Note: This version is the accepted manuscript
Does urban gardening increase aesthetic quality of urban areas? A case study from
Petra Lindemann-Matthies & Hendrik Brieger
We tested in two corresponding studies the hypothesis that urban gardening is of visual
aesthetic value to the public. With the help of photo-realistic visualizations and a written
questionnaire, 109 students and employees of the Karlsruhe University of Education (study 1)
and 200 passers-by in the city of Karlsruhe (study 2) were asked about their opinion on
different urban gardening scenarios, and attitudes towards urban gardening. Our results
indicate that urban gardening can contribute to perceived attractiveness of urban areas, but
that not all approaches are perceived as equally positive. While flowerbeds or flower
meadows and orderly-managed vegetable plots, in comparison to conventional lawns,
increased the aesthetic appeal of urban green space, container gardening approaches, which
were often characterized as chaotic, did not. Although flower scenarios were preferred over
vegetable scenarios, participants were rather positive about the idea of having more vegetable
plots around. Socio-demographic variables had only minor influences on preferences and
attitudes. As people were fonder of flowerbeds or flower meadows than of vegetable plots, a
mixture of both might be advisable in urban gardening sites. This would also increase overall
diversity, which is not only beneficial from an aesthetic, but also from an ecological point of
Urban gardening is very diverse, and there is not one single definition that covers all the
different activities and approaches. Urban gardening encompasses several unique gardening
concepts, including container gardening, indoor gardening (container gardening indoors or
use of greenhouses or solariums), roof gardening, and community gardening which involves
groups of people who use outdoor public or private spaces to cultivate gardens for food or
pleasure (examples in Müller, 2011; Rasper, 2012; Wunder, 2013). The present study
understands urban gardening as a community process that involves private persons,
initiatives, or societies who cultivate plants of many different kinds (not just for food
production) in public spaces.
For a long time, urban gardening was an important source of food production, especially in
times of crises (e.g., Perren, 2005; Mok et al., 2014). Today, urban gardening is experiencing
a renaissance. Growing environmental awareness, but also counter-culture movements against
consumerism, conformity and industry, inflation, and unemployment are motivating people to
cultivate their own food (Hynes & Howe, 2004; Hou, 2014; Mok et al., 2014). In 2013, for
example, more than 100 urban gardening projects could be found in the city of Berlin alone,
not including allotment gardens, school gardens or children farms, while in 2002, only about
eight projects existed in the whole country of Germany (Wunder, 2013). In parallel to the
renaissance of urban gardening, many other attempts are currently undertaken to increase
green space and biodiversity in cities, for example, by incorporating living roofs, green walls,
or wildflower meadows (examples in Beatley, 2011; Benvenuti, 2014; Mok et al., 2014). As
more than half of the world’s population already lives in metropolitan areas and numbers are
strongly increasing (Miller, 2008), more “biophilic cities” (Beatley, 2011) are needed to
promote the well-being of people. Studies have shown that urban gardens and green space in
cities can contribute to psychological and physiological health, social cohesion, recreation,
and life satisfaction of humans (overviews in Brown & Jameton, 2000; Hynes & Howe, 2004;
Guitart et al., 2012). Moreover, they can contribute to the provision of ecosystem services in
urban areas (overview in Middle et al., 2014; Speak et al., 2015).
Benefits of urban gardening are the production of healthy food (e.g. Wakefield et al., 2007;
Alaimo et al., 2008; Ober Allen, 2008; Litt et al., 2011), the promotion of community feelings
(e.g., Wakefield et al., 2007; Okvat & Zautra, 2011), and the meaningful use of vacant lots
(e.g., Armstrong, 2000; Morckel, 2015). While health and social benefits of urban gardening
have been rather well studied, few studies have investigated whether urban gardening benefits
communities in terms of attractiveness (Morckel, 2015). Some studies mentioned
neighborhood beautification as either an intentional purpose or unintended benefit
(Armstrong, 2000; Alaimo et al., 2010; Hale et al., 2011), but none of these studies explicitly
examined the factors that affect garden attractiveness (reviews in Draper & Freedman, 2010;
Guitart et al., 2012). A recent study investigated with the help of site photographs the
perceived attractiveness of eleven community gardens and nine vacant lots in Columbus,
Ohio, during each of four seasons (Morckel, 2015). Community gardens were generally
perceived as more attractive than vacant lots, and attractiveness ratings were highest in
summer and lowest in winter. However, regardless of season or physical features, the level of
maintenance of a green space had the largest influence on its attractiveness. This finding is in
line with results of a Swiss study, in which a chaotic appearance of private domestic gardens
was clearly disliked (Lindemann-Matthies & Marty, 2013). In the opinion of city officials in
the United States, beautiful urban gardening plots have to be green, lush, neat and ordered
The present research contributes to the existing literature about factors that affect aesthetic
quality of green space in urban areas (Aptekar, 2015; Morckel, 2015). We tested, with the
help of photo-realistic visualizations, the influence of urban gardening scenarios (flowerbeds
or flower meadows, vegetables either grown in containers or in the ground) and status-quo
scenarios (conventional lawns) on perceived attractiveness. The research was carried out in
Karlsruhe, a medium-sized city of about 300,000 inhabitants, which is ranked as one of the
top sustainable cities in Germany. An important objective of the cityʾs Local Agenda 21 is the
provision of green space for urban gardening. Under the umbrella of the Parks Department,
private persons or initiatives are encouraged to cultivate their own vegetables, herbs or
flowers in designated public spaces. There are no regulations for the management of the
garden plots. Three main objectives are pursued by the project, which is still in its start-up
phase: provision of opportunities for people to grow their own food or to cultivate ornamental
plants, provision of nature experiences, and beautification of the city. However, as urban
gardening can be done in different ways, not all gardening approaches may contribute to a
beautiful appearance of the city. In order to develop successful urban gardening programmes
that are widely accepted it is important to know how differently-managed urban green spaces
contribute to perceived attractiveness, how citizens respond to the idea of urban gardening
sites in their neighborhood, and whether they would actually want to engage in urban
We set out the following research questions:
(1) Does urban gardening improve the attractiveness of urban green spaces in comparison to
conventional lawns, and if so, which features of land use contribute to their perceived
(2) Which attributes are used by the public to characterize the different types of land use, and
are they related to aesthetic ratings?
(3) Do people like the idea of urban gardening sites in their neighborhood, and would they
like to engage in urban gardening?
2.1 General overview (study 1 and 2)
This research consisted of two corresponding studies. In both studies, respondents were asked
with the help of photo visualizations and a written questionnaire about their opinion on
different urban gardening scenarios, and their attitudes towards urban gardening. We only
visualized urban gardening scenarios which could actually be applied in the city of Karlsruhe.
In the first study, the campus of the University of Education, which is situated in the inner
city of Karlsruhe, was manipulated. This location was chosen because it is planned to
integrate urban gardening sites into the campus. We were thus interested how urban gardening
scenarios would be perceived by both students and employees. In the second study, green
spaces in inner city residential areas of Karlsruhe were manipulated. The chosen locations are
all potential areas for future urban gardening activities.
Study 1 was conducted in January 2014 and involved 75 students and 34 employees of the
university. Study 2 was carried out in April 2014 and involved 200 city dwellers. For this
study, people were approached in well-visited parks in the inner city, and asked whether they
would be willing to participate in the survey (80% agreed to participate). Selection of
participants was at random; after a respondent had completed all tasks, the next person was
approached and asked for his or her participation. The entire process of participation was
strictly anonymous and people were assigned numbers. Study 1 was approved by the law
official of the Karlsruhe University of Education. In study 2, participants were informed
verbally about the broad aims of the research and chose whether they wanted to participate in
2.2 Visualizations (study 1 and 2)
Digital photographs were taken using a Nikon D90 camera with an 18-105 mm lens. From
these photographs, images were constructed by computer-aided photo editing (using the
program Jasc Paint Shop Pro 9). The images varied in land use in the foreground, while the
background was always taken from the original photograph. During the editing process,
persons or anthropogenic elements such as bicycles or cars were not removed as we wanted
most realistic images of urban gardening activities which, of course, involve people in city
In study 1, digital photographs of five different campus locations were taken, and the
visualizations developed as follows: in each location the first image was not manipulated, i.e.,
it depicted the status quo; the second one included flowerbeds or flowering meadows, and the
third vegetables. To be as realistic as possible, one image showed vegetable plots without
vegetation (depicting a winter scenario; no. 12 in Table 1), and another depicted container
vegetables (no. 9). All flowers and vegetables can be found in the region and, with the one
exception, were shown in their most attractive stages (flowering, mature vegetables).
In study 2, digital photographs of three different city locations were taken, and the
visualizations developed as follows: in each location, the first image was not manipulated
(status quo); the second showed vegetables grown in containers, the third vegetable plots, and
the fourth flowerbeds or flowering meadows (resulting in 12 different images).
2.3 Questionnaire design
The five campus locations, each with its three images, were imparted in the questionnaire
from above to below, always showing the status quo first, then the flower scenario, and finally
the vegetable one. A scale was attached to each image at the bottom, ranging from 1 to 9. The
scale was anchored at both ends by the two opposing statements “not nice at all” and “very
nice”, and study participants had to indicate their opinion by circling a box on the position of
the scale that most represented their feelings. Participants had also to characterize each scene
with the help of eight pre-given adjectives by ticking either “yes, I think this attribute is
fitting” or “no, I do not think this attribute is fitting”. The adjectives referred to landscape
characteristics, which were found to influence scenic beauty in other studies (e.g. Junge et al.,
2011; Lindemann-Matthies & Marty, 2013) like the diversity of a scene (diverse, colorful,
monotone) and the associated thoughts and feelings (well kept, harmonic, special, chaotic, not
fitting). Participants were also asked to indicate on 5-step scales, ranging from 1: very low to
5: very high, their general interest in taking care of a vegetable plot or flowerbed, and their
interest to actually engage in growing vegetables or planting flowers on campus. Space was
given at the end of the questionnaire for additional comments.
To control for socioeconomic variables, participants were asked about their age, sex,
profession (employee or student), and length of employment or study (years). These variables
were found to influence aesthetic valuation of gardens, green space, and cultural landscapes
(e.g., van den Berg & van Winsum-Westra, 2010; Junge et al., 2011; Lindemann-Matthies &
Marty, 2013; Speake et al., 2013). Participants were between 20 and 65 years old (mean age =
31 years, SD = 12.1). About 73% of participants were women, which is typical for the
Karlsruhe University of Education.
The three city locations, each with its four images, were printed on A4-size paper (in color
with high resolution). The color prints were then assigned to three folders (each folder
containing one location). Each folder was shown to approx. 67 persons (overall n = 200). The
order of prints in each folder was as follows: original, container vegetables, vegetable plots,
and flower scenarios. Participants had to rate each image on nine-step scales (1: not nice at all
to 9: very nice), which were shown in the questionnaires. They also had to characterize each
scene with the help of the eight adjectives already used in study 1. However, this time
participants could choose among adjectives most fitting for each scenario, since comments on
the first questionnaire had shown that simple yes-no-decisions on attributes could not always
be made. Moreover, due to comments on rater fatigue in the first questionnaire, the number of
images a participant had to assess was reduced in this study.
Afterwards, the following information was given in the questionnaire: “In the following, the
term ‘urban garden’ is used. This means a garden or a plot in public space in which mainly
useful plants (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) are grown by private persons.” Participants were
asked how they would like the idea of urban gardens in their neighborhood (on a 5-step scale,
with 1: very bad to 5: very good). They were also asked whether there should be more urban
gardens around, whether they themselves would like to care for a plot, and whether they
would prefer useful plants over flowers (always yes, no, do not know as answer possibilities).
Finally, all participants were asked about their age and sex. They were also asked to indicate
whether their profession was related to biology, (landscape) gardening or a similar field, as
professional expertise was found to influence perceived attractiveness of cultural landscapes
(Lindemann-Matthies et al., 2010; Junge et al., 2011). Participants (48% women) were
between 18 and 80 years old (mean age = 35 years, SD = 14.9). About 18% of participants
were “professional experts”, which, compared to other studies in the field of landscape
perception, is a rather high proportion (e.g., Junge et al., 2011).
2.4 Pilot test and data analysis (study 1 and 2)
Study 1 was pilot tested with 18 students and scientists, and study 2 with ten randomly
selected passers-by in the city of Karlsruhe. Participants needed approximately 15 minutes to
answer all questions, and only few changes had to be made to the questionnaires.
General linear models (Type II SS) with backward elimination of non-significant (p > 0.05)
variables were used to test for influences of socio-demographic variables on participants’
aesthetic valuations of scenarios and commitment to urban gardening. As this type of analysis
does not allow strong correlations between explanatory variables (r > 0.35), Pearson
correlations between binomial and metric explanatory variables were tested first (Crawley
2005). Age, employment status (student, employee), and length of time spent at the university
were strongly correlated (all p < 0.001; study 1). Thus, only employment status was included
in the analyses. In study 1, the following variables and factors were initially included in the
models: employment status, sex, and, in case of aesthetic valuation, location (five different
settings). In study 2, the following variables and factors were included: age, sex, professional
expertise, and, in case of aesthetic valuation, location (three different settings).
Binary logistic regressions with backward elimination of non-significant (p > 0.05) variables
were used to test for influences on participants’ choice of attributes (study 2). The following
variables and factors were included in the models: age, sex, professional expertise, location
(dummy coding with location 3 as reference). All analyses were carried out with SPSS for
3.1 Study 1
Scenarios containing flowerbeds or flower meadows were considered most and status quo
scenarios least appealing (Table 1). Only one vegetable scenario (no. 12; bare soil in winter)
received second lowest ratings. The least attractive scenario (no. 7) included hardly any
As outlined in the methods part, pictures were taken at five different campus locations. In the
general linear models, aesthetic valuation of the three different land use types varied
significantly between the five locations (status quo scenarios: F4,526 = 85.81, p < 0.001; flower
scenarios: F4,517 = 11.41, p < 0.001; vegetable scenarios: F4,508 = 31.52, p < 0.001; compare
Table 1). Both urban gardening and status quo scenarios in front of the two old buildings
(which can be seen in, e.g., images no. 14 and 2 in Table 1) were always preferred over
scenarios in front of the new buildings (e.g., images no. 8 and 11). It is thus relevant, where
on campus a flowerbed, meadow, or vegetable plot will be realized.
Women and men differed significantly in their aesthetic valuation of flower scenarios, but not
in their ratings of vegetable or status quo scenarios. Women liked flower scenarios better than
men did (on average, 6.9 ± 0.08 and 6.5 ± 0.14, respectively, on the 9-step scale; F1,517 = 7.44,
p = 0.007). Whether a person was a student or employee did not influence the results.
Participants were asked to indicate for each of eight pre-given attributes whether it was
appropriate for a scenario or not. Flower scenarios were especially perceived as colorful and
well kept, but also as harmonic and diverse (Table 2). Vegetable scenarios were also
perceived as well kept and diverse, but mainly as special and chaotic, while status quo
scenarios were especially characterized as monotone.
About 28% of participants had a strong or very strong interest in taking care of a vegetable
plot on campus, whereas only 13% of participants had a similar strong interest in a flowerbed
(mean scores of 2.1 ± 0.13 and 2.3 ± 0.14, respectively, on the 5-step scale). About 22% had a
strong or very strong interest to care for a vegetable plot next year, and 12% had a similar
strong interest in a flowerbed (mean scores of 2.1 ± 0.12 and 1.9 ± 0.11, respectively).
Participantsʾ commitment to urban gardening was not influenced by sex and employment
3.2 Study 2
In all three locations in the city of Karlsruhe, flower scenarios were appreciated most (Table
3). In contrast to study 1 (university campus), most status quo scenarios were considered more
attractive than the vegetables scenarios. With one exception (no. 3), vegetables plots were
more appreciated than container-grown vegetables. As in study 1, location mattered.
Scenarios in location 1 (images no. 1, 2, 3 in Table 3) were always rated lower than those in
the other two locations (B = -1.17, t = -4.06, p < 0.001 and B = -1.01, t = -3.97, p < 0.001,
respectively). Participants with professional expertise rated flower scenarios lower than the
other participants (B = -0.64, t = -3.97, p = 0.044).
Flower scenarios were mainly characterized as colorful and status quo scenarios as monotone
(Table 4). Both scenarios were also characterized as well kept. Scenarios with vegetable plots
were also considered well kept, while container-vegetable scenarios were mainly
characterized as chaotic, diverse and special.
In the multiple binary regression models, professional expertise did not influence
characterizations. The strongest influence on characterizations had the perceived beauty of a
scenario (Table 5). The probability that the three different urban gardening scenarios were
characterized as well kept increased with perceived aesthetic appeal, while the probability that
they were characterized as not fitting decreased. Moreover, the probability that a status-quo
scenario was characterized as harmonic, colorful or diverse increased with perceived aesthetic
appeal, while the probability that it was considered not fitting or chaotic decreased. With
increasing age, probabilities decreased that status quo scenarios or those with vegetables
grown in soil were characterized as well kept, and that container-vegetable and flower
scenarios were characterized as harmonic. Location also mattered, especially in case of the
vegetable scenarios (see Table 5).
Almost 80% of participants regarded the idea of urban gardening sites in their neighborhood
as good or very good (mean score of 4.2 ± 0.07 on the 5-step scale), and 79% of participants
felt that there should be more urban gardens around. None of the tested variables and factors
influenced the results. About 32% of participants would prefer the cultivation of useful plants
over flowers, while 35% would not like it, and 33% were unsure. Participants who preferred
the cultivation of useful plants over flowers liked the idea of urban gardening sites in their
neighborhood better than those who did not or were not sure about it (F2,194 = 19.19, p <
0.001; mean scores of 4.5 ± 0.12, 4.3 ± 0.12 and 3.6 ± 0.12, respectively, on the 5-step scale).
About 36% of participants were willing to take care of a nearby flowerbed or vegetable plot,
41% were not willing, and 23% were not sure about it. Participants who would like to engage
in urban gardening were more likely those with professional expertise (Wald = 5.14, p =
0.023) and those who supported the idea of urban gardening sites in their neighborhood (Wald
= 28.00, p < 0.001).
The present results indicate that urban gardening can improve the attractiveness of urban
green space in comparison to conventional lawns, but that not all features of urban gardening
contribute to aesthetic appeal. Flower scenarios, however, clearly improved aesthetic appeal.
Colorful plants are a typical feature of the modern urban environment, and have been found to
increase the attractiveness of green space in urban settings (e.g., Todorova et al., 2004;
Lindemann-Matthies & Bose 2007; Lee et al., 2014). Recent photo surveys in Switzerland
have also demonstrated strong aesthetic preferences of the public for colorful meadows, and
low preferences for almost all agricultural crops (Lindemann-Matthies et al., 2010; Junge et
al., 2015). Compared to most status-quo scenarios in the first study, vegetables plots or
container vegetables were clearly preferred. It should be noted that the one winter aspect of a
vegetable scenario was not well appreciated (no. 12 in Table1). Vegetable plots are rather
ephemeral, and bare soil is left after harvest. One idea could be to integrate little flower
meadows in urban gardening areas. They would add structural diversity over most of the year
and, despite a scrubby appearance if not mown or cut in autumn, will even be appreciated in
winter (Junge et al., 2009).
Differences between the two surveys in aesthetic preferences of vegetables scenarios could be
explained by differences in the status quo scenarios. While the university campus consists of
lawns or paved areas which cannot be used for leisure-time activities, locations in the city of
Karlsruhe were more park-like. It could thus be that participants were more reluctant to re-
design areas they already considered as leisure-time locations. This would explain the clear
preference of status quo scenarios over vegetable ones in the second study. Our results not
only showed differences between the two study settings, but also among individual locations.
This means that not all places in a city are similarly appreciated for the growth of vegetables
or the planting of flowerbeds. It has long been known that landscape preferences are context
dependent (e.g., Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Gobster et al., 2007), which means that potential
locations for urban gardening projects have to be carefully evaluated to avoid later
Flower scenarios were often characterized as colorful, harmonic, and well kept, while status-
quo scenarios were clearly characterized as monotone. Vegetable scenarios, especially
container gardening ones, were more often than the other scenarios considered chaotic,
special, and not fitting. It has already been shown that preferences for garden styles are guided
by psychological needs, among them people’s needs for structure, understanding and
exploration (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Kaplan et al., 1998; van den Berg and van Winsum-
Westra, 2010; Lindemann-Matthies & Marty, 2013). While an overly complex (chaotic) urban
garden plot tends to lack structure and fails to be understandable, a manicured (neat) one is
well-structured and thus, easy to understand. People’s need for structure might also explain
why both on campus and in the inner-city residential areas, visualizations of orderly, neat
vegetables plots (e.g., no. 15 and 3 on campus; no. 11 in the city) received rather high
preference-ratings, and were even preferred over status-quo scenarios. Attributes that were
assigned to the different land-use scenarios were related to perceived aesthetic appeal (as
shown in study 2), although not all scenarios received the same attributes. However, the more
urban gardening scenarios were considered to be attractive, the more likely they were
characterized as well kept, and the more they were considered unattractive, the more they
were characterized as not fitting. Level of maintenance was also the factor that influenced
perceived attractiveness of community gardens (Morckel, 2015), and campus green space
(Speake et al., 2013). “Cues of care” are major predictors for a positive landscape evaluation
(Nassauer, 1995; Kaplan et al., 1998).
Especially for young people, urban gardening can be part of a counter-culture movement
against conformity, while conventional gardening (often strictly regulated in allotment
gardens) may be perceived as the domain of the over 50s. This might explain why younger
participants in the present study were more likely than older ones to characterize container
vegetables as chaotic. For them, “chaotic” might not be an expression of neglect, but one of
non-conformity. Younger participants were also more likely than older ones to characterize
vegetable plots, but also status-quo scenarios (lawns), as well kept and harmonic. In public
space, older people may favor neat and tidy parks over vegetables plots or unstructured lawns.
The larger preference of women for flower scenarios was the only sex-related difference
found, and can be explained by a greater affinity of women for plant species richness and
flower color (Strumse, 1996; Lindemann-Matthies & Bose, 2007). Our findings indicate that
urban gardens may not only be a space of “civil cosmopolitanism”, but also a space for
(generation) conflict (Aptekar, 2015). However, more detailed studies with larger sample
sizes are needed to understand the influence of socioeconomic variables on aesthetic appeal of
certain urban gardening features.
Although flower scenarios were preferred in the visualized urban gardening settings,
participants were rather positive about the idea of having more vegetable plots around. They
were generally very positive towards the idea of urban gardening (study 2). However, care
should be taken in generalizing these results. Survey participation was entirely voluntary, and
respondents with an interest in urban gardening may have been more likely to participate as
the topic of the study was revealed to all persons addressed. The high proportion of
participants with a profession related to biology, (landscape) gardening or a similar field
points in this direction. “Professional experts” were indeed more in favor of the idea of urban
gardening, and less fond of conventional flowerbeds. A positive relationship between
environmental expertise and engagement in ecological gardening practices was also found in
other studies (Kiesling & Manning, 2010; Lindemann-Matthies & Marty, 2013). With an
average age of 31 years in the first, and 35 years in the second study, our (rather small)
sample population was also much younger than the population in Karlsruhe (mean age = 43
years; Statistical Office of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg). Participants were thus a
convenience sample, and results cannot be generalized. In our study, we worked with photo-
realistic visualizations. Although they are a useful tool in landscape studies, and have been
found valid to represent landscape scenes in a satisfactory manner (Trent et al., 1987; Daniel,
2001), they cannot fully represent reality (Scott & Canter, 1997; Daniel & Meitner, 2001). It
would thus be interesting to investigate how urban gardening projects will be perceived in real
settings. It would also be interesting to study the aesthetic outcomes of urban gardening
projects in controlled pre-post-designs.
This research indicates that certain features of public land use contribute to perceived
attractiveness of urban areas, but that not all approaches are perceived as equally positive.
While flowerbeds or flower meadows and vegetable plots, in comparison to conventional
lawns, may increase the aesthetic appeal of urban green space, container gardening
approaches may not. We therefore conclude that a mixture of flower meadows, flowerbeds,
and vegetables plots might be advisable in permanent urban gardening sites. This would also
increase overall diversity, which is not only beneficial from an ecological, but also from an
aesthetic point of view (see also Lindemann-Matthies & Marty, 2013).
This research further indicates that attributed attractiveness of urban green space and
perceived maintenance are aligned. While well-kept flowerbeds and orderly-managed
vegetables plots may add aesthetic value to urban green space, chaotic arrangements of plants
or unattractive containers may not. A certain level of maintenance will not only increase
appreciation, but also decrease the probability that urban gardens will be less prone to
vandalism or neglect. As pointed out by Nassauer (1997), people will not care for landscapes
they do not appreciate. The present research showed differences among individual locations,
indicating that not in all places in a city the growth of vegetables or the planting of flowerbeds
may be similarly appreciated. City planners, park administration officials and other
stakeholders are thus advised to carefully evaluate potential locations for urban gardening
sites to avoid later disappointments.
This research also indicates that at least our non-representative study sample liked the idea of
(more) urban gardening sites in their neighborhood, were more interested in the cultivation of
vegetables than flowers (as this might be their core idea of urban gardening), and were rather
willing to engage in urban gardening (a third of participants in the second survey). As with
increasing urbanization more and more people will live in buildings without private gardens,
urban gardens may deliver similar pleasurable experiences as private gardens are doing for
millions of people (Clayton, 2007).
One aspect was not integrated in our study, but should be especially noted. Flowering plants
must not be exotic ornamentals (as, e.g., tulips and daffodils in our study), but also species
that naturally occur in a region. Planting of local species and fostering diversity would very
much benefit both biodiversity and aesthetic feelings. Recent studies in urban areas have
shown that the public appreciates such approaches (e.g. Helfand et al., 2006; Lindemann-
Matthies & Bose, 2007). The Alex Wilson Garden in Toronto, Canada, is just one example
for a successful community garden that has been planted exclusively with native plant
species, and is expected to have a positive impact on local biodiversity (Irvine et al., 1999).
However, since at least in Germany and neighboring countries such as Switzerland local
plants are harder to find in garden centers than exotic ones (Humair et al., 2014), this
approach needs help from the organizers of urban gardening initiatives. To conclude, we hope
that our results will contribute to a fruitful discussion of how biophilic cities could be
achieved, and to encourage others to investigate how attractive urban gardening sites could be
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Table 1: Aesthetic valuation of urban gardening scenarios (study 1). Three different
scenarios (status quo, flower scenario, vegetable scenario) in five different locations were
constructed by computer-aided photo editing. Participants (n = 109) had to indicate for each
of the 15 scenarios their aesthetic valuation on 9-step scales, ranging from 1: not nice at all to
9: very nice (scenarios are sorted by mean rating scores).
score ± SE
score ± SE
7.5 ± 0.13
5.2 ± 0.21
7.2 ± 0.17
5.0 ± 0.19
6.7 ± 0.16
4.9 ± 0.17
6.3 ± 0.18
3.2 ± 0.15
6.3 ± 0.18
3.2 ± 0.15
5.6 ± 0.20
2.8 ± 0.19
5.4 ± 0.20
1.6 ± 0.09
5.3 ± 0.26
Table 2: Characterization of three different land-use scenarios (study 1). Participants (n =
109) had to indicate for each of eight pre-given attributes whether it was appropriate for a
scenario or not. Each land-use scenario was replicated five times. Mean agreements by land-
use type are shown. In bold: highest overall means
Mean agreement (%)
(no. 1, 4, 7, 10, 13)
(no. 2, 5, 8, 11, 14)
(no. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15)
Table 3: Aesthetic valuation of urban gardening scenarios (study 2). Four different land-
use scenarios (status quo, container vegetables, vegetable plots, flower meadows or
flowerbeds) in three different locations were constructed by computer-aided photo editing.
Participants (n = 200) had to indicate for each of the 12 scenarios their aesthetic valuation on
9-step scales, ranging from 1: not nice at all to 9: very nice (scenarios are sorted by mean
score ± SE
score ± SE
7.9 ± 0.18
5.4 ± 0.24
7.7 ± 0.20
5.3 ± 0.22
6.7 ± 0.24
5.3 ± 0.29
5.8 ± 0.23
4.9 ± 0.30
5.5 ± 0.21
4.5 ± 0.23
5.4 ± 0.20
4.4 ± 0.25
Table 4: Characterization of four different land-use scenarios (study 2). Participants (n =
200) had to characterize each scenario by choosing among eight pre-given attributes the ones
they deemed best fitting. Each scenario was replicated three times. Mean choices of attributes
for the different land-use types are shown. In bold: highest overall means
Mean choice of attributes (%)
(no. 1, 5, 9)
Vegetables in containers
(no. 2, 6, 10)
(no. 3, 7, 11)
(no. 4, 8, 12)
Table 5: Influence of socio-demographic variables, aesthetic valuation (scores), and location
on the probability that a certain attribute was selected (study 2). Participants (n = 200) had to
chose among eight pre-given attributes those they considered most fitting. Each scenario
(status quo, vegetables grown in containers, vegetables in plots, flowerbeds or meadows) was
replicated three times. Data were analyzed with multiple binary logistic regressions
(backward Wald-tests). Shown are for each significant explanatory variable the sign of the
regression coefficient that indicate the direction of the effect, the Wald-statistic, and the level
of significance (*: p < 0.05; **: p < 0.01; ***: p < 0.001). Professional expertise did not
significantly influence any of the variables of interest.
vs. location 3
vs. location 3
Vegetables in cont.
Vegetables in soil