As part of the brand’s JW Garden programme, JW Marriott has debuted three herb gardens at hotels in the US, which have been envisioned and planted by renowned landscape designer Lily Kwong. Jenny Southan reports

Evidence that the trend for “Self-Sufficient Resorts” is coming to fruition (as Globetrender predicted in a recent edition of its premium travel trend newsletter VOLT), JW Marriott has employed the founder of Studio Lily Kwong, a next-generation landscape design studio, to help “reconnect people to nature”.

In so doing, it has created a JW Garden programme that will see botanical gardens established on the grounds of JW Marriott hotels across the US and beyond, which are planted with edible flora. In operation since 2019, the brand has so far added gardens (both large and small) to about 25 hotels but the ultimate aim is to have them at every one of its 100-plus properties.

The latest JW Garden projects from Kwong are currently found at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in California, which is planted with sage, rosemary, prickly pear and olive trees; the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort and Spa, which features rosemary, thyme, lavender, chives, oregano, mint, marjoram, orange, kumquat, tangerine and meyer Lemon; and the JW Marriott Essex House New York, which only has a terrarium in the lobby but nevertheless is cultivating mint, lavender, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, chives and oregano.JW Marriott Essex House New YorkA statement from JW Marriott says: “Rooted in Marriott family tradition, the JW Garden is inspired by founder J Willard Marriott who took daily nature walks, as well as his wife Alice, who grew fruits, vegetables and herbs for her legendary Sunday night dinners. Today, JW Marriott hotels around the world grow fresh produce and herbs in their own JW Garden, which are used in recipes, cocktails, oils and more.”

Apparently, Studio Lily Kwong has incorporated sustainable practices in each JW Garden including the use of repurposed, low-emission materials such as stucco; water-conserving techniques such as drip irrigation and mulching; and the omission of spray pesticides and fungicides common in commercial gardens.

In addition to the gardens she has planted, Kwong’s expertise will be shared through a JW Garden Toolkit, which will be shared with other JW Garden projects around the world.

Providing a “thoughtful, multi-sensory experience”, while also supporting the hotel’s culinary programmes, Kwong and her team have centered each JW Garden around aromatic herbs. A signature herb such as sage has been chosen for each to be harvested and used throughout the guest experience – from garnishes and butters in the kitchens to oils and scrubs at the spas.

Kwong says: “A herb garden is a beautiful portal to reconnect us back to the land and our senses. Our JW Garden projects were designed to honour traditional kitchen gardens, but Studio Lily Kwong’s artistic approach to plant life adds unique and unexpected dimensions to each project.”

Bruce Rohr, global brand leader of JW Marriott, says: “There is a synergy that exists between JW Marriott’s point of view on wellbeing and Lily Kwong’s passion for bringing people back to nature. Our JW Garden programme invites guests to enjoy serene spaces and find balance while staying with us – the garden instantly acts as a respite for the mind and spirit and later nourishes the body through its gifts.”

Each garden also has a charitable partner. In the case of the Desert Springs property it is the Mojave Desert Land Trust. The JW Garden programme will provide a donation to supply 14 growing benches for a shade house, education signage and support the growth of 1,200 plants annually.

At the same time, the JW Orlando Bonnet Creek property is working with the Orlando City Foundation, an organisation that brings soccer to under-served communities by investing in safe places to play, urban gardens and access to healthy food choices. In this case, money will go to creating two new school gardens.

Finally, the JW Marriott Essex House hotel is supporting GrowNYC’s Greening programme, which has been building and supporting community gardens, urban farms and other open space projects across New York City for decades. In this case a donation will help support their one-acre Teaching Garden on Governors Island, a popular field trip destination.