Creating a Sound Barrier Hedge

Credit: Flickr / Jean

Q: The neighbour next door has put in a hot tub. The noise is bad and they won’t fix it. Is there a plant or tree to give some help on my side for the hum?

Well, that’s a tricky question! If you have a good depth of ground between you and the noisy pump, you could try a dense barrier of sturdy evergreen shrubs and trees. I have no scientific evidence, but my intuition tells me that plants with thick waxy leaves would probably break up sound waves. The exact choice depends on the amount of sun and your zone. If the site gets afternoon shade, consider camellias, large-growing rhododendrons, or the large mahonias (such as ‘Charity’). If it’s full sun or part shade, plant California wax myrtle* (Myrica californica), Viburnum tinus* or strawberry tree* (Arbutus unedo). If you live in colder areas, substitute coniferous evergreens.

If your neighbours don’t use their hot tub in winter, thicket forming deciduous shrubs, such as flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), shrubby dogwoods (Cornus), star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Aronia, or some of the wonderful deciduous Viburnum.

The approach would be to either have a sort of “tapestry hedge” with a variety of plants. Several of these choices (starred) can also be planted in a line and sheared lightly to make a wide hedge, giving a more formal look. Of course, a hedge of emerald cedars would work, but it won’t grow as wide, so not as likely to muffle the sound.

As much as they would solve your problem, I’m not enthusiastic about English or Portugal laurel or English holly, as they are invasive in parts of B.C.

I’m sure you’ve thought of a tall fence as well. Also, creating a water feature on your side with a pretty sound of falling water would distract from the hot tub’s noise.