JW Marriott and Lily Kwong reinvent the hotel garden – Robb Report

Officially, the JW Marriott Collection is a tribute to the founder of Marriott International, the late J. Willard Marriott, whose belief in holistic wellness inspired 115 retreats around the world. But insiders will notice that these properties are also a clear nod to his wife, as long as you know how to look outside.

A dedicated gardener in her spare time, Alice Sheets Marriott was passionate about everything from geraniums and hydrangeas to her family’s raspberry plantation in New Hampshire, where she regularly turned the fruits of her labor into jam. (Not a hobbyist in the kitchen, she had started her career in 1927 as a menu developer and cook for the couple’s first foray into hospitality: a DC-based root beer stand turned restaurant called the Hot Shoppe. .)

While all of the JW Marriott grounds, from sprawling groves to urban rooftops, honor Alice’s legacy, three properties now do so in unprecedented ways. The brand has just launched a partnership with landscape designer Lily Kwong, who went from helping her cousin’s womenswear brand to walking the world’s trails to enrolling in Columbia’s urban studies program. before becoming one of the most beloved bridges between the worlds of durability and style. — and the fashion industry’s green space designer of choice.

Objects from the gardens will be used by the hotel’s chefs and bartenders.

JW Marriott

Seeking to build on its own sustainability measures, JW Garden (as the brand’s landscaping initiative is known) enlisted Kwong to create facilities for JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa and JW Marriott Essex House New York—then gave him more or less carte blanche. “They wanted the gardens to support the culinary program in some way,” Kwong explains, but beyond that, “we were empowered to express our ideas and see each of these spaces as a canvas. virgin”.

Kwong does not use the royal “we” here. Quick to recognize a list of trusted specialists, she works with everyone from urban agriculture expert Shannon Lai to industrial designer/eco-futurist Lily Tagiuri. And while each project requires its own creative approach, of course one of the main guidelines is to let local plant life govern the direction of the installation.

JW Marriott Lily Kwong Gardens

Kwong in the Garden at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa

JW Marriott

Aptly comparing his work to cooking, Kwong notes that there are two types of people: some who want to follow a recipe and others who want to “go to the market, see what looks good, and then build something around it. As a dedicated follower of the latter philosophy, she enjoys wandering through local nurseries, botanical gardens and, in the case of the Desert Springs facility, nearby Indian Canyons, where riverside trails create otherworldly palm oases and towering reminders of desert life. retention possibilities.

Soon, lists of “favorite plants” and site-specific ideas begin to emerge. In Desert Springs, the result was a series of narrow, undulating planters filled with sage, cacti and other local edible plants, as well as a stand of olive trees. In Orlando, on the other hand, there is a more traditional porterhouse with many fruit species. And in the New York Garden – another assemblage rich in culinary herbs – “we’re essentially building a full-scale terrarium,” says Kwong, “a totally experimental setup involving everything from woodworking and millinery to craftsmen. ‘lighting”.

JW Marriott Lily Kwong Gardens

Kwong and his team researched local plants for each garden.

JW Marriott

Although none of these gardens produce large-scale crops, even a single branch is often enough for teas, cocktails and spa elixirs, notes Kwong. And while the use of the gardens will vary from property to property, they will become the backdrop for everything from VIP sessions with chefs to art classes with kids’ clubs.

Indeed, Kwong’s own baby, whom she welcomed last year with her husband Nick Kroll– likes to hang out in the gardens with her. “He likes playing with plants more than toys right now,” she says. And that innate affinity is something she hopes the gardens will foster in other children as well.

JW Marriott Lily Kwong Gardens

The gardens will also host wellness, culinary and kids’ club activities.

JW Marriott

But building the next generation of eco-stewards isn’t JW Gardens’ only side mission: Each has donated funds to local nature-based nonprofits, from the Mojave Desert Land Trust to the Greening Program. by GrowNYC. “Providing ecological services to the region” is paramount to Kwong, who notes the joy of seeing the very first bees appear at his facilities – the only kind of buzz he really cares about now, despite his status as a media darling of long time. “Every bee counts these days.”

Alice would surely agree.

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