I think I'm still trying to further define my project, which I'm guessing is the point of this semester of preparation. The first methods practice introduced a different aspect of landscaping that might be interesting to document in a developing country. While talking with the people I interviewed, it became apparent that curb appeal (or the idea of making your yard attractive) can vary greatly depending on the neighborhood culture. I realize that Tongan curb appeal will have an entirely different meaning than it does in the United States, yet as far as I can gather, plants are an integral part of their society and are used in some degree to aesthetically improve the area around their homes.
In an article by Arriaza (reference included at the end of this post) he stated his findings on landscape perception: "perceived visual quality increases, in decreasing order of importance, with the degree of wilderness in the landscape, the presence of well-preserved man-made elements, the percentage plant cover, the amount of water, the presence of mountains and the colour contrast." It seems that this study covered larger areas, yet some principles apply. I think each society likely has defining principles that dictate what is considered an attractive landscape, largely based on their surroundings. As with art, we generally associate that which is familiar with what we consider appealing because we can relate. In a landscape, ornamental plants are often used because of their aesthetic appeal, but also because they remind us of the plants we had while growing up. Sometimes it expands beyond what our childhood yards consisted of to include other gardens that had some amount of impact on our memory. More often than not, urban landscapes are used to mimic nature on a smaller scale. Yet as Tonga is comprised of mostly rural settings, I'm not entirely sure how landscapes are affected by proximity to nature and the bush. Another point brought up in an article called "Nature, race, and parks: past research and future directions for geographic research" suggests that leisure preferences also are a big determinant in use of outdoor space, and likely dedication to the upkeep of a yard. Available free-time will also be an attributing factor to rural landscape development.
There are many questions that I still feel like can't be answered simply by typing in a few key words into Google scholar. I suppose that's a good sign, as it gives some validity to needing to go and research in the field. Here are a few of those questions to conclude with and to find answers as I get to Tonga:
-How much leisure time do Tongans have?
-What value is placed on making the 'yard' look good for the neighbors and for self?
-Do yard uses differ from village to village?
-How do the natural settings reflect on aesthetic preferences?
Arriaza M, Cana.s-Ortega JF, Canas-Madueno JA and
Ruiz-Aviles P. Assessing the visual quality of rural
landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 2004;