My parents’ yard is darn near a scene straight out of “Bambi.” Located in an urban environment, it sits on two acres and is filled with trees, shade and bustling wildlife. You can hear birds singing and the squirrels making whatever that sound is they make to each other. It would be an all-out urban oasis — if it weren’t for those noisy neighbors. So what can we do about that? While we can’t choose our neighbors, we can choose our plants.

Leaves and branches planted as a hedge absorb sound. The larger the leaf, the more sound that is controlled. Think plants like osmanthus, evergreen viburnums, aucuba or camellia. Grasses like miscanthus help too. With their graceful movement, the sound they make in a breeze can be likened to soft waves from the ocean. Speaking of water, it wouldn’t hurt to add a small fountain underneath a window where you frequently sit. The trickling sound will help alleviate other noises entering your home. 

Placing a shrub here or there just won’t do the trick. Add plants that will grow to the height where you can no longer see the noisemakers. You are planting a screen, a thick green curtain if you will. Jedi mind tricks work, even in the landscape. If you can’t see it, then the sound won’t be as obtrusive. 

Avoid small-leaved shrubs as a deterrent between you and the neighbors. Because of their leaf size, sound will travel right through those babies. 

If you do use a plant like this, say an arborvitae, be sure to layer them in with a bigger leafed shrubs. And when I say layer, I really mean it. Leave no gaps in the planting. This gives the noise a reason to travel (and your rowdy neighbors a reason to spy).

Abra Lee is a horticulturist extraordinaire and unapologetically passionate about all things gardening. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @conquerthesoil.

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