take time to smell our plants or even just listen.
This suggests that we slow down, close your eyes for a moment and just listen to the sounds in our gardens. This may take some practice especially if you are close to a busy road or have young children. Try it first thing in the morning before the sun is up.
The sorts of sounds you hear may astound you.
Bird songs if you have bird attracting plants is probably the most obvious and quite possibly the most joyful sound in the garden except a crow on a hot day eyeing off your chook eggs. The snap of wattle birds’ beaks as they chase off other birds is a bit more of a cutting edge sound. For bird enthusiasts, just listening and identifying different birds by their calls can be very entertaining. The thready chirps of wrens is beautiful and the tiny but penetrating calls of wee bills a delight. For those familiar with high rainfall areas in New South Wales and Queensland, whip and bell birds will give you a sound that you will never forget.
Some of my favourite sounds are mournful cries and screams of branches rubbing together in a breeze. The restful shush of wind in Pinus species (pine trees) or even better the soothing soft shush of wind though Casuarina species (sheoak,river oak and others).
Chooks on the loose in a garden during late afternoon will have their own unique soft burk, burking, accompanying their endless and regular pattern of scratching in the leaf litter.
One of the most surprising sounds can be seeds being shed. Kennedia species when seed pods are ripe, are flung open with incredible force to send their seed flying for metres away from their parent. The sound of pods opening is very much like a rifle being fired in the distance.
Cicadas doing a summer chorus of rasping clicks can either bring back pleasant childhood memories or drive you nuts. A pass time of mine was to clap out of time to mess up their rhythm but the regular clicks would always return.
The ultimate sound in the most restful garden would have to be the lack of harsh background noise most of us are fairly well used to. Dense shrubs have a wonderful way of being great sound absorbers (I wonder where it goes?) and can in naturally quiet areas add an extra softness to sound much like dense natural vegetation. Then in turn, close sounds take on a sharpness and clarity that we don’t normally hear. Small bird calls become significant, scurrying sounds of lizards become apparent. Gradually our ears become sensitive to other sounds that we miss in the noise of daily living.
So spend some time listening during the slowing time of autumn with its earlier evenings and softer light If you haven’t already, plant some bird attracting plants, place a chair in a quiet spot in the garden and take it all in.
The best thing about this sort of listening is that you can still read a book or even the local paper at the same time.
This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © March 11, 2010.