Perhaps as a result of experiences within their own garden, there appears to be a widespread presumption among urban people in the temperate regions that vegetation should be ‘attractive’ throughout the summer months. This is particularly so for vegetation immediately adjacent to where people live or work. As herbaceous vegetation is highly seasonal in appearance, this is an important factor determining the type of plant community to be designed. Herbaceous vegetation that only flowers in spring, as in some woodland field layers, or needs to be cut in summer as hay meadow, is potentially problematic if used in situations that are subject to much public scrutiny in summer. These problems can be addressed by using zones of vegetation radiating out from buildings or gathering points, with long flowering or summer flowering material at the hub gradating to spring or other highly seasonal flowering vegetation further away. Phenology also needs to be addressed in terms of the duration of flowering of individual species within a community to ensure as dramatic and long a flowering period as possible.
HEIGHT AND TIDINESS
These two factors appear to be related. In a study using computer-generated photographic surrogates, Dai (2000) found that short, rather than tall meadow-like herbaceous vegetation was more preferred by the public, possibly because it was perceived as tidier, or perhaps even safer. Again, these preferences are probably influenced by location in relation to human activities, as previously discussed. Nassauer (1995) refers to the need for designers of naturalistic vegetation to provide the public with cues that affirm a vegetation is intentional and is cared for. Familiarity is also an important factor in public preference, Mynott (2000) found that local people came to tolerate the ‘untidy’ appearance of naturalistic herbaceous vegetation in winter because they knew how attractive it was in summer. Non-locals were strongly intolerant of the winter appearance because they did not know what it looked like in summer. Crisp edges between naturalistic vegetation and paths or mown surfaces are probably important contributors to gaining acceptance. The preference for naturalistic vegetation can clearly be learnt, either through travel and the familiarity this may develop, or through the media as an ecological or fashion icon.