Climate-adapted, traditional or cottage-garden planting? Public perceptions, values and socio-cultural drivers in a designed garden setting.
The global climate crisis precipitates a call to 'futureproof' cities by introducing resilient climate-adapted urban green infrastructure (UGI). Recent UK research has revealed public support for climate-adapted UGI, yet there is a lack of research focusing on the values underlying public perceptions, particularly in relation to climate change, and the socio-cultural factors driving these. This was addressed by asking 249 people to walk through one of three contrasting areas of planting: exotic (climate-adapted); traditional or cottage-garden, within a designed garden setting, whilst conducting a self-guided questionnaire assessing participants' perceptions of aesthetics, self-reported restorative effect, and plant and invertebrate biodiversity. Participants' held values in relation to climate change, non-native species, and nature-connectedness were also addressed. Findings indicated aesthetic preference for climate-adapted planting over the other two styles, providing further evidence of cultural acceptance for policymakers and land-managers seeking to 'futureproof' cities by introducing climate-adapted UGI. Planting of a cottage-garden style was perceived as the least attractive, but the most restorative. Socio-cultural characteristics including age, educational qualifications, and taking holidays overseas were drivers of perceptions. Professional involvement and interest in the environment, landscape, and horticulture were identified as drivers of perceptions and values. Values in relation to climate change were directly related to participants' educational qualifications. This identifies a need to consider novel approaches to climate change education to promote wider understanding of the implications of climate-change and the potential for climate-adapted UGI to deliver 'futureproofing' benefits for climate-change mitigation and human mental wellbeing.