plants for noise abatement help

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by msingler, Jul 5, 2005.

  1. msingler

    msingler Member

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    Location:
    lafayette, Ca USA
    We have a house in Victoria which we just bought and recently realized that it is extremely noisy outside because there is a major road that passes in front of the row of houses in front of us (Royal Oak Dr. in Broadmead area near Buchard Gardens).
    We do not want to give up on it, so we are wondering what type of plants we could plant on the south side of th house to act as a noise barrier that would grow very fast and get at least 8 ft. high and possibly 8-20 ft. wide.

    One gardener suggested California Liiac. We are from California and were wanting to plant Oleander but he said it does not grow well in Victoria. Any suggestions for a fast growing plants that are great noise barriers that are easy to grow?

    Marjorie Singler
     
  2. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Marjorie--I recently discussed your kind of situation with an experienced landscaper. Here are his observations for what they are worth, and I don't mean to stifle the discussion of good hedging plants, etc. for the Victoria area which is also very interesting.

    Plant material will (unfortunately) do very little to dampen traffic noise. Most noise begins at pavement level (tires on asphalt) so can be reduced with berms that reflect the noise back or deflect it up above your site. Solid and/or dense materials are needed to absorb and reflect noise, such as earth berms, retaining walls, and fencing.

    The closer these materials are to the offending road, the better. It sounds like you may be some distance from the busy road, which means the sound is quite diffused and harder to intercept by the time it gets to your property. Hmmm, I guess I'm not being very helpful then, just discouraging. Sorry :-(

    Glen
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Down here high concrete walls have been put up to shield neighborhoods from freeway noise.
     
  4. msingler

    msingler Member

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    Thanks for your comments. I know that plants do not work WELL for noise abatement, but they have proven to have some effect, even though it is small. I did go to both of my neighbors's property on each side and they both have vegetation, and there is about a 40% difference in the noise which is significant. I know that solid mateirals are better, so my plant is to put a row of shrubs in front of the chain link fence , and also in back of it. Then when they are over 6 ft. tall, I can attach some kind of plastic sheeting (painted green) to the chainlink fence that is 6-8ft. tall, and the shrubs will hide it. This way I will have both solid and vegative material together.
    I am just not sure which plants to choose.
    Right now I am looking into Itttalian buckthorn and cascara sagrada, but the gardener suggested california lilac or honeysuckle box.
    When I researched the lilac , the reports were that it does not have a long life (about 10 yrs). Any thoughts on this or other plants??

    Thanks, Marjorie Singler
     
  5. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    for noise abatement you want the thickest leaved, thickest / fullest growing plants but the theory is that it wont make a whole heck of a lot of difference anyways. Around here they use a fencing system that is slats of concrete made to look like horizontal fence boards.
     
  6. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    found the info I was after:

    From the book; Arboriculture, third edition, Harris et al.

    page 138, figure 5-8 caption. " Thirty meters of trees and shrubs reduce truck noise about as effectively as a similiar area of bare cultivated ground. A berm, slope or solid barrier with woody plants would be more effective in absorbing noise (Cook and Van Haverbeke 1971).)
     
  7. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Marjorie--I haven't had any luck growing ceanothus (california lilac) here on the mainland, it can get wind burnt in fairly normal winters for us. I'm sure it's well suited to the island however, so could be fairly good for you.

    The box honeysuckle won't get enough height, after many years it's a beautiful glossy evergreen bush, but no more than about 3 ft. high. It is also unhappy if it dries out much, often a possibility in water restricted Victoria area.

    English laurel is a boring but typical evergreen dense hedge that would grow quickly and thickly as anything.

    I would consider escallonia "Pink Princess". I've seen it growing as a 6ft. high hedge, evergreen and flowering most of the summer. I planted mine as a hedge along a berm made of pure composted steer manure about 3-4 ft. high, and the plants have grown like crazy...perhaps 2 ft. of growth in one season and very healthy. The compost was well aged by the way, fresh stuff would probably kill most plants, but these have been a pleasant surprise in their quick and healthy growth.

    As you say, it probably won't cut down the noise a huge amount, but anything helps and the hedging plants could be quite attractive.

    Glen
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    You can walk in the woods and hear a distant road quite well. Do not count on foliage for any significant relief from noise.
     
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Location:
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    You are right Ron it has to be dense foliage, almost a thicket
    to cut down on noise. The problem is that the noise echoes
    which makes it seem louder than it really is. We can cut down
    on the decibel levels of the noise but the noise itself will linger
    on.

    Just a few thoughts.

    There is no way a native form of California Lilac can handle
    intense cold. The only Lilac that comes to mind that may
    work is Ceanothus integerrimus - deerbrush and then it
    should be protected from the cold. I thought about a series
    of buckbrush and deerbrush on one side of the fence and
    heaven forbid a Conifer hedge on the other side. I'll let
    you guys deal with the hedge prospects as I am not so sure
    a hedge may not suffer some of the same effects we seen
    elsewhere in these forums, look good for a few years and
    then go sour on us. The problem part to deal with, at least
    to me, is the fast growing aspect of wanting a plant that will
    give us instant gratification when there may not be one that
    will work that way. I am not fond of fast growing plants
    anyway so I am biased in that regard as there is a price to
    pay later when the plant stops growing for us and just sets
    there once it has grown like a gangbuster for a few years.
    When the plant stops for any length of time is when we are
    more likely to have problems with the plant.

    Jim
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    California lilac should be hardy in a suitable exposure (hot, sunny) for long periods in Victoria, there is even a cultivar called 'Victoria' that is said to have originated there, is one of the most prevalent in local nurseries. However, as wild plants the species that occur in forested areas are comparatively short-lived, fast-growing 'brush' that spring up after fires, to be replaced by forest species later. This gives a clue to their garden behavior, they are not in the same league as slower, more dignified shrubs such as holly, yew or box. Nevertheless, a shrub that lives for decades (instead of perhaps centuries) may live long enough for many purposes.

    It's primarily a matter of how much you are willing to gamble on a killer winter coming on and taking them back/out. I would do a mixed planting anyway, in general you don't want to have all your eggs in one basket (there are other factors that can cause plants to fail, in addition to cold) and it is more interesting than a row of one kind.
     
  11. msingler

    msingler Member

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    Thanks for all your really great comments.I like the idea of the concrete slats and also the idea of having various plantings for both variety and in case one does not hold up.
    My gardener told me that Calif. lilac (Victoria) variety has held up pretty well in Victoria and that the area where we would put the plants would have excellent sun and good drainage.
    I'm still thinking about putting 2 rows of hedges so that we could put the concrete slats in the middle (I doubt if the City of Saanich or homeowners assn would approve the slats since we barely got approval for a chainlink fence(it eventually for approved for safety reasons). But if the slats were hidden by vegetation, that would work too.
    Any further feedback about this?

    Marjorie
     
  12. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    To some extent noise can be like smells: you get used to it. I grew up one house away from the train tracks in West Van, and our honest reply to new visitors querying the noise was "What train?"
    Noise also varies in it's persistance; at night here I can hear the woo-oo-oo sound of the tires of the transport trucks on the Inner Island Highway which is probably 7 or 8 km away, while the vehicles passing in front of the farm about 0.5 km away produce only shwoosh-ish noises. Harleys and teenagers are a different story, but I hope you get my point.
    Some higher frequency "white" noises can be more easily reduced or reflected while "tonal" and lower frequencies may get thru. Measured sound levels (decibels on a meter) and percieved sound levels are often different. Are you sure the noise is coming directly from the road? A directional meter will tell you if you are dealing with reflected noise perhaps from another house behind or beside you.
    Having said all that, You will enjoy plantings more than fences or bare ground, so go with that for sure. You can buy plastic slats (yes they come in green) or make cedar slats that thread vertically thru the chain links, and they will help some, so go with that too. The concrete fences are expensive, but they work too, and some government agencies have been known to fund them when faced by a group of annoyed voters.
    You haven't mentioned (or I missed it) your ground and soils characteristics, but would it support trees? When you are some distance from the noise source, height counts in abatement measures.

    Ralph
     

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