Hotel roof gardens: sustainable beauty

Summer is officially here, and what better place to enjoy a cocktail or night out than at a chic hotel bar, preferably one with a roof and a view? More and more hotels are transforming their outside spaces into full-scale gardens that offer more than just pretty-smelling plants. Many have embraced the farm-to-table concept and are growing their own herbs, vegetables and fruits – some even have bee hives.

Here are our favorites, chosen for factors ranging from beauty to innovation and sustainability. Note that not all of these roofs are accessible to hotel guests – some are used for green purposes and others for gardens and hives:

Kyoto Grand Hotel, Los Angeles
The half-acre garden on the roof of this downtown Los Angeles hotel takes the cake for both beauty and innovation. Enjoy meandering paths, water features, and of course, beautiful plants at the Asian-inspired boutique hotel.

Gramercy Park Hotel, New York City
The former private roof club and garden at Gramercy Park Hotel opened to the public last fall and has been a coveted reservation ever since. Enjoy year-round dining and drinking in the chic garden, which has a retractable glass roof for cool or rainy days. Above the garden itself sits a hotel-planted herb, vegetable and fruit plot stocked with organic plants used in cocktails and seasonally-inspired dishes.

The Surrey, New York City
Located on the Penthouse level, and available exclusively to hotel guests, this serene escape is reminiscent of a garden found atop an Upper East Side family townhouse, with a traditional English Garden feel. This hotel garden features a heavy emphasis on trees, ivy and seasonal florals ranging from brilliant purple Salvia East Frieslands to the pink, yellow and orange Lantana. Box trees are framed by rows of English dwarf lavender. Try the “Muddled Lemonade,” which mixes the freshest herbs, fruits and spices with homemade lemonade, available with or without alcohol.

The Fairmont Royal York, Toronto
Ontario’s chic Fairmont hotel boasts not only a garden but a bee hive, whose honey is used in the dishes at EPIC, the Fairmont’s signature restaurant. First planted in 1998, all the herbs are organic, grown without pesticides and herbicides. Last year, Mason Hogue Gardens, from Uxbridge, Ontario, planted Japanese shiso, oba, four types of basil and five pepper varieties in the high-rise herb garden. Besides herbs, the garden also grows Italian red kidney beans, cherry tomatoes and dwarf cherry, pear and plum trees. Want to see more photos? Wanderlust and Lipstick has a great first person view.

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY
More than just a garden, this upstate New York escape boasts a “green roof ” garden terrace that’s unusual because it spends much of the day in the shade. The hotel planted predominantly shade-tolerant plants that attract birds and butterflies. Want to visit? Guests can enjoy seasonal exercise classes on the rooftop.

See a gallery of all of the hotel gardens here:

Canary Hotel, Santa Barbara
Sip a cocktail made with the fruit trees growing on The Perch, this Santa Barbara hotel’s chic rooftop terrace. The terrace includes kumquat, lemon and orange trees, which come together in the delicious concoction known as the hotel’s signature Vodka Kumquat Lemonade cocktail.

Omni Chicago
If you’re dining at Omni Chicago’s Cafe 676, chances are you’re enjoying the work of Chef Daven Wardynski, who uses herbs from his rooftop garden in many of his seasonal preparations.

The InterContinental Harbor Court, Baltimore
Employees of the InterContinental Harbor Court completed planting our herb and vegetable garden earlier this month for the rooftop garden’s second year. Herbs from the garden are used in everything from seasonal salads to seasonal mojito cocktails. In addition to the garden, InterContinental Harbor Court will be hosting a bee hive in conjunction with Baltimore Honey.

InterContinental Miami
The InterContinental Miami celebrated Earth Day 2011 by planting an herb garden, part of the hotel’s larger garden which contains full grown trees, plants and a jogging trail all on the 5th floor plaza level of the hotel, nestled in the skyscrapers.

Hyatt at Olive 8, Seattle
The hotel boasts an 8,355 square foot green rooftop, one of the largest in downtown Seattle. Urbane, the farm to table restaurant located in Olive 8, uses herbs harvested from the green rooftop in its dishes and cocktails.

Fairmont Singapore
Five floors above the Singapore skyline rest herb plots utilized in many of the hotel’s dishes and cocktails. To keep these herbs healthy and fresh, Fairmont Singapore adopted an innovative compost system that provides natural fertilizers for the plants, utilizing the waste products from thousands of worms, also nestled within the Herb Garden.

Brown Palace, Denver
While not a garden, per se, the hotel uses its rooftop space to help another living species grow – bees! The hotel boasts a massive bee hive (and has plenty of plants to keep the pollen-hungry bugs happy) and has an on-site beekeeper to harvest the honey.

US Grant, San Diego
One of San Diego’s most iconic hotels boasts a seasonal roof and herb garden that contains many of the ingredients used in the hotel’s dishes and cocktails.