Human Dimensions of Wildlife Gardening: its Development, Controversies and Psychological Benefits
This source preferred by Susanna Curtin
Authors: Curtin, S.
Start date: 9 April 2014
With a little imagination and understanding, wildlife gardening provides the opportunity to bring nature back into our lives not only for the aesthetic beauty and pleasure that flora and fauna brings but also for the sensual pleasures that can be derived from the sound of birdsong, the croaking of amphibians and the movement and spectacle of insects such as bees, dragonflies and butterflies that can be attracted into our gardens. With the help of wildlife conservation agencies, the growing media related to gardening and conservation, and the awareness of global environmental degradation, wildlife gardening has become more mainstream. Forty years ago, the majority of people would have scorned the idea of gardening for wildlife. Gardens were a place where the control of any wildlife which prevented or reduced high production of flowers or produce was the primary modus operandi; gardeners were encouraged to reach for insect sprays at the first signs of damage. Today, however, we are realising that every living thing is part of a complex chain; a web of life, with a myriad of symbiotic relationships and connections from one species to the next. At a time when natural habitats are declining at an alarming rate, conservation organisations see gardens as essential corridors; highways and oases of modified habitat which can be exploited by wildlife.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight and examine the changing attitudes and understanding of wildlife gardening and the sometimes complex and conflicting relationship between wildlife and horticulture. It does this amidst a discussion of the human attraction of wildlife, the psychological benefits that can be gained from creating a sanctuary where wildlife can be enjoyed and the psychological processes that are involved in the personal emersion and enjoyment of nature whether in one’s own garden or in a horticultural visitor attraction
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014. A prevalent social discourse concerning climate change, loss of biodiversity and the importance of nature to human health currently dominates news articles, television programmes and political comment. These anthropogenic impacts on the natural environment question humankind’s predominant relationship with nature; particularly in western developed cultures where people are usually perceived as separate from nature rather than part of it. Whilst the world’s declining iconic species catch media attention, it is often local and indigenous wildlife that become the focus of communities at a local level. As a result, conservation organisation membership has increased over the last 5 years alongside a strong retail sector which encourages people to purchase, for example, wild bird food, bird feeders and nest boxes. As interest in feeding the wild birds that visit gardens has increased, so too has an appreciation of the need to conserve the wider aspects of the ecosystem such as plants, insects and amphibians which attract and support the birds and mammals that have become more welcome visitors to our gardens. There is also increasing recognition of the health and psychological benefits that wildlife gardening can bring to individuals and communities. Many prominent garden attractions and horticultural shows in England and throughout the world have developed a wild theme into their garden design which has captured the imagination of garden visitors who wish to marry their love of horticulture with their interest in wildlife. Such naturalistic and wild flower planting has thus become a more common element of home garden design reflected in the retail sector, media programmes and garden magazines and books.