RHS Greening the Grey – Vegetating front gardens for improved well-being

The Department of Landscape won a research contract from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to investigate the influence of front gardens on human health and well-being. The project is part of the RHS Greening Grey Britain Initiative.

Over recent years the RHS has campaigned strongly about the loss of front gardens to off-road parking and the environmental and social impacts of this loss of urban green space. Over 5 million front gardens in the UK have no plants growing in them (1 in 3) and 4.5 million front gardens (1 in 4) are completely paved over (RHS 2015).

Drawing on Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan & Kaplan 1989) and psycho-evolutionary theory (Ulrich 1986), this new project aims to give value to the health and socio-cultural benefits of front gardens to residents and the wider community.

The project will be led by Dr Ross Cameron, and builds on Ross’ recent academic review of the ecosystem services that domestic gardens provide (carried out in conjunction with the RHS and the Horticultural Trades Association) as well as the role of private spaces as therapeutic landscapes.

Ross said: “this is a great opportunity to get some strong empirical data on the role gardens can play in determining people’s ‘feel good factor’. Too often gardens have been seen as rather peripheral elements in the urban planning debate – but the reality is they are our most common and immediate piece of green space and hence may have a significant impact on our day-to day health and well-being.”


Urban domestic gardens are estimated to account for between 19% and 27% of urban green space in cities (Warhurst et. al., 2014)

The £100 K project will be implemented by PhD student, Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui, co-supervised by Ross, Prof Jenny Roe (University of Virginia), Dr Alistair Griffiths (RHS Science) and Dr Paul Alexander (RHS Science). Working alongside the RHS, part of the research will monitor changes in stress and well-being in urban residents as their front garden undergoes a greening transformation.

Read more about the RHS Greening the Grey initiative

References and further reading:

Gaston KJ, Warren PH, Thompson K, Smith RM. 2005. Urban domestic gardens (IV): the extent of the resource and its associated features. Biodivers Conserv ;14:3327–49.

Kaplan, R. and Kaplan, S. (1989) The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective, Cambridge University Press

Royal Horticultural Society (2015) Why we all need Greening Grey Britain, accessible online at https://www.rhs.org.uk/communities/pdf/ Greener-Streets/greening-grey-britain-report

Ulrich, R. S. (1986). Human responses to vegetation and landscapes. Landscape and urban planning, 13, 29-44.

Warhurst, J.R., Parks, K.E., McCulloch, L., and Hudson, M.D. 2014.Front gardens to car parks: Changes in garden permeability and effects on flood regulation. Science of the Total Environment 485–486 (2014) 329–339

2015 Mori Poll to 1,492 people in the UK aged 15+ with front gardens, March 6-22 2015

2005 Mori Poll to 1,723 people in the UK aged 15+ with front gardens, May 19-23 2005

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