Of Wonders and Weeds
By PAULENE POPARAD
January is for ..... our love/hate relationship with wind chimes.
Someone recently told me they moved to a new home and couldn’t sleep for
three nights because a neighbor had wind chimes on their deck and the sound,
to my friend, was incredibly annoying.
Yet I went out on a limb this past Christmas and when asked to purchase a
gift from a group of us for our boss, I chose wind chimes. What gives?
I used to believe the sound made by those little tinkling, jangling,
nerve-grating metal tubes was not intended for the human ear. Perhaps for
some deep-sea creature or elf princess of Middle Earth, but not us. I found
no redeeming value in wind chimes at all.
That’s until I heard ones properly constructed and tuned as the musical
instrument they are meant to be. I am now a believer. But that’s not to say
our yard is a gonging, resonating cacophony of notes all summer long. Far
We keep our lone wind chime, 49 inches in full length and tuned to the scale
of A, indoors for two reasons. We initially put it outside but on a windy
day it proved to be too much of a good thing. A perfect spot turned out to
be indoors near the back door where in nice weather cross ventilation
prompts a more muted wind chime song.
The second reason it’s fun to have them indoors is so the granddaughters can
make them chime whenever they want. The ear-to-ear grin on Emma’s face, at
18 months the youngest, is priceless.
Fortunately, better-quality wind chimes are available in local stores like
The Schoolhouse Shop and Chesterton Feed and Garden, the latter where
employee Barb Weimer gave me a short course in Wind Chimes 101 on the Music
of the Spheres brand they sell.
Company president and CEO Sara Neal Eskew later said there are two kinds of
wind chimes: the musically perfect ones, and the ones that drive someone
with good hearing and a musical ear that detects off-pitches nuts. “It’s
like the difference between a yacht and a rowboat.”
Her late husband Larry Roark used his degree in music theory to combine the
physics of sound and musical scales from around the world resulting in
chimes in six pitch ranges/sizes for each tuning for nature, not man, to
Different companies like Grace Note, Majesty Bells and Spirit Song offer
different options. Larry’s chimes resound in soprano, mezzo soprano, alto,
tenor and bass, each one a different tubing diameter and length. By having
several chime sets, said Sara, harmony can be created.
Her gracious explanation of other aspects of their chimes’ sound was above
me as my own musical background is limited to eight free accordion lessons
when I was 12, and having Sharon Lindquist teach me in middle school to play
the first 16 seconds of “Moonlight Sonata.”
Larry used many special tunings to evoke musical and even ethereal moods and
to conjure up faraway places like Bali and China. Music of the Spheres also
makes the imposing more than 85-inch tall Westminster chimes that sound like
Some believe wind chimes have a calming, even spiritual influence. “Ours are
literally bio-feedback,” said Sara. “When you hear a good wind chime that
sounds really great, the tensed-up muscles sort of relax a little.”
Some companies market their wind chimes as being tuned to personalized
astrological planetary frequencies or to special scales that can affect
human health. Can a wind chime’s resonance, vibration and energy have
Sara said while her company makes no such claim for their products, they do
have customers who hold to that belief.
Wind chimes have been around from prehistoric times. Today everything from
glass, wood, ceramic and seashells to precisely precisioned powder-coated,
aluminum-alloy tubing is used to make wind chimes.
Larry played the euphonium, similar to a small tuba but with a slightly
higher range. Sadly, he was killed in a car accident a few years ago. A
music scholarship was endowed in his name at the University of North Texas.
That way, said Sara, “His legacy is going far beyond people’s back yards.”
This cold and snow makes me want to snuggle under an afghan and read some
When at Thomas Library last month I checked out famed garden author Ken
Druse’s “The Collector’s Garden” published in 1996. It’s written in such an
enjoyable style I want to read his other books like “The Natural Shade
The 28 gardeners Druse describes in “The Collector’s Garden” have made
extraordinary gardens or influenced horticulture by focusing on their love
of a specific plant group, like daylilies, or by finding or improving the
plants we grow.
The photography is stunning and just what we need when the only green we can
see are random chunks of grass gouged out by the snow plow.
Druse celebrates the plant-obsessed and probes what has driven, and what
continues to drive, them.
He seeks out who were their mentors and why the collectors chose the garden
paths (and career paths) they did. The accounts are inspiring and
An early birthday present was 2004’s “The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas” by
Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack, a much expanded and updated version of
her 1996 “The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Hostas”.
The $49.95 “Color Encyclo-pedia” from Timber Press lists more than 750
plants chosen by Grenfell and photographed by Shadrack.
Each gets a detailed description and a section on comments and special
needs. Cultivation and design tips as well as hosta history and lingo (“lutescent”
means becoming yellow) are a bonus, as are the location of hosta display
gardens and where you can purchase hostas.
Grenfell and Shadrack are British but American hostas are the stars of their
book, which carries a forward by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,
alias Charles to you and me.