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Contemporary Urban Affairs

2018, Volume 2, Number 2, pages 78– 89

The Socio-cultural and ecological perspectives on

landscape and gardening in Urban Environment:
A narrative review
Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh 1,*, Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 2
1 Department of Architecture, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, North Cyprus via Mersin10, Turkey
2 Department of Architecture, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, PMB 5025, Anambra State, Nigeria

Article history: This review offers a perspective on the role landscape and gardening play in urban
Received 29 December 2017 settings from a socio-cultural, and ecological dimension. The practice of cultivating
Accepted 6 January 2018 in gardens, parks and vacant lots, creates community spaces, and are increasingly
Available online 15 January becoming important to peoples’ experience of social and cultural wellbeing. In recent
2018 times, this has become a major focus of research in ecology, agriculture, urban
Keywords: design, landscape architecture, human geography, and sociology. Community
Culture; gardening is one of the avenues toward revitalizing urban environments, and it
Biodiversity; provides a way of addressing multi-faceted urban problems ranging from limited food
City; access to safety and community cohesion. That being said, it is necessary to
Ecology; continually evaluate the roles which society, ecology, and culture play in cities and
Landscape; landscape planning due to the dynamic nature of culture. This article aims to bring
Gardens to the fore, the various factors of landscape and gardening practices in cities and the
dynamics of cultural and ecological effects they have in building communities,
reclaiming communities or engendering a personal place to thrive. A narrative review
of the literature on peer-reviewed articles within the scope of the study was adopted
as the research method.
CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2018) 2(2), 78-89. Doi: 10.25034/ijcua.2018.3673

Copyright © 2017 Contemporary Urban Affairs. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction ‘landscape ecology,’ while studying the Miombo

As the world becomes more urbanized, the savanna in southeastern Africa, discovered a
practice of cultivating in gardens, parks and in repeated patchwork or pattern composed of
vacant lots, creates community spaces, and are grassland, termite mounds, shrubs, and tree
becoming increasingly important to peoples’ groups, which he called landscapes (Haber, 2004).
experience of social and cultural wellbeing. This The term landscape was combined with ecology
increase in world population continues to reveal, *Corresponding Author:
the fact that our ecosystems and landscapes will Department of Architecture, Eastern Mediterranean University,
be more domesticated and designed to suit Famagusta, North Cyprus via Mersin10, Turkey
human needs. In 1939, Carl Troll, a renowned E-mail address: Is.ezennia@unizik.edu.ng
German physical geographer coined the term

by Troll due to his understanding of the Home gardens are an under-researched part of
interrelationship between landscape and the agricultural stocks of smallholders in many
environmental science introduced by Ernst parts of the world. Until recently, urban home
Haeckel in 1866. Although, Several authors have gardens have not received much attention
classified it as follows: (i) landscape as regional despite their critical importance to urban
visual designation of the environment, and an livelihoods. Home gardens offer a perspective on
industrial or urban landscape; (ii) landscape as understanding rural-urban linkages since they are
evidence of history and cultural achievements, to frequently a landscape feature in both settings
be cherished, preserved, and recognized as a and the exchanges of their products link the two
national identity; (iii) landscape as gestalt or (WinklerPrins, 2002). Similarly, home gardens help
picture, as object of art and design, as symbol the preservation of tangible cultural heritage such
conveying wellbeing and comfort, (iv) landscape as food – traditional cuisine, enhance cultural
as part of everyday life, as a fabric of social, sustainability, conservation and cultural vitality
economic or political activities, and medium of (Mazumdar, & Mazumdar, 2012). More recently,
advert (Haber, 2004; Meier, 2001; Winiwarter, community gardens, have become a very
2001). important urban planning tool to provide green
Ample scientific evidence suggests that space in urban environments, improve access to
landscape assessment have extended various healthy foods, (Gregory, et al., 2015; Poulsen, et al.,
fields and theories and techniques such as internet 2014) and encourage local food production and
survey technique (Roth, 2006), Fuzzy set theory distribution (Pottinger, 2013).
(Steinhardt, 1998), landscape ecological There have been concerns on the aspect of
assessment (Mörtberg, et al., 2007), and biodiversity in landscape research, due to the
psychophysical landscape assessment approach global influx of diverse ornamental and non-native
(Daniel, 2001). Furthermore, local stakeholders plant species in landscape practice (van Kleunen,
now take into consideration, the benefits of et al., 2015), as well as how wild and cultivated
evaluating visual and non-visual aspects of biodiversity in all forms is related to healthy diets
different landscape settings (Soliva & Hunziker and nutrition (Powell et al., 2015). Consequently,
2009). major challenges are arising in landscape design
A growing body of evidence has documented the in countries where the fastest global urbanization
huge interest, shown by City dwellers, civil-society is predicted for future decades, such as: India,
organizations, and policymakers in food- China, and South America (Elmqvist et al. 2013).
producing community gardens for their potential Therefore, the combination of native biodiversity
to improve nutrition and public health, enhance and regional native plant material, into new and
urban environmental quality, and provide existing parks and landscape designs can
opportunities for urban residents to experience the engender a holistic approach to creating
natural world (Alaimo, et al., 2008; Drake & Lawson sustainable green infrastructure, preserving and
2015; Gregory, et al., 2015). Community gardens, supporting native biodiversity, and preventing
also regarded as urban agriculture, are public further plant invasions (Müller, & Sukopp, 2016).
spaces managed by member-volunteers who Developing and maintaining sustainable
grow food crops and or flowers, shrubs, and trees landscapes remains a challenging and vital task
in individual plots and communal growing spaces for scientists and numerous stakeholders. Thus,
(Cohen, et al., 2012). Community gardens can landscape architecture and landscape ecology
transform under-utilized land into vibrant, must be fully involved in the crucial processes
productive public space, engender a sense of employed towards accomplishing this task.
security in neighborhoods, and a strong However, landscape architecture or landscape
connection with the larger community (Poulsen, et ecology may not achieve its expected goal
al., 2014). without strategic intra and interdisciplinary
collaborations with other disciplines as well as the

Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh , Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 79


art and science of studying the relationship ecology, and culture play in cities and landscape
between spatial pattern and ecological planning due to the dynamic nature of culture.
processes, which influence the production of
sustainable landscape architecture (Chen, & Wu, 1.1. Methodology
2009). A narrative review of literature on peer reviewed
Studies have shown that there are several benefits articles within the scope of study was adopted as
and services provided by urban agriculture, which the research method. The criteria for the cities
can be observed through a framework of selected in the reviewed articles were random.
“landscape multi-functionality,” which entails the However, it was paramount that all included
production of food resources, ecological services, articles documented important finding related to
and socio-ecological functions, each of which the social, cultural and ergonomic dimensions of
benefits the health of the surrounding community gardening and landscape practices in cities.
(Lovell, 2010). Therefore, supporting and
expanding community gardens could benefit 1.2. Aim and objectives
many urban dwellers in neighborhoods where The aim of this article is to bring to the fore, the
people lack access to affordable healthy foods various factors of landscape and gardening
and opportunities for interactions with nature practices in cities and the dynamics of cultural and
(Larson, et al. 2009; Miller, 2005). Research findings ecological effects they have in building, and
from local distributions of cultivated vegetation reclaiming communities or engendering a
suggest that the social environment may personal place to thrive. The objective of this
significantly influence these distributions. review paper is to create a better knowledge of
Cultivated floras within settlements, vary with the implications of the socio-cultural, and
social factors (Kendal, et al., 2012). These factors ecological factors of landscape and gardens on
include, land use (gardens, parks or streetscapes) patterns of cultivated vegetation. This will
(Welch, 1994; Jim & Liu 2001; Martin, et al. 2004), contribute to the understanding of how people
socioeconomic and lifestyle gradients (Martin et experience nature in an urban context and help
al. 2004; Hope, et al. 2003; Luz de la Maza, et al. ecologists, sociologist, and professionals in urban
2002) and with historical patterns of physical and design towards better city planning, revitalization
social development (Lubbe, et al. 2010; Jim & Liu as well as gentrification.
2001). People from different cultural backgrounds In order to understand the scope in which
cultivate different kinds of plants, suggesting that landscape and gardens are discussed in this
places with very different cultures will have article, an understanding of the definitions of
different cultivated floras. This implies that as landscape, gardens, gardening and an
people migrate to settlements around the world, associated term such as farming within the scope
the cultivated floras of those settlements will of study is clearly described.
become more similar (Head, et al., 2004; Fraser, &
Kenney, 2000) and affords immigrants the 1.2.1 Landscape
opportunity to re-create the natural environment, In recent years, Landscape has been holistically
history and culture left behind (Mazumdar, & defined in human geography as a term, which
Mazumdar, 2012). Community gardening is one of seeks to unite the material and visible environment
the avenues toward revitalizing urban as well as the immaterial and invisible mental
environments, and it provides a way of addressing structures of the environment (Lindström, 2010).
multi-faceted urban problems ranging from limited While earlier studies on the landscape have
food access, safety, community cohesion, focused on the visual aspects, to the extent that
preservation of tangible cultural heritage (food- Daniels and Cosgrove, stated in The Iconography
traditional cuisine), to enhancing cultural of Landscape that “landscape is a cultural image,
sustainability. That being said, it is necessary to a visual representation, structuring or symbolizing
continually evaluate the roles which society, of our environments” (Daniels & Cosgrove 2007).

Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh , Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 80


However, it is important to note that, contrary to a it is a production system that can be practiced by
common misconception, landscape is not limited the impoverished minority; (Galhena, et al., 2013;
to the visual aspects of the surrounding Brownrigg, 1985; Marsh, 1998).
environment, and neither can landscape be Gardens for food producing purpose, can be
equated to physical environment or “nature.” distinguished from farming, mainly by scale and
(Lindström, 2010). Thus, viewing landscape intent. Gardening is done on a smaller scale,
employs a rhythmic movement of the eyes, which chiefly for the production of goods for the
is also a code to reconstitute oneself, such that, a gardener's own family or community and
person who beholds a landscape does not leave sometimes pleasure. While farming takes place on
it as the same person. a larger scale, with a major motivation to produce
goods for profit. The overlap between these terms,
1.2.2 Gardens is due to the fact that some moderate-sized farms,
A garden is a planned space, typically outdoors, often called market gardening, can fit in either
set aside for the display, cultivation, and category. Therefore, the main distinctions
enjoyment of plants which also serves as a between gardening and farming are as follows:
supplementary food production system that is 1. Scale.
managed and controlled by household members. 2. Gardening can be a hobby or an income
The most common form today is known as home supplement, but farming is generally
garden, which include both natural and man- understood as a full-time or commercial
made materials. Nevertheless, the term garden activity, usually involving more land and
has traditionally been more generalized to include quite different practices.
those used to display wild animals in simulated 3. Gardening is labor-intensive and requires
natural habitats, called zoological gardens. little infrastructural capital, sometimes no
(Klindienst, 2006; Turner, 2005). A household more than a few tools, while farming is
garden can be consumption-or market-oriented, large-scale, often involves irrigation
but at least some of the produce will be consumed systems, chemical fertilizers and machines.
by the household. As a supplementary production However, this distinction is becoming
system, the household garden is secondary to blurred with the increasing use of power
both the primary source of household food, tools even in small gardens.
whether from field production or purchase and to
household income, whether from sales of field 2. Socio-cultural Perspectives on landscape and
produce, wage labour or other sources. (Soleri, et Gardening
al., 1991). Gardening can sometimes be Studies have shown that the use of historical,
misconceived as farming. That being said, studies archaeological, ethnographic, and geophysical
posit that there is no standard definition for ‘a methods to document the cultural landscapes of
home garden’, and summarize the shared cities can discover the complex social meanings
perception by referring to it as ‘an intimate, multi- of the built environments (Nassaney, et al., 2001).
story combinations of various trees and crops, Humans build their cultural environments and
sometimes in association with domestic animals, organized space in ways that helped declare their
around homesteads', as well as for the partially identities, whether wealthy or impoverished, native
cultivation of vegetables, fruits, and herbs chiefly and immigrant, (Nassaney, et al., 2001; Yamin, &
for domestic consumption (Galhena, et al., 2013; Metheny, 1996; Nassaney, & Paynter, 1995; Paynter
Kumar, & Nair, 2004). Therefore, home gardens et al., 1994). The reciprocal relationship of Culture,
can be characterized by the following factors; (1) its social aspects and its connection with
it's close proximity to the residence; (2) high plant landscape ecology, flesh several important
diversity; (3) food production is supplementary principles in landscape ecosystems. Expanding on
rather than a main source of family consumption this dynamic, it can be argued that culture is
and income; (4) it occupies a small area; and (5) embedded in landscape as such can change a

Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh , Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 81


landscape, and are both encompassed by systems and processes, used in managing of plant
landscape ecology. Four broad cultural principles, species with similar uses or functions
proposed by Nassauer, (1995), which can serve as (Nemudzudzanyi et al. 2010). Similarly, immigrants
a principle for landscape ecology include: in Southern California designed their backyard
1. Human landscape perception, cognition, gardens to create distinctive cultural spaces, while
and values directly affect the landscape their front yard mostly mirrored typical Southern
and are affected by the landscape. Californian garden landscapes (Mazumdar &
2. Cultural concepts of nature are different Mazumdar 2012). However, Chinese migrants
from scientific concepts of ecological settling in Melbourne, Australia prefer to maintain
function. the existing Australian garden as is to better fit in
3. The appearance of landscapes with societal preferences (Levin, 2012).
communicates cultural values.
4. Cultural conventions powerfully influence 3. Biodiversity in home Gardening
landscape pattern in both inhabited and Biodiversity has been a hot topic for research in
apparently natural landscapes. garden ecology. Home gardens have been
Immense urban development, extreme recognized as sources of agricultural biodiversity’s,
competition for metropolitan space, maintained and enriched by farmers’ practices,
modernization, changing institutions and laws, and particularly for their plant and seed exchange
the global industrialization of food has threatened across the world (Aguilar-Støen, et al., 2009;
several pockets of gardens within cities with Clarke, et al., 2014). Also, home gardens are
extinction. With the emergence of the complex multi-layer systems of trees, shrubs, and
environmental movements and the availability of annual vegetation around homesteads (Kumar &
open space as a result of unsuccessful urban Nair 2004; Mitchell, & Hanstad, 2004), designated
renewal, community gardens have resurged in as universal landscapes across the world, with an
many American cities (Breslav 1991). Many of the estimated 15–36 % of residential land in the UK,
gardens are in low-income areas and have been India, Africa, and China occupied by home
known as safe havens that provide residents with gardens (Huai, et al., 2011; Jaganmohan, et al.,
a sense of nature, community (Schmelzkopf, 1995). 2012; Cilliers, et al., 2012). The variations in garden
Conversely, Paul Kaldian elucidates further on biodiversity can be high, within a single urbanized
garden extinctions with his study on Istanbul’s region, due to the socioeconomic or cultural status
bostans (market gardens). In his comments, he of residents (Clarke, et al., 2014; Lubbe et al. 2011;
emphasized from a historical perspective, the Cilliers et al. 2012; Jaganmohan et al. 2012). As
contribution of bostans in the cities landscape and such, these ecosystems are gradually becoming a
garden practice, the value attached to them by key research focus in human-natural systems
the people and their contribution to the food and (Kirkpatrick, et al., 2007), with an increased
employment needs of Istanbul (Kaldjian, 2004). As scientific mandate for the classification of home
such, there is a relationship between urban design, garden plant species abundance, plant diversity
food systems, and the ways in which the new in community, and ecosystem factors such as
‘‘food-related’’ developments can contribute to functioning, and services (Huai, & Hamilton, 2009).
changing perceptions of the city (Pourias, et al., This is consistent with findings in home garden
2016; Irvine, 2012). research which focus on plant species
Several studies have documented the cultural composition and diversity (Coomes, & Ban, 2004),
influence of plant species in garden practice and socioeconomic importance and contribution to
layouts (Davoren, et al., 2016; Nemudzudzanyi et income generation (Méndez, et al., 2001), plant
al. 2010; Graham & Connell 2006; Head et al. uses and their role in subsistence economy and
2004). A study in Southern Africa revealed that natural resource management as in the case of
domestic gardens are influenced by culture, Mexico (Blanckaert, et al., 2004; Del Angel-Pérez,
consisting of indigenous knowledge structured & Mendoza, 2004), household food supply (Wezel

Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh , Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 82


and Bender 2003), sustainability of food systems model of artist, (c) model of statistic psychology
and the natural environment (Powell et al., 2015) and (d) model of Feng-shui. The study further
as well as increased demand for food abundance iterated sub-models as follows: Kunlunshan model,
and biodiversity (Clarke, & Jenerette, 2015). By Penglai model, Pot Sky model, Xumishan model,
integrating ecological and cultural factors related Peach Blossom Land model, and Endocentric
to garden biodiversity, Beumer, & Martens, (2015) Settlements model, etc., due to the influence of
proposed a framework that aims to engage cultural dynamics, era change, geographical
citizens in experiencing and exploring biodiversity environment, as well as other external factors (Xu,
and ecosystem services in their own domestic et al., 2009). They further document that to
outdoor spaces. In the same vain, studies have achieve a sustainable landscape architecture in
suggested that, experiencing urban biodiversity china, a proposed framework built on the
can potentially stop the loss of global biodiversity, philosophy of Unity of Man with Nature and
if people have direct contact with nature (Müller, Chinese landscape and architectural traditions as
& Kelcey, 2010). It is easier to find space in urban well as integrating the principles and methods of
landscapes within private or semi-private outdoor landscape ecology and sustainability science
spaces such as gardens, patios, courtyards, must be adopted. See (Fig.1). Likewise, a design
balconies and roof terraces. As such, a lot of strategy for the biological core of Perth in
citizens may perhaps have their main experiences southwestern Australia by Catharina Sack,
with urban biodiversity in their own gardens provides a relevant example of how novel
(Beumer, & Martens, 2015; Cilliers 2010; Millard ecosystems can be designed. She suggested a
2010). new approach to transforming current
4. Ecological Perspectives on Landscape development practices, using neo-baroque
Globally, a striking result of human population design strategies, and how it can be used to
increase, is the domestication of landscapes and structure, create resilient and productive novel
its ecosystems (Kareiva, et al., 2007). As urban ecosystems grounded in a critical and indigenous
centers increasingly become the primary habitat aesthetic of botanical complexity (Sack, 2013).
for humans, so does our landscapes become more
designed to suite human needs (Wu, 2008). It is
important to further develop Landscape ecology,
enough to be well integrated into other disciplines
(Chen, & Wu, 2009). Similarly, several studies posit
that landscape ecology should play a critically
important role in developing and maintaining
sustainable landscapes and different regions
(Forman, 1990; Musacchio, & Wu, 2004; Wu, 2006;
Naveh, 2007; Nassauer, & Opdam, 2008; Chen, &
Wu, 2009). Several researchers have proposed
conceptual frameworks towards landscape
ecology. For example, Laura Musacchios’,
conceptual framework which outlines the scope
and boundaries of cultivating deep care as a key
concept and ties it to scholarly research concepts
such as landscape perception, landscape Figure. 1. Conceptual framework for a sustainable Chinese landscape
sustainability, resilience science, and ecosystem architecture. Source (Xu, et al., 2009).
services (Musacchio, 2013). In the same vein, a Table 1 presents the literature review findings from
study suggests four basic models of ideal selected studies on the landscape ecology in most
landscapes, for ecological planning in Mount countries.
Lushan National Park as: (a) model of fairyland, (b)

Chukwuemeke Patrick Uwajeh , Ikenna Stephen Ezennia 83

Table 1. Summary of the literature review and findings from selected studies on the socio-cultural and ecological perspectives in
landscape and gardens.

Socio-Cultural perspectives in landscape and Gardens

Author country Findings
 Market gardeners and the locals in Istanbul’s landscape and garden practice,
attached great value to the bostans and their contribution to the food and employment
needs of Istanbul.
Istanbul.  The bostans are part of Istanbul’s identity.
 Different neighborhoods were famous for the unique crops grown in their gardens.
 The bostans in Istanbul face serious treats of extinction due to urbanisation, and
Pourias, et al.,  Source of food is the most significant function of the gardens in Paris and Montreal.
 Two types of gardens typologies were predominant in Batswana home gardens –
the tshimo and colonial gardens.
Davoren, et North South  Batswana tshimo gardens are models of indigenous knowledge systems, while
al., (2016). Africa. colonial gardens are of European origin reflecting esthetic preferences.
 Socioeconomic status of residents in Batswana, increases the garden design
changes from tshimo to colonial.
 Garden products help sustain critical social networks that subsidize urban life and
are important for household subsistence, and product exchanges between rural and urban
Brazil. kin households.
 Gardens are a link between urban and rural settings as people are urban and rural
at the same time which demonstrates that households can be multi-local.
 Latino community gardens in New York, offers a place for social interactions in
Saldivar- neighborhoods devoid of social gathering places.
Tanaka, & New York City.  Community gardens provide leadership, landscape design, and organizing
Krasny, (2004). experience for community members–experiences that sometimes spill over into other aspects
of civic life.
Ecological perspectives in landscape and Gardens
Author country Findings
 Ideal landscape in the Mount Lushan National Park was the product of the
interaction between human and nature.
 The park inherits the essence of Chinese traditional culture with a history of more
Xu, et al., than 1000 years.
(2009).  It adopts certain western culture, as well as the exchanges between nature and
humanities together with the conflict and adaptation among different cultures.
 Natural landscape can be gratified with the survival demand and cultural taste of
humans through ecological planning.
 Landscape architecture plays a unique role in developing and maintaining
sustainability on local, regional, and global scales.
Chen, & Wu,  Landscape theories and practice are significantly influenced by the philosophies of
(2009) human relationship between themselves and nature.
 The unity of man with nature and its derivative design ideals can help facilitate the
development of a sustainable landscape architecture.
 There is a correlation between the frequency of plant invasions and changes in
Müller, &
Central landscape-design styles.
Europe.  Plant invasions through horticulture and landscape design on native biodiversity, is
significantly lower in Central Europe than in other parts of the world.
 Perceptual landscape markers such as ephemera, human everyday rhythms,
cosmological and seasonal rhythms, perceptual stimuli can be considered as a secondary
Lindström, code leading to auto communication in the person who encounters the landscape.
(2010)  Viewing landscape employs a rhythmic movements of the eyes which is also a code
to reconstitute oneself.

 Cultivating deep care can potentially become one of the key concepts used to
USA. advance certain aspects of landscape ecological research from the cultural dimension of
ecosystem services.
 Proper placement of trees around buildings played a decorative role and also
Seburanga, & served as windbreaks, and shade providers.
Zhang, (2013).  Trees in the neighborhood had more substantial role, especially for the majority of
the population living in cluster villages away from the immediate environs of forested lands.
 The Antebellum landscape in agrarian Michigan, United States has a complex
dialectic interdependencies between gender, class, progressive philosophies, and the
nucleated and alienating farmscape.
Sayers, (2003) USA.
 A model of agrarian transition was developed, compared and contrasted with
primary documentary, landscape, and archaeological data, which serves as a tool for
locating historic agrarian sites.

5. Conclusion course taken under her and the insightful

It is important to further develop Landscape comments that contributed significantly to the
ecology, enough to be well integrated into other article.
disciplines, as cities increasingly become the
primary habitat for humans, and landscapes Acknowledgments
become more designed to suit human needs. This research did not receive any specific grant
Therefore, the investigations into Landscape from funding agencies in the public, commercial,
ecology can broaden and consolidate its or non-for-profit sectors.
transdisciplinary basis. Despite the strong public
interest in urban community gardens as sources of References
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