drawing of garden bell

Garden Bells

Do you have a bell or, maybe, chimes in your garden?  I don’t mean the clanging brass dinner bell, calling everyone to supper, but the delicate bells and hollow tubes that sing in the breeze.

I have my favorites, that I put away before snowfall and bring out in the spring. My brother, a fellow gardening enthusiast, gave me two of these.

One is on its own matching pole, made of metal crafted to look like a bent tree branch embraced by a twining vine. It has a little bird attached to the top of the crook, and it makes me smile every time I see it. I put it in the front garden, ready to greet anyone who wanders up the drive.iron bell on its own stand

The other is a more traditional bell. It has a green finish, and hangs from a hollowed out copper star, encasing a small, silver gazing ball. It looks like something mystical. This one, I hang on the entrance to the fenced garden.drawing of traditional bell

A ceramic bell hangs closer to the house, usually on a planter hook or sturdy branch growing in a potted shrub. A gift from a former student, it simply says “Thank you,” and its clapper spells out, “Blessings.” It’s a special reminder of my teaching days. Blessings, indeed!

And, then, there are the chimes. These long, silver tubes have surprisingly deep and pleasant tones. That is, until a big gust of wind sends them violently colliding, ringing with the urgency of a fire alarm.

Believe it or not, our chimes are now twenty-six years old. They were given to us as a wedding gift from my husband’s cousin and his wife. Only this year, did they need to be restrung. They still sound as beautiful as ever!

When my children were little, they loved ringing their pappou’s heavy garden bells. In fact, their joy became his, as he watched them strike the bell’s stout waist and laugh at the hollow, echoing notes of the iron-shouldered giant. These bells, crafted from gas cylinders, are so substantial that they are rung with a bell hammer; a breeze won’t do the trick.drawing of gas cylinder bells

I started wondering, what possesses us to put bells and chimes in our gardens? “Possesses” is a good word, because it’s often said that bells were used in religious ceremonies to frighten away evil spirits.

It didn’t take much research to discover that bells in gardens go way back in time; probably as far back as gardens do. Asian cultures that revered the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth, included all of these elements in sacred gardens.

I think that may be how we’ve gotten to where we are. We add bird baths, fountains, and ponds in our retreats, representing the water element.

Fire pits, outdoor fireplaces, and fire pots, torches, and lanterns incorporate the element of fire.

The earth representation is obvious, as our rich garden soil yields fruit, flowers, vegetables, and grasses. Then, we outline garden beds with rock ; or, include large boulders as part of the design.

That leaves us with the element of air. The ancients explained that when a bell or chime rang in the breeze, it was the air god brushing past. This is a much nicer thought than fearing evil spirits are trying to get into our private refuges. I think I’ll go with it!drawing of wind chimes

So, now you know that when you hang your outdoor bells, you are bringing the air element into the garden. Not just that, but you are adding a soothing, auditory layer to your little Eden.

Which elements do you incorporate into your garden scheme?

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5 comments

  1. I like the oriental explanation to windchimes. Not too sure if the birdbaths here would count as a water element. too frequent a need of cleaning. I find myself thinking it would be very handy to carry a small bell or wind chime along where ever we go – to keep those evil spirits at bay. Thanks for the insight !

      • The birds more or less demand the baths be cleaned frequently. They bring in more dirt from their dust baths. As for staff – no it is better to be one’s own gardener. being in the garden there are more moments that make it worth while having and being in the garden.

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