The science behind greening

Four key benefits of gardens in towns and cities

Front garden

RHS Principal Horticultural Scientist Dr Tijana Blanusa led a review of a wide range of scientific research on topics such as green roofs, planting that may help cool the air in summer, and green walls and climbers that can insulate buildings in winter. 

The end result is a clear picture of the environmental and health impacts of gardens and gardening.

The four key benefits are:

  1. Gardens help keep our cities ‘above water’ by preventing flooding
  2. Gardens are the equivalent of an air conditioning system for our cities
  3. Gardening eases stress and encourages exercise
  4. Gardens support wildlife, whatever their size 

Download the Gardening matters: Urban Gardens review (1MB pdf), which includes tips for gardeners on the back page.

Community gardeningThe RHS Urban Gardens review is the result of hundreds of hours of work by Dr Tijana Blanusa and a number of other researchers from the Universities of Reading and Sheffield as well as colleagues at the RHS Science Department. She aimed to examine the dozens of pieces of existing research that tell us about the positives and negatives of gardening in urban areas.

By cross-referencing and analysing the differing results, it is possible to achieve a broader understanding of the role that plants and gardens play in towns and cities. Ultimately, though, this is about finding out what the real benefits of gardening in urban areas are; and assessing the result for practical things that we can all do as gardeners.

The areas examined in the review include:

  • Improved air cooling (i.e. making it more bearable in towns and cities in hot weather)
  • Insulation of the buildings by garden vegetation
  • Improved air quality
  • Storm waterfall mitigation (i.e. can gardens help reduce flooding)
  • Source of and refuge for biodiversity (i.e habitats for wildlife)
  • Health (are plants and gardens good for us?)

The review will also consider potential negative aspects of gardening and how this can be mitigated, including:

  • Carbon cost
  • Increased water use
  • Pollution through pesticide and fertiliser use

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.