Reduce noise pollution with hedge plants and trees

We regularly talk about creating a natural screen to create privacy from overlooking houses, or to eliminate the ugly view you might have of an object near by.

Another important benefit of a natural screen can be its ability to reduce unwanted noise. Here we’ll take a look at a few ways to reduce noise by using hedges and trees, as well as man made structures like fences and walls.

 

Woman relaxes in the garden behind a hedge
Screening trees and hedging can help create a peaceful garden.

 

Out of sight out of mind
Studies have shown that if you’re unable to see the source of a sound you’re less likely to notice it. By simply blocking your view of whatever is making the noise, you’ll perceive it to be quieter. Just about any hedge can be used to create a beautiful privacy screen, the denser the leaves the more effective the screen. Box hedge (Buxus sempervirens) with its small, tightly packed leaves will provide a beautiful and neat screen. Or if you want something that will grow much faster, Leyland Cypress (Leylandii) will create a thick wall of soft green needles that will help soak up  sound. The evergreen nature of these hedges mean you’ll get the benefits all year round.

A large Leyland hedge and blackbird singing.
Left: A substantial Leylandii hedge. Right: Hedges and trees help attract wildlife and create soothing sounds.


Increase pleasant sounds to mask the annoying noises
Introduce the soothing sounds of nature will help distract from other frustrating noises. The gentle rustling of leaves is a perfect example, a firm favourite for this is a Bamboo hedge which is easy to grow to an impressive height. The sound of bird song is a welcome addition to any garden, just about any hedge will help attract birds, either as a nesting site or somewhere to roost and take cover. A UK native hedge is a great place to start.

The best hedge to block sounds.
If you choose to rely on plants alone to block sound, make sure you pick a hedge plant that provides growth right down to ground level. If you have plenty of room then plant a few lines of hedge parallel to each other to create the thickest hedge you have space for, now grow your hedge up as high as you can. The perfect contender for this is Leylandii, don’t be afraid of the bad reputation some people give Leylandii for being unruly, with just a few trims each year it can easily be kept in order.

Solid barriers are best
Sound travels through air, so creating a solid barrier that blocks the air flow between you and the noise is the most effective solution. You’ll need as much height as you can get, right down to the ground to reduce the area sound can flow through. Fences, brick walls and earth mounds are best, but it’s not always practical to build these structures in the location you need. Another issue can be planning restrictions that prevent you from getting the height you need.

Photinia trees planted against a fence.
Photinia being used to create an elevated hedge above a fence line. These freshly planted trees will grow to create a solid mass of foliage.

The ultimate garden screen
Combining a solid structure with an elevated hedge that provides dense foliage above the height of your fence or wall is one of the best solutions you’ll find for blocking sound in your garden. This is achieved by installing a line of ‘standard’ trees along your fence or wall. The base of the trees take up less space (compared to a dense hedge), with the foliage sitting on top of a 1.5 – 2 metre trunk, creating additional height without planning issues, You’ll have the best of both worlds, a sold screen and the additional benefits of a natural screen. Evergreen varieties like Laurel and Photinia will provide this screening all year round.

For more information:

Screening Trees

Instant Hedge

Hedging Plants

Hornbeam trees used to create privacy in the garden of a new build