There is a large body of evidence suggesting that contact with nature in various different forms has a beneficial effect on human beings, physically, psychologically and socially. Most of this research is outside the scope of this chapter, as it does not relate exclusively to ecological plantings: in most cases it would be impossible to assert that ecological plantings do more good than any other type of planting.
However, there are some notable exceptions to this. The first relates to the benefits sustained by people as a result of wilderness experiences. Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) summarised the results of a decade of research into the effects of participation in outward-bound programmes... >
Lyons’ study (1983) did not find gender to be significant. However, gender has been found to be very significant in studies of perception of safety in urban landscapes, with women being far more fearful than men (Valentine 1989; Madge 1997; Jorgensen et al. 2002). Given the connection between landscape preference and perception of safety referred to earlier in the discussion of innate theories of landscape preference, it seems likely that gender does play a significant role in landscape perception but this may well be far more complex than a simple correlation between gender and preference for particular views or types of landscape (Rohde and Kendle 1994)... >
Research has also confirmed that residence or familiarity can have a significant affect on landscape preference. ‘Residence’ is really just another way of evaluating familiarity because living in a particular environment means that we become familiar with it. Broadly speaking, the findings suggest that familiarity increases preference (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Herzog et al. 2000). The latter study compared Australians’ and Americans’ preference for Australian natural landscapes. The Australians gave their own landscape higher preference scores than the Americans. Within the Australian group, the Aboriginal respondents showed the highest overall preference, a finding perhaps explained by their greater familiarity with the landscapes in question.
The research into familiarity also sug... >
Education, income and occupation
Although in the early 1970s research reported that environmental agendas were primarily supported by the middle or upper-middle class, this notion was rebutted by Buttel and Flinn (1978) who found that age and place of residence were better predictors of awareness of environmental problems and support for environmental programmes than education, income and occupation: what they called ‘the three major indicators of social class’. Of these three, education was the most significant.
Two of the main factors accounting for differences in landscape perception are occupation and expertise. Farmers have been found to react differently to nature development plans compared to other residents of an area and visitors to that area (Van den Berg et al. 1998)... >
Rohde and Kendle (1994) describe the different views of human relationships with nature held by Dutch, French and Japanese people. The French view of nature is said to be characterised by a desire for order and control, whereas the Japanese are said to view humankind and nature as part of an integrated whole. Clearly, these are sweeping generalisations and all cultures contain sub-cultures and individuals who may hold entirely different
Battlemented laurels—an example of a military approach to shrub maintenance from the public frontage of a hotel in Grange-overSands in Cumbria
views, but, nevertheless, such overarching cultural influences clearly do play an important role in forming attitudes.
In their account of the history and development of ecological landscape styles,... >
The existence of other factors differentiating landscape preference has been acknowledged for some time: factors relating to the individual as opposed to the landscape. Lyons (1983), for example, found that age, gender, place of residence and familiarity affected landscape preference. Further, she concluded that if variables such as age, place of residence and familiarity influence landscape preference, then preference must have a dynamic quality, changing over an individual lifespan. Thus, landscape preference is not based solely on innate characteristics acquired during human evolution.
Bourassa (1991) postulated that, as well as a biological component (genetic acquired through evolution), the aesthetics of landscape also has strong cultural and personal components... >
The innate theories propose that we derive our aesthetic responses to landscape from an earlier evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens. It is argued that evolution favoured individuals who had the ability to evaluate their environment successfully in terms of its capacity to fulfil their need for shelter, safety and nourishment. Because human civilisations have been in existence for only a fraction of the time that it has taken our species to evolve, we still retain a strong and instinctive inbuilt preference for landscapes that display the characteristics necessary to meet these needs. Orians and Heerwagen (1992) have claimed that we have an inbuilt preference for landscapes resembling the savannah because the crucial phase of human evolutionary development took place there... >
There are two basic explanations for the way in which we react to different landscapes: (i) we have an innate or biological response to landscape; and (ii) responses to landscape are acquired through cultural background and personal development, to a greater or lesser degree.
Historically, many of the proponents of the innate explanation have concentrated on landscape preference research in an attempt to discover what kind of landscape humans prefer. Although it is obviously useful to gauge public preference for different types of landscape, the nature of this type of research sometimes obscures the complexity of people’s attitudes... >
What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
(Manley Hopkins, 1948)
At the beginning of the twenty-first century many urban-dwellers’ experience of naturalistic or wildlooking vegetation in towns and cities is restricted to specific settings: remnants of ancient woodland on land deemed unsuitable for development, natural succession taking over on derelict or brownfield sites, abandoned allotments, vegetation beside rivers or other water bodies and urban nature-reserves.
Wild-looking vegetation in an urban setting
Parkland in the style of the English Landscape movement
A mix of sown meadow and shrubs provides... >
The development of vegetations within a heempark must be considered as a sliding scale, from simple to complex, and from young to old. In the same way daily maintenance is, in many respects, done on a sliding scale. As such, we work within the laws of nature. Natural processes are not only cyclic but also gradual. As stated before, the management of a heempark is characterised by the attentive and empathic guiding and following of processes, and for one to be able to do so a broad and open consciousness of context—in time and space—is of vital importance. For instance, the practice of rejuvenating vegetations is, in fact, setting back the clock of natural succession, and to be able to do this in the right way one should truly know the whole range of succession phases... >