Gardens as places shaped by people and nature. Photo by Sandra Teuber.

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Gardens consist of natural components such as soils and plants, which people arrange to create a place suiting their respective needs. Thus, gardens are places shaped by people where natural processes are not only experienced but also used to establish the place itself. This means that gardens are both natural and cultural. This offers novel perspectives for inter- and transdisciplinary research as expertise from different disciplines is needed to fully understand the complex interactions between people and nature. By studying an everyday object such as gardens, the intricate connections between people and nature can be illustrated. This, in turn, offers information concerning practices, values and identities to public and private stakeholders and the general public. This information can then be used to move towards sustainable development.

Investigating the interactions between people and nature in gardens can provide insights into natural, environmental, political, social and cultural processes happening there. However, such an investigation needs interdisciplinary collaboration of scientists, e.g. of  soil scientists, botanists, biologists, social scientists and anthropologists, urban planners, and health experts. Combining their findings hollistically using a Cultural Ecosystem Service approach illustrates the complexity of gardens as places of people and nature.

The results of any investigation about the interactions between people and nature in gardens should be  shared with the public and especially with gardeners. This could be the starting point for discussions with each other and the beginning of a mutual learning process, where gardeners, public and private stakeholders, and scientists work together to devise educational programmes that raise the awareness for  environmental, social, cultural and political processes related to gardens.