Hit the high notes on your balcony

Outdoors What could be better than a wind chime to provide a soundtrack for your outdoor space?

Consisting of a series of polished brass rings each with a metal ball at the centre, Temple Bell is one of the most poplar items in the Woodstock Chimes range.
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While jingling bells and seasonal music CDs may, mercifully, have been packed away for another year, many garden centres are introducing a new range of delicately noisy products for the new year. Wind chimes - once a slightly airy-fairy accessory favoured by the sort of people who like to read books about auras and other such new-agey topics - have had a bit of a face lift in recent times. No longer just kooky, the modern wind chime has a lot more going for it than the promise of rebalancing a chi flow that you didn't know you were missing in the first place.
Although wind chimes date back to prehistoric times, they've most commonly been used by east and south Asian cultures. They are believed to be beneficial in unblocking stress and, according to feng shui and similar philosophies, their tinkling sound brings balance and harmony to your garden. Proshat Lehmann, a Feng Shui practitioner who runs Zensation in Dubai, says that from a strict feng shui perspective, hanging a wind chime isn't just about choosing a pretty colour and hammering in a nail. "You should hang a wind chime based on the combination of certain numbers in your house or your garden," she says. But, whether you subscribe to the belief that garden chimes have healing properties or not, the sound of their delicate little bells is a simple pleasure that can enhance the joy of a garden space or even a modest balcony. That's one beauty of wind chimes: all you really need is a bit of space to hang one.
The honour of being the king of wind chimes may well go to the popular Music of the Spheres range (available here from Ace Hardware). Created by Larry Roark at the end of the 1980s, these chimes were among the first whose different notes were carefully pre-designed. A professional musician in the US, Roak played with various orchestras and radio stations before being killed in a road accident in 2001. His legacy is a range of durable, hand-crafted chimes, each designed to have a specific set of notes - from soprano to basso profundo. Made from black powder-coated aluminium alloy tubing, the chimes come in seven sizes, the highest pitch being the smallest in size.
"The Soprano, Mezzo Soprano and Westminster are all guaranteed for an outdoor life of at least seven years, and are one of our most popular sellers," says Sanjeev Nair at Ace Hardware in Dubai Festival City. The soprano chime retails from Dh349 while the large Mongolian bass chime has a price tag of Dh2,595. "The Mongolian bass chime is meant to sound like the bells inside a temple, while the Westminster chimes sound a bit like London's Big Ben." These are the ideal product if you're serious about the quality of sound for your garden and appreciate their deeply melodic quality.
Ace has a cheaper range of chimes that are also made by musicians but sound much more affordable, made by a New York-based, family-run business, Woodstock Chimes. The Woodstock Temple Bell (priced from Dh135) draws its inspiration from ancient Chinese temple bells and consists of a series of polished brass rings with a metal ball hanging at the centre of each ring. Woodstock also makes wooden chimes, which emit a more subtle sound than their metal counterparts.
Dubai Garden Centre also stocks the Woodstock range, and has some eye-catching conversation-starting pieces, including colourful carved wooden pieces and a set of hanging gongs with an abstract-shaped metal pendulum. "These chimes are popular with our customers because they are so different from the usual small chime shapes," explains Julius Barcena, the store manager. Larger chimes definitely lend themselves better to large spaces - and are particularly useful if you wish to create a focal point along a featureless wall or to direct the eye to a corner of your garden.
If you're looking for something a little more colourful - and comical - to liven up your garden, Ace has some wind chimes made from coloured metal and plastic that will appeal to children (and your not-so-inner child). Fancy a little frog or a blue whale to jazz up a dull balcony? The range changes frequently and features various cartoon-style characters, resplendent at the centre of a little chiming orbit of plastic and metal funnels. Starting from Dh65, these are much cheaper and thus make great gifts.
Finally, once you've chosen your chime, there are a few basic rules to ensuring its longevity. Although a good quality chime should come already weather-protected, you can occasionally run over wooden chimes with a thin coating of wood oil. Glass, metal or plastic chimes should be hand-washed occasionally in warm soapy water (then thoroughly rinsed) to remove the inevitable layer of dust that will settle on them.