Green Hotels Association
    October 2015  


Horticultural Gallery Springs Up
at The Hilton Chicago / Oak Brook Hills!

2-year Green Hotels Association® PARTNER MEMBER, The Hilton Chicago / Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, is committed to sustainability efforts that support its mission of becoming a uniquely green destination. These environmental practices are evident throughout hotel operations, but none more so than what’s taking place outside on its grounds, comprised of a 150-acre Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and the Championship Willow Crest Golf Club. This year the multi-faceted resort announced a “Horticultural Gallery,” on Earth Day. Spearheaded by a new full-time horticulturalist, Karen Paquin, the sustainable ecology aims to be the hospitality industry’s premier Midwestern environmental showcase.

Unlike a typical art gallery, the Horticultural Gallery at Oak Brook Hills, an IACC Green Star/Gold Status property, presents a cutting-edge array of eco-friendly hospitality projects happening outside in real time, headlined by the resort’s groundbreaking beekeeping program. The Horticultural Gallery is open to everyone to enjoy—from individual guests to client events. Paquin, who has been trailblazing in San Francisco’s progressive horticulture scene for 25 years, wants visitors to be “blown away” by what’s happening at Oak Brook Hills. “It’s not just about plants,” said Paquin, “it’s about the habitat and ecology of the plants coming together. My goal is for guests to walk away with a new aesthetic for not only what’s beautiful, but also what’s in balance with our native region.”

“Gardening is much more than a hobby to many,” added general manager Stefan Mühle, who spent more than a decade conceptualizing, developing and managing green hotels in San Francisco while chairing the Sustainability Committee for the city’s Hotel Council. “We feel there’s a huge demand for learning more about techniques and approaches that have the potential to result in competitive and fiscal advantages while protecting the natural environment and respect for the local communities in which we operate.”

The Horticultural Gallery at Oak Brook Hills has escalated throughout the season. Highlights include:

● Beekeeping Program: Hundreds of thousands of honey bees are currently living and working on resort grounds. Managing the property’s nine hives is Executive Chef Sean Patrick Curry (a.k.a., The “Beekeeper Chef”), who is sourcing honey for hotel culinary recipes and beeswax for natural hotel products, while the bees themselves are helping pollinate the Foodscaping and Chef's gardens.

● Monarch Butterfly Waystation: by planting Milkweeds and nectar source plants, Oak Brook Hills has created a butterfly habitat that promotes the migration of the Illinois State insect.

● “Foodscaping” Garden: an educational garden highlighting a new type of edible landscaping using vegetables in the landscape in an ornamental as well as a functional way.

● Chef's Garden: a garden that incorporates vegetables and herbs specifically for Executive Chef Sean Patrick Curry’s “modern farm cuisine.”

● Drink/Cocktail Garden: a garden containing herbs specific to infusions and cocktails for the hotel bar. Part of this plan also involves the planting of Elderberry bushes for a signature blend of house-made signature teas.

● Audubon education: members of Oak Brook Hills’ horticultural and grounds team host local middle schools, educating students by discussing green initiatives and joining together for Audubon projects such as installing special landscaped areas.

● Prairie restoration: or prairie “reconciliation”—as Paquin puts it. The development of the native areas on the golf course are taking them back to the way they used to be.

● Native bird boxes: Screech owl boxes, hawk platforms and Bluebird boxes are being constructed and introduced around the estate to encourage native bird sightings and protected habitat.

● 5,000+ bulbs: planted around the property. After blooming each April, bulbs are dug up and transplanted into native/rough areas around the golf course to naturalize.

● Planting of fruit trees. Varieties include Chicago Hardy Fig, persimmon, pear and cherry. The harvest will be used in culinary and bar recipes.

● Continual division and relocation of existing perennials around the property: By making the perennial beds the best they can be, Paquin is helping to create a new esthetic in blooming gardens.

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