What began as a spice garden in response to a shortage of vegetables during an ongoing COVID-19 lockdown has blossomed into a self-sustainable half-acre space dubbed ‘Willow’s Garden’ on Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort’s grounds.
The team at the beachfront resort on Vietnam’s southern coastline started the project out small last year, planting a few fast-growing vegetables and spices for use in their lunches at the staff canteen in a bid to be more self-sufficient during the pandemic.
The 1700sqm that surrounds a 300sqm lake harbors an array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, all free from chemicals and additives. Willow’s Garden is home to some 15 types of fruit ranging from coconut, grapefruit, lime, lemon, pomegranate and passionfruit to jackfruit, mango, guava, soursop, and clementine.
Vegetables include spinach such as Malabar spinach, collard greens, bitter gourd, amaranth, luffa, cucumber, water morning glory, tomato, and eggplant such as Thai eggplant. Chili, ginger, rosemary, heartleaf, basil, dill, mint, saw leaves, fragrant knotweed, scallion, coriander, chives and cilantro are among the herbs thriving in the garden also brightened up with sunflowers, daisies and wild cosmos.
“From small things big things grow, and grow quickly,” said the resort’s general manager Alvaro Berton. “We expect to develop a specialized menu embracing a plant-to-plate philosophy in our restaurants, and we are setting up a program that gives our guests the chance to cultivate their own mini-garden at home by learning the fruitful tips and tricks deployed by our staff.”
Guests will be encouraged to rummage through the garden to pick ingredients such as fresh herbs to use when crafting their own dishes before indulging them as part of Muoi restaurant’s “Cook & Dine” cooking class. The resort also has plans in the works to roll out a range of fun, free gardening activities for guests such as painting pots, flower puzzling, leaf crafts, and making herb-infused essential oils.
Further ambitions for Willow’s Garden include a hydroponic set-up to grow clean vegetables, use water more efficiently and reduce the threat of pests. Lakes throughout the resort collect rainwater to water Willow’s Garden and the trees, shrubs and grasses that cover about 60% of the resort’s grounds including coconut, rain, frangipani, palm, butterfly palm, and Bougainvillea trees. The resort composts waste to produce organic fertilizer for Willow’s Garden.
The self-sustainable garden and plans for a plant to plate menu are among the resort’s string of efforts to lessen its carbon footprint. Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort sources as much produce locally whenever possible to support local farmers, and has eliminated single-use plastics through, for example, deploying recycled glass water bottles and biodegradable options such as wheat straws. The resort reduces energy, food and paper waste through all sorts of measures and technologies across its grounds including in its accommodations, kitchens and offices, and also offers sustainable ‘Power Meeting’ packages for MICE planners.
Since its debut, the resort has worked with hygiene and cleaning solutions company Diversey on the “Soap for Hope” project. The hotel soap recycling initiative helps save lives in disadvantaged communities through improving hygiene practices, while also creating livelihoods and minimizing the soap waste created by hotels. Through the program local people are taught to use a cold-press method, that requires no electricity or water and takes under 10 minutes, to recycle used soap from hotels into reconstituted bars. The fresh soap is then distributed to communities lacking soap or sanitation.
A 152-room and 83-villa property, five-star Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort features a host of world-class facilities such as three restaurants including a beach club, a swim-up bar, coffee shop, 20-treatment room spa, an executive lounge The Level Lounge, ballroom and conference facilities, kids club, gymnasium, gift shop and more. The contemporary rooms, suites and villas afford unencumbered views of the ocean, lush gardens, lakes and swimming pools.