6.5 Developing an Ecological Aesthetic


Many people, regardless of background, prefer similar visual elements in the landscape. Some of these include:

Commonly Preferred Visual Elements

  • Waterscapes (e.g., lakes, meandering streams)
  • Manicured landscapes
  • Savanna or park-like landscapes
  • Trees in scale with surrounding features
  • Absence of dead and downed wood
  • Clean waterways with no or limited woody debris
  • Large mature trees and trees with broad canopies
  • Spaces defined by edges (e.g., pasture bordered by woods)

Some of these visual elements are not desirable for achieving goals such as water quality and wildlife habitat. Naturalistic landscapes providing valuable ecological functions are often viewed as untidy and undesirable, while manicured landscapes with limited ecological functions are perceived as demonstrating stewardship and are visually desirable.

The challenge is to design buffers that achieve the desired ecological functions while providing landscapes that are visually desirable and that instill long-term commitment. The next page provides strategies for addressing this challenge.

Strategies for Enhancing Visual Preference of Buffers

  • Design the part of the buffer viewable by public to be visually pleasing while the interior can be designed to achieve the desired ecological functions.
  • Use selective mowing to indicate stewardship without greatly reducing the ecological functions.
  • Provide visual frames to contain and provide order around the buffer (e.g., wooden fence).
  • Use interpretative signage and education programs to increase awareness and preference.
  • Enhance visual interest and diversity by increasing seasonal color and by varying plant heights, textures, and forms.
  • Provide simple habitat improvements such as nesting boxes and feeders. Wildlife usually increases visual preference.
  • Use bold planting patterns to indicate a designed landscape.
Image Image DOWNLOAD: 6.5 Guidelines and References (PDF)