Gardens, landscapes, and interiorscapes have been recognized by several researchers and organizations to have a positive impact on human beings and their welfare, attitudes, and productivity (Fjeld, 2005; Gilhooley, 2002; Lohr et al., 1996; Ulrich, 1984; Whitehouse et al., 2001), and visits to botanical gardens provide an educational experience, as well (Lewis, 1991). Conversely, Bennett and Swasey (1996) reported that descriptive terms as to why consumers visit urban botanic gardens differed significantly from stereotypical terms such as “fun-social,” “education-awareness,” “special event,” and “class,” to more personal terms such as “relaxation,” “stress reduction,” and “inspiration.” Their survey introduces an important question as to how consumers view public gardens and arboreta as a resource and destination and how these spaces should structure events, activities, education, and entertainment to best coincide with consumer interests. Thus, public gardens and arboreta can provide visitors with benefits beyond pleasing views and decor. With so many benefits to offer, it would be expected that these natural spaces would draw a variety of audiences on a regular basis. However, it may be that either consumers are unaware of these benefits, or else they consider public gardens and arboreta as locations that would offer activities only for gardeners interested in landscapes and ornamentals. It may also be that pubic gardens and arboreta personnel self-limit their perspective of what they have to offer, or should offer, the public.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that recent gardening trends, based on a 19% increase in households participating in food gardening, of which 21% were new gardeners (Butterfield, 2009), could provide a new focus for public gardens and arboreta programming efforts. It is possible that public gardens and arboreta would alter current marketing and educational programs to capitalize on such a trend; however, the question remains as to whether incorporating relevant food gardening topics into current curriculum will increase foot traffic and gate receipts. Gardening is often influenced by culture, the environment, the economy, and present personal interest (Price, 2000), which may change over time. Public gardens compete with entertainment and retail industries for visibility and consumer discretionary income (Tamulevich, 2006). Thus, market research and analysis should follow a strategy in defining the interest of the developing target market and develop programming to appeal to this audience.
Some facilities are proactive in providing these services, such as the following: Holden Arboretum, Kirkland, OH; The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA; Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; and Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Rockford, IL. These public gardens have offered the venue or space for non-gardening (wine tastings or outdoor concerts) or peripheral horticultural events (farmers’ market, tree-climbing schools), which may attract a more robust non-traditional audience, resulting in increased attendance, membership, and revenue, and encourage repeat visits.
The goal of this study was to investigate how to attract community members to arboreta and public gardens, specifically, by asking what traditional and non-traditional programs might appeal. In addition, this study was designed to identify potential barriers, perceived or real, that might dissuade community members from visiting arboreta and public gardens. It is expected that results will encourage program coordinators and program directors to further define needs, wants, and interests of those living in their community to increase visitation, repeat visits, membership, and revenue.
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