As properties move toward sustainable practices, they grow gardens, making use of the only space they have available in their mostly urban environments — the roof. Many of these rooftop gardens feature apiaries,  not just to produce honey, but for pollination. “Two thirds of the food on your plate wouldn’t exist without pollen,” says Marketing and PR manager Kristyna Vogel of the Fairmont Waterfornt in Vancouver, which features a rooftop apiary along with its garden. “Fairmont is passionate about food sustainability and honey bee education,” adds Jacqueline Tyler, Marketing and Communications manager for the Fairmont Royal York, which was one of the first Fairmont properties to introduce a rooftop apiary.

With the increasing awareness of where our food comes from, executive chef Corbin Tomaszeski of the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto states: “people call ‘farm-to-table’ a movement, but it’s just the way we were meant to eat.”

From fruits and veg to edible flowers, Hotelier highlights five hotels tending onsite gardens and the items they produce.

Having a rooftop garden is not only in line with sustainability initiatives, but it can also help reduce costs, according to Marketing and PR manager Kristyna Vogel. “We produce enough in-house that it does make a difference to our bottom line,” says Vogel. “We compost our food waste on site, which reduces waste expenses as well,” she adds. “We’ve been on a mission to become a zero-waste facility.”

The rooftop garden produces fruits such as strawberries, crabapple, rhubarb and Okanagan figs, as well as lettuces, kale, onions and tomatoes — all of which are used daily in the kitchen. “Everything is pollinator-friendly,” says Vogel, who is a member of the hotel’s Bee Team. The honey produced is also utilized in hand-churned burnt-honey ice cream, salad dressings and desserts.

Vogel tends the gardens under the direction of executive chef Karan Suri, who uses the garden as a teaching tool. “Having the garden teaches our culinarians about where our food comes from,” Vogel says.

High up on the 22nd floor, this rooftop garden produces the majority of the produce for the property. “It’s a benefit to know the traceability of the food,” says Joanne Papineau, regional director, Public Relations, Eastern Canada, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, who heads up sustainability program at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal and is in charge of its garden.

Papineau grows 25 types of tomatoes, including Dancing with Smurfs — most likely named for its bluish colour — and zebra cherry tomatoes. Greens such as kale, Brussels sprouts and Malabar spinach are prominent; and herbs abound, including lavender, sage, rosemary and a variety of types of basil. Edible flowers are used in the bar for cocktails and in the lobby for water for guests.

The garden, like many Fairmont rooftop gardens, also features beehives. “We need pollinators like bees for our food,” says Papineau, who is passionate about her work in the garden. “Gardening can empower people,” she adds.

Jennifer O’Rourke became head gardener for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in 2010. “When I started, I wanted to see what vegetables would grow in the Whistler climate,” she says, noting she likes to grow visually appealing plants such as herbs.

O’Rourke and six other gardeners tend the garden from April to October, growing greens, including Russian kale, rainbow Swiss chard and kohlrabi; roots such as radishes, carrots and beets; and fruits — strawberries, grapes and golden currant. When the kitchen needs something a little different, there’s also Ruby Streaks mustard greens or Lacinato kale that can be added to a fresh salad.

“We also grow 15 different edibles, including viola, pansies and lavender, which we add to [guestroom] amenities,” she says. The garden also boasts 12 beehives, where bees produce an average of 1,000 lbs. of honey per year.

According to the property’s executive chef Matta Rao, the benefits of having a rooftop garden are not just about sustainability. “It’s also the self-satisfaction,” says Rao, who has been executive chef since 2014. “You get to grow anything you want and then harvest it. It’s a good feeling.”

The hotel team views its garden as an asset because growing food in-house saves on transportation costs, plus it’s good advertising. “For example,” Rao explains, “in mid-August we host a harvest dinner, and we invite the public.” Rao and executive sous-chef David Vinoya go to the rooftop every day to tend to the garden.

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski says there’s always something blooming in the Westin Harbour Castle’s fifth-floor rooftop garden — from May to September, that is. “We plant things that bloom all season so that our guests can see,” says Tomaszeski.

The garden shares its rooftop space with the guest pool and common area, and guests are encouraged to check out the garden and apiary. As the space came together, the bees came first and the garden followed. And, since the planting of the rooftop garden, the bees’ honey production has tripled. While the rooftop garden is not exactly large enough to support the almost 1,000-room hotel, it is used as an educational tool and to supply the hotel’s 10-seat restaurant Savoury. “The space is a cross between a wine cellar, a professional kitchen and a chef’s home,” says Tomaszeski.

The rooftop garden produces herbs such as thyme, basil and lemongrass; peppers, onions and cucumbers; and summer squash, zucchini and beans, not to mention potatoes. A variety of tomatoes abound, including heirloom and beefsteak. As Tomaszeski says, “It’s a playground for the chefs.”


Written by Marina Davalos


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