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Virginia I. Lohr

Researchers and practitioners have been aware of the importance of plant diversity for many decades. The Irish potato famine and dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi) are examples of problems resulting from lack of diversity. Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has renewed concerns over these issues, yet little has been done to increase diversity in landscape plantings. Urban trees are becoming more uniform genetically because of cloning of preferred cultivars; thus, they are losing potential resiliency to stresses at a time when these threats are increasing. A survey on plant diversity distributed to wholesale nurseries in Washington State showed that most respondents were aware of the issues, but lacked an in-depth understanding of them. This article presents additional data from the survey. Respondents reported that lack of consumer demand was an issue. Those with more education exhibited a deeper understanding of the risks from low diversity among landscape plants. Instructors in horticulture and the plant sciences should be more involved in teaching on this topic.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Many undergraduates major in horticulture because they love working with plants. When they hear research that documents how people respond-to plants, some students -begin to understand why they have responded positively to plants, and they want to learn more about the topic. This paper 1) discusses the potential to use students' excitement about human issues in horticulture to teach principles that educators consider important components of a baccalaureate degree, and 2) presents the case of one student to demonstrate how it can be done.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Conducting research with human subjects involves many of the same issues involved with conducting any type of research. As horticulturists, we are aware of the range of variability that can be introduced when working with living organisms. This variability can come from environmental influences as well as genetic variation. These can be major factors when conducting research with people as well. Research with people also introduces complicating interactions between the researchers and the subjects. When working with humans as subjects, federal regulations must be considered; these regulations are even stricter when the research involves youth. These additional factors, which should be considered when designing studies to understand the impacts of plants and plant programs on youth, will be discussed.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Horticultural crops are being affected by weather extremes consistent with predictions from climate change models. Impacts include crop losses and extended growing seasons. Negative effects on crop productivity are predicted to vastly overwhelm any positive effects. Students who graduate from our programs will need additional knowledge to succeed compared with those trained in previous decades. To determine the extent to which higher educational institutions across the United States are educating students about these issues, a survey was conducted to gather information on the incorporation of climate change literacy in horticultural curricula. Most programs do not currently offer classes with “climate change” or “global warming” in the formal title or description, but many instructors are including at least some information related to climate change in specific courses they teach. Instructors of courses in fruits, vegetables, or turf, and instructors who do not teach at 1862 land-grant universities, are more likely than other instructors to include content related to climate change in their courses. Instructors who do not have tenure and instructors who teach plant identification courses are more likely than other instructors to have increased the content on climate change in their classes over time.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Evidence is growing that people exposed to environmental and mental stress benefit from having plants in their communities and from working with those plants in gardening and related activities. The benefits to the community range from improved social interactions to reduced littering. Feelings of self-confidence and self-worth are improved. Economic conditions can be improved: vegetable production reduces the need for individuals to spend money on food, and community improvement initiated by flower gardening increases property values. Some of these benefits are well-documented, while others are primarily supported by a long history of anecdotal evidence. More research is needed to fully document the importance of community gardening efforts and to justify expansions in these programs.

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Barbara Berge and Virginia I. Lohr

Studies have shown that many people prefer landscapes with vegetation over those devoid of plants. Few studies have looked specifically at adolescents or people of different ethnic heritages. Understanding preferences of such groups could help in designing horticultural education programs for these populations. In this study, high school students were asked to rate their preferences for a series of plant-dominated and urban-dominated slides.

Students generally gave higher ratings to the plant scenes than the urban scenes, indicating that they preferred the plant scenes. Their preferences were similar to what would be predicted from studies with adults. Hispanic students rated urban scenes and formal plant scenes, such as a garden with sculptured shrubs, significantly higher than did Anglo students. Hispanics rated informal scenes, such as a deciduous forest with no ground cover, significantly lower than did Anglo students.

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Paula Diane Relf and Virginia I. Lohr

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Community involvement is critical for the continued vitality of the urban forest. To encourage this involvement, an understanding is needed of what promotes shared stewardship as well as of different cultural perspectives regarding trees. A survey of the general public in 109 large metropolitan areas across the continental U.S., a culturally and ethnically diverse group, was conducted. Two thousand adults were surveyed to assess the extent of their childhood experiences with nature, their current attitudes toward urban forests, and their demographic backgrounds. Respondents were questioned particularly about their earliest experiences with nature and their current understanding and appreciation of the urban forest. Other researchers have examined the relationship between childhood contact with nature and attitudes toward nature among professionals in environmental fields, but this relationship has not been explored in the general public. Correlations between survey respondents' memories of childhood contact with nature, their current perceptions of the urban forest, and the influence of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds will be presented. For example, respondents who reported very easy access to nature as children were likely to agree strongly that trees should be planted in business districts to reduce smog. Results from this survey may be applied in programs to teach children about trees and gardening, thus better tailoring these programs to engender future appreciation for the urban forest. Raw data from this survey will be made available to other researchers.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A nationwide phone survey of attitudes toward urban trees, participation in civic or educational activities, and memories of childhood experiences with gardening and nature was conducted with 2004 adults in large urban areas. We analyzed the influence of 11 childhood experiences and five adult demographic characteristics on three items: “Trees in cities help people feel calmer,” “Do trees have a particular personal, symbolic, or spiritual meaning to you?” and “During the past year, have you participated in a class or program about gardening?” Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions. Growing up next to urban elements, such as large buildings, had a small, but opposite, influence. Demographics played a role in adult attitudes and actions. While both passive and active interactions with plants during childhood were associated with positive adult values about trees, the strongest influence came from active gardening, such as picking flowers or planting trees. These results indicate that horticultural programs for children raised in urban surroundings with few or no plants can be effective in fostering an appreciation for gardening in adults.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Colorful baskets of flowering annuals are popular with home gardeners, but these containerized plants require frequent waterings. Mulching of field soils is a proven way to conserve soil moisture. This study was conducted to see if mulching would reduce the need to irrigate containerized plants. Adding either pine bark or sphagnum moss mulch to potted `Impulse Rose' impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) plants reduced the frequency of irrigations when the plants were small and had not yet reached canopy closure. Mulching had no effect on plant height or flowering.