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Best, fastest, cheapest sound barrier

December 13, 2009

Our neighborhood has developed a huge sonic problem. Two houses full of drugged-out white trash have located on a cheap street near our development. They apparently are in a band, and 'practice' all the time. Three families have moved away because of them. Our property values (which were going up, despite the Depression) have plummeted because of this, and so we're stuck in Mississippi until our stocks recover their value (we assume we'll just have to rent the house out as a slum property...we'd never get even half our money out, thanks to the WT druggies).

Anyway, until we can move to a civilized part of the country, the noise is driving us insane. We understand that the infrasonic soundwaves transmitted through the soil cannot be stopped. But above ground, we'd like to plant a fast, cheap sound barrier. I'm thinking that Bamboo puts the maximum amount of carbon between us and them. And the carbon (woody material) is concentrated near ground level.

But would a combination of Florida Jasmine and Elaegnus be better? Have any studies rated plant materials in this context?

Comments (26)

  • Donna

    I have never read anything about plants as sound barriers, but I can tell you that you definitely do not want to plant bamboo unless you want your property value to go down more. It may very well be the most invasive, unstoppable plant in all creation. In a few short years a tiny planting will make your yard like a forest and move into others' yards to do the same there. (There are clumping bamboos, but they are difficult to find.)

    I am sorry about your situation. Unfortunately, this seems to be one of the big downsides to small lots.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thanks, donnabaskets! We actually have a source for clumping bamboo. Madison Lawn & Garden (I think that's the name) carries something they call "Screening Bamboo", which supposedly reaches 12'. It's neat, in that last year's canes bow down to make way for the new canes. So it seems to be developing a cascading habit: perfect for that 'wall of green' effect we want. Not a single runner, so far. We put in nine clumps when a neighbor's mentally-defective son moved home, two years back (you know the kind...mom's been justifying his behavior since Pre-K. We'd call the police when he'd crank his boom car up, and she'd call EVERYBODY in the neighborhood, to try to find the snitch...this, in an area of half-million dollar houses). So now, she's asking why we're turning our yard into a "jungle". We put in six more clumps last year, when a problem developed in another direction.

    Actually, we're on a double lot, and the newest crop of miscreants are two streets away, in an older development...several hundred yards distant. Like I said, people have already moved away because of them, and I shudder to think what may move in to replace those nice families.

    And yes, plantings have been proved to reduce noise: but the infrasonic sound range is the hardest to stop (as well as being the most harmful). Infrasonic is what all the "great" (according to subhuman filth)sound systems produce. Infrasonic waves are transmitted by the soil, and then vibrate our houses...with our walls actually acting as resonators. Our decorator is going to use acoustic blankets (made for industrial applications) as linings for drapery that will cover our outside walls. We've already had storm windows fitted over our double-pane insulated windows. All this at a time when we need to be getting our money out of the country, and buying depressed stocks...instead, we're having to cope with THIS.

  • tsmith2579

    Why not plant the common "red cedar", what we always cut as a Christmas tree when I was a kid. They are thick and grow fast. My other recommendation is Leyland cypress. If the WT are practicing their band after 10 pm and before 7 am, call the local police. Ask them to come to your house to hear the noise. Fight for what is yours. Don't flee, fight to take back your neighborhood. I refuse to allow trash to take over my (what the local newspaper once called) upper-middle-class neighborhood. As Bob Marley sang: Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
    Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thanks, tsmith2579! I LOVE Red Cedar! And we had a beautiful clipped hedge of Leyland Cypress, in the last town we had to flee (story of our lives...that's why I'm "plan9...").

    Actually, the WT "band practice" is not within proscribed hours. However, I spoke to a lady who works at City Hall...no power to do anything, herself...but she did tell me that CODE ENFORCEMENT can get things done that the Police cannot. Would be nice, since we cannot stay at the gym all the time to avoid the noise on weekends. We've racked up several thousand dollars in hotel bills...just to have someplace to go for some peace. Again, that's money that could be invested...

    The principle is 'Mass Stops Noise'. I know conifers are a great visual screen, but am not sure they have enough mass to intercept the sound waves effectively. The water in the coniferous foliage might have a lot of sound-absorptive capacity, though, and since foliage is the least rigid, it would absorb noise well.

    And kudos to you, for fighting the problem in your own neighborhood. Hope you keep on winning!

  • coltrane

    Donnabaskets, tell me about your personal experience growing bamboo. What do you base your claims on? You seem quick to put bamboo on the "hate list".

    Plan9fromposhmadison, good luck trying to find a more civilized part of the country. Last time I checked there was noise and druggies in every state. I guess now we can add arrogant and ignorant in there too.

  • lkz5ia

    Running bamboo is probably the best option. There isn't a clumping bamboo in zone 7/8 that will do what you want. One has to fight fire with fire in situations like this. I've watched enough Chinese ninja movies to know that fights are best played out in a giant grove of timber bamboo.

  • coltrane

    lkz5ia, well said. Do to the invasive nature of concrete, ninja habitat is dwindling fast.

    Plan9fromposhmadison, plant now and do your part to save ninjas from extinction. Its the least you can do.

  • ghmerrill

    obviously she has little to no bamboo growing expirience. I have 175 species, and around 100 of those are in the ground. On our property now, the oldest has been planted for 6 years now. Take a bit of time, understand the growth cycle of bamboo, and its not hard to control.
    Regarding bamboo is a sound barrier, google it. I have seen some people say it works phenominal, due to the density of the canes, and the foliage. I have 220' of highway frontage that I am hedging with bamboo, and have no worries about it what so ever. when someone is so anxious to jump up with negative, without bothering to say why, you have to wonder if they have ever grown it, or if they heard that their sisters cousins old roomates dead uncles friend once knew someone who grew it and had problems.....

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thanks, folks! And thank you for defending Bamboo from any Trogs that might be lurking!

    My fantasy garden would be an island, covered with Giant Bamboo, and populated by white Peafowl. In my mind's eye, the ground is covered in thick moss. We may follow friends who recently moved to the Portland area. Will Giant Timber Bamboo grow there?

    As for our current Nirvana-turned-hellhole, we've decided on clumps of the 'Screening Bamboo' that is doing so well for us (sorry, but the grower in Louisiana isn't big on Latin names...so I have no idea what species it is), spaced 6' OC, with Muskogee Crepe Myrtles (the biggest and most beautiful cultivar) planted between clumps. The Myrtles will give the clumping Bamboo the sheltering canopy it is reputed to desire.

  • cooper8b

    Call code enforcement...if you live in the city limits I'm sure the mayor's office could help out.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thanks, Cooper8b! I'll try that. Right this minute, we're throwing things together for ANOTHER day in a hotel, to escape the noise.

    Frankly, we're tired of begging the so-called "authorities" to do something, and are probably going to rent the house. We thought the twenty thousand dollars we just spent on sound-proofing wall hangings would help. But the druggies have just turned up the sound. Right now, my heart is racing, and my eyes feel like they're going to pop out, I'm so upset.

    Some friends just moved to Portland, and we're probably going to follow them. I don't care if we have to rent our house out to crack dealers. We've got to get out of this hellhole.

  • tsmith2579

    Best of luck to you. Just remember, you can't run forever.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    We can't ANYTHING forever, tsmith2579, simply because we are not immortal. However, we can and will 'run', as-needed, until we are committed to a nursing home. When Portland's demographics go, we'll be gone from there, too.

    The alternatives to running would be rather extreme: too extreme to be described here. However, considering that adding thick Polycarbonate storm windows, and hanging walls with industrial noise blankets (overquilted with thick Scalamandre velvets and tapestries) has only resulted in incremental noise reduction, we have decided that spending big bucks for more plant material would be money wasted. The Scalamandre, we can re-hang in Portland.

    And honestly, since what amounted to a Redneck lynch mob forced developers to remove the Urns from atop our favorite Madison building, we've been rethinking whether this should be our 'forever' town. If people here can tolerate loud mufflers and loud sound systems, but cannot tolerate expensive, traditional, architectural ornament, then we are clearly in the wrong neck of the woods.

    I'm already thinking about what I can grow in the Pacific Northwest: Columbines, Fucsias, Lamb's Ears, Those things with the giant leaves.... Antique Apples, Lilacs, Lilies...

  • brhgm

    Cherokee Rose is the fastest and best people and critter deterent. Elaegnus starts slow and then grows fast, but doesn't like the humidity and heavy rain fall. I lost half of my hedge to wet clay soil. Peggy Martin rose is a good thornless solution. Bamboo may start trouble with your neighborhood association. Pampus grass is another possibility, I don't care for.

  • opie12

    The urns were removed because they were determined to be too large, not because people had a problem with traditional architecture. Madison is, over all, a good place to live. If you have a problem with it, then the rest of the town will probably be happy to see you move. There is not place in the world that is PERFECT! Everywhere you go you will run into some group that is not to your liking. In this case it seems you have deemed your neighbors trashy and you don't like rednecks....surely in Oregon you will find some other group of people that you don't like. Seems like you would like people if they were stuck up though....so have a great journey to Oregon, MS won't miss you.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thanks, brhgm! I just looked up the Peggy Martin Rose, and was amazed by the story. I see that Chamblee's is one of the growers. Madison Lawn & Garden gets a lot of their plants from Chamblee's, and so I'll stop by, today, and ask if any will be among this spring's order (assuming we're still here).

    And thanks for suggesting Pampas Grass. Although I'm not a fan of the plant, either, it would certainly fulfill the crucial criteria: fast growth, density, and sheer mass. And if its presence meant we wouldn't have to abandon the garden we've put so much into, then I might learn to love it. Honestly, It might be a better sound barrier than the brick wall we're considering, since it would actually absorb the sound waves, whereas brick would merely deflect.

    Interesting you should say that about Elaegnus. We drove by a world-famous estate home in Jackson's Eastover District (this weekend, when we had to leave our home, because of the noise), and noticed that the eight-foot Elaegnus hedge in front has been replaced with another plant. Their hedge must have developed problems, too.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thank you, "Opie", for speaking as the official representative of "the rest of the town" (or, at least, a certain...element). I may have your post enlarged to billboard size, to hang as a piece of conceptual art in our new home.

    The urns were NOT "determined" to be too large, by anyone qualified to make such an assessment. What I'm hearing is that every architect called upon to render an opinion thought they were fine. Historic precedents were researched, and these urns fit within the accepted ratio. No "determination" needed to be made, though, because they looked wonderful. But it's like when some people see a valuable antique in a junk shop, and others see just junk (until it's been polished and placed in a room setting): if the angry mob had allowed the building to be FINISHED, before causing it to be destroyed, then maybe a quarter-million-dollars would not have gone swirling down the drain. They were gorgeous. The building was gorgeous. I could have used two of them, at opposite ends of our pool: but they'd been trucked off to the dump, by the time I heard about the destruction. Most gardeners dream of having something of that size and quality, to place at the end of an allee, or within a grove of trees, at the edge of their gardens. But few of us can spare the nine thousand dollars that each of them cost.

    Anyway, my best friend, whom we may follow to Portland, is one of those "stuck up" people, whom people like yourself delight in driving from Mississippi. She's already part of her local Garden Club (which, mirabile dictu, includes men), and having the time of her life. You delude yourself to think that people do not find better social conditions when they flee. Why do you think our best and brightest have been leaving the state since 'Rednecks' became the dominant group? Why do you think our children announce that they will not return after college? It seems that whenever the new Mississippians' substandard behaviors are called into question, those of us whose families predate statehood are told "well, if you don't like it, then leave". Thanks! I think I shall.

    In any event, the prospect of growing Cyclamen, Hellebores, Witch Hazels, Rhododendrons, Fuchsias, and Hybrid Perpetual Roses looms brightly. And brhgm's kind post (notice the difference in tone...from just one-state-over?) has reminded me what delightful people live within a few hours' drive from here. The prospect of growing Citrus, China Roses, tender species Cammelias, and Bougainvillea is also tempting.

  • louisianagal

    I predict wherever you go you will hate people.
    And I find the term white trash to be quite racist, against black people.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    I find it curious that certain people choose not to focus on the component of this thread pertaining to issues germane to this site's mission (plant materials and garden design), and instead, to excoriate one who would use frank language in describing a problem which plant materials might help control. This irrelevant input seems to be a curious form of 'blaming the victim'.

    In any event, I reserve the right to 'hate' (your word, not mine) anyone whose deliberate, aggressive, and illegal actions are currently negatively affecting my health, and the value of my home. Further, I feel that it is my right to describe these aggressors as I see fit. You can be assured that I have self-censored the language that I (and the other Madisonians who are moving away) use in private, to describe these criminals.

    I would remind certain individuals that the purpose of this thread was to foster a discussion of which plant materials were most likely to ameliorate the unfavorable conditions which had been described.

  • coltrane

    There isnt a plant in existence that will fix your situation. Your problem is of a mental nature and you should be seeking help from a psychosis clinic. I dont care to hear your pathetic whining on a garden forum.
    Your arrogance and ignorance has shown that you dont deserve to live a peaceful life.

  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Thank you, "coltrane", for offering yourself up as an excellent illustration...

    And thank you ALL, for answering more questions than I'd set out to ask. I'd been told that a show of vulnerability could coax amazing things to the surface. And now, I have snapshots of the heretofore indefinable.

    Blessings (or exorcisms, where needed) to you all,


  • opie12

    Ah, posh, you are self absorbed and arrogant. Since you obviously have cash to spare, maybe you should have gone to the dump and bought the urns for your own personal use.

    I do not "delight" in "driving" anyone from this great state. We have wonderful things and wonderful people here. We have a great heritage and most of us get along pretty well. But that requires a degree of tolerance that you seem to be lacking. No, people should not break the law and purposefully or maliciously disturb others, but, given your attitude on here, I would have to question what the actual situation is in this case. There are chanels one can go through to resolve such matters.

    We also have a wonderful growing season and many plants that flourish and look magnificent when used properly.

    Have fun in Portland and take your plants with you. I'm sure you will need them there to create a barrier between you and the next people that you decide to "hate"

    Opie, who is not a redneck and is not from/does not live in Madison

  • brhgm

    Hope you stay in Mississippi, also. I can't speak for everyone., but I am always looking for people to trade plans with. Being from a city where most of the population is originally from Southern Mississippi, I try to be polite and mind my manners as my Mother taught me.

  • iris_lover

    wow, that was interesting! Just her name makes me glad she is NOT my neighbor!!!!

  • coltrane


  • plan9fromposhmadison

    Goodness! Was so busy with the move, I missed part of the Pogrom!

    Anyhoo...we were in Mississippi for a board meeting, and got a look at our old garden, which is looking GREAT. Thought I'd do an update.

    As I'd stated, we were worried that we'd lose a ton, selling in this market, and with the ongoing noise problem just outside our neighborhood. But the garden gave the house immense 'curb appeal', our Decorator had the interiors whipped into a seductive frenzy, and our Mayor...well...has worked for two decades, to give the town enough cachet to keep property values high, even in this Depression.

    Too, Kismet smiled upon us, in the form of two young surgeons, who had lived in problem neighborhoods, before. Living in slums until they'd completed residency, they had been assaulted with noise from neighbors' sound systems, too. In order to get much-needed sleep, they had developed an acoustic isolation chamber disguised as a curtained bed. Amazingly similar to what our Decorator had done for our windows, but isolated on all sides, the structure sits on several inches of special foam. So there's no chance of infrasonic vibrations making their way up from the ground. GENIUS!

    Those whose accounting is more optimistic than mine would say we made a couple hundred grand. I'd say we just broke even, once the move was factored-in. Anyway, we got the (rather high) asking price. Our friends who had moved out here ahead of us found a distressed estate home for us, up the mountain from them. Too artsy-craftsy-early-nineties-lodge-look for me.

    But our decorator is bringing the house into the new Millennium with only a few tweaks, here and there. Anyway, we got a genuine estate, in one of the most desired neighborhoods in the Northwest, for only a bit more than we'd gotten for our spec-grade McMansion in Madison. Our friends out here also bought an "architecturally-important estate home" at a distressed price, and (once the decorator we share had worked his magic) have been getting offers that would advance their position by over a million. Hope that happens here. Nice as this is, I have my heart set on something smaller and more formal...French cut Limestone, with brick herringbone floors, to be specific.

    Back in Madison, the Clumping Bamboo we added is thriving, and the young surgeons have found an improved cultivar of variegated Arundo (Peppermint Stick) at Madison Lawn & Garden, to plug up the accoustic 'holes'. This is their first real home, and they are turning into gardening fiends! Wonderful!

    The CVS urns lynch-mob travesty got us thinking about giant urns for the ends of the pool. So our decorator had Hayles & Howe cast a couple of eight-footers from the parapet of a house in England. They arrived a month back, and we got to see them, newly-installed. Brought tears to my eyes....tears of joy, to see my garden looking so lovely. If the new owners allow the house to be photographed, maybe you'll see it in a magazine. I doubt it, though. Aside from the plantings and the decorating, it's still just a spec house.

    Based on what I planted that's looking great, here's a list of triumphs:

    Muskogee Crape Myrtle
    Peach Drift Rose (quite shade tolerant)
    Cherokee Rose
    Lady Banks Rose (all four forms...single white, double white, single yellow, double yellow...as well as the hybrid 'Fortunaiana')
    Dr. W. VanFleet Rose (the more vigorous parent of New Dawn)
    Southern Wood Fern
    'Sparkling Burgundy' Camellia Sasanqua

    Oops!...just opened the gates for my Trainer. Gotta go... Thanks, everybody, for those notes of encouragement!

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