Extending beyond the art world environmental aesthetics embodies the view that every environment, natural, rural or urban offers much to see and appreciate (Carlson, 2001). The garden, although a human created environment, can provide important natural habitats (Owen & Owen, 1975) and environments that can be viewed through environmental aesthetics (Ross, 1998).
Using feminist aesthetics of art (Kneller 1997; Worth 2001) this work explores the possibility of developing a female environmental aesthetic through feminist interpretation of Kant and an ecofeminist framework. The place for emotion and imagination within ethics through aesthetic theory is stressed by feminists (Kneller 1997) and ecofeminists (Warren 2000; Plumwood 1996; Gilligan 1982) the ethic of care being one method of addressing this (Warren, 2000).
Current environmental aesthetic developments such as the cognitive approach (Carlson, 1993) and the non-cognitive approaches such as the aesthetics of engagement (Berleant, 1990) and imagination (Hepburn, 1993, Brady, 1998) are examined. Children’s use of imagination in the natural world is also studied in order to demonstrate caring and responsibility in relation to environmental aesthetics.
Women gardeners and Gertrude Jekyll are used as a case to support a feminist framework focussing on the written record of nineteenth and twentieth century gardeners, particularly Gertrude Jekyll. The interpretation of the record of her life and work (mostly written) is used to look at the influences on her, her thought, imagination, view of nature and gardens for children in order to move toward developing an imaginative feminist environmental aesthetic.