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The Value of Landscaping


426-721 (SPES-404)

Authors as Published

Authored by Diane Relf, Extension Specialist, Environmental Horticulture, Virginia Tech and reviewed by David Close, Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist, Horticulture, Virginia Tech

Landscaping for the Future

Landscaping is an integral part of our culture and plays an essential role in the quality of our environment, affecting our economic well-being and our physical and psychological health.

If we are to keep our communities strong and prosperous, we must take responsibility for our environment. Environmental responsibility is a step beyond awareness, developed only through experience. Through our gardens and landscapes, we acquire a personal aware- ness and responsibility for the environment while we relieve the tensions and challenges of everyday life.

Landscaping offers many opportunities for the encouragement and education of responsible, productive citizens. School grounds represent the world environment of a child and should be designed and integrated into the curriculum to instill responsibility, knowledge, and experience in caring for the environment, while teaching the math, science, and art associated with the cultivation of plants.

Public, private and commercial landscapes have a major influence on our environment, and on peoples actions and attitudes. Sustainable landscape maintenance techniques can be used to protect the environment while enhancing economic development and improving worker productivity.

Landscaping is one of the most cost effective tools for improving and sustaining the quality of life, whether in the city, the suburbs, or the country.

Enhancing our Environment

  • Plants protect water quality. Proper landscaping reduces nitrate leaching from the soil into the water supply. Plants also reduce surface water runoff, keeping phosphorus and other pollutants out of our waterways and preventing septic system overload.

  • Proper landscaping reduces soil erosion. A dense cover of plants and mulch holds soil in place, keeping sediment out of lakes, streams, stormdrains, and roads; and reducing flooding, mudslides, and duststorms.

  • Plants improve air quality. One tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions. Landscape plants, including shrubs and turf, remove smoke, dust, and other pollutants from the air. One study showed that 1 acre of trees has the ability to remove 13 tons of particle pollution and gases annually.

  • Landscaping lowers summer air temperatures. According to the EPA, urban forests reduce urban air temperatures significantly by shading heat sinks such as buildings and concrete, and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling. Trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Landscaping conserves natural resources. Properly placed deciduous trees reduce house temperatures in the summer, allowing air conditioning units to run 2 to 4 percent more efficiently, but allow the sun to warm the house in the winter. Homes sheltered by evergreen windbreaks can reduce winter heat loss and are generally warmer than homes without such protection. By using trees to modify temperatures and protect against wind, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating is reduced.

  • Landscaping screens busy streets. Well-placed plantings offer privacy and tranquility by screening out busy street noises and create a visual barrier thereby reducing glare from headlights.

    Promoting Economic Development

  • Landscaping increases property market value The Wall Street Journal reported that landscape investments are recovered fully, and sometimes doubled, by the increased home value.

  • Good landscaping increases community appeal Parks and street trees have been found to be second only to education in residents’ perceived value of municipal services offered. Psychologist Rachel Kaplan found trees, well- landscaped grounds, and places for taking walks to be among the most important factors considered when individuals chose a place to live.

  • Landscaping reduces crime. In a California study, landscaped areas were relatively graffiti-free, while open, non-landscaped areas were graffiti targets. Well planned and maintained landscapes are seen as safer than unmaintained plantings. Work in this area led to the emergence of the field referred to as ‘crime prevention through environmental design.

  • Plants increase tourism revenues. Interior landscaping at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Cente in Nashville, Tennessee, is credited for an unusually high occupancy rate. Guests pay more per night for rooms overlooking the jungle-like display.

  • Views of plants increase job satisfaction. Employees with an outside view of plants experience less job pressure and greater job satisfaction than workers viewing man-made objects or having no outside view. They also report fewer headaches and other ailments than workers without the view.

  • Nature increases worker productivity. Psychologists have found that plants and green spaces provide a sense of rest that allows workers with access to plants and nature to be more productive.

  • Landscaping renews business districts. Greening of business districts increases community pride and positive perception of an area, drawing customers to the businesses.

    Improving Human Health

  • Gardening is excellent physical exercise. Routine gardening tasks such as shoveling, rototilling, and even mowing grass with a push-type, reel lawn mower can measure up to the exertion rates of jogging, bicycling, or aerobics. Studies have shown that one hour of weeding burns 300 calories - the same as walking or bicycling at a moderate pace.

The Value of Landscaping

  • Gardens produce healthy food. Fresh food from the garden can have up to three times as many vitamins and minerals as canned or frozen food. Community garden plots have become a valuable means of providing food for anyone who has limited access to fresh produce.

  • Horticulture is therapeutic Horticultural therapy is a treatment for a variety of diagnoses. Working with and around plants improves quality of life through psychological and physical changes. Nurturing a plant into maturity from seed is rewarding and builds self-confidence. Various horticulture-related tasks such as carrying plants, planting trees, or arranging flowers are used to improve coordination and motor control of injured or disabled individuals.

  • Landscapes heal. Restorative gardens offer an environment for people who are sick, injured, and under stress to recover and regain confidence in themselves. Such landscapes are also currently used by hospices in treatment of a variety of patients. Roger Ulrich showed through a study of hospital patients that those whose rooms overlooked vegetation recovered faster and required less pain medication than did patients without a view of nature.

The original development of this series was funded by ESUSDA Smith Lever 3(d) National Water Quality Initiative Funds and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

September 23, 2022