I was thrilled when I was recently invited on a guided tour to Babylonstoren's gardens. Patrice Taravella was responsible for designing this magnificent garden that spans eight acres. Designed according to a formal structure, every one of over 300 plants in the garden is edible and is grown as biologically as possible. I have never seen such a huge variety of fruits and vegetables - it is quite mind boggling. (An avalaible list here).
A detailed map is presented to you on your visit, and also available here in PDF format. It gives you an idea of the magnitude and careful and precise layout of this magnificent garden. I have scanned mine which, because of my scanner's size limitations, some of the detail around the edges are amiss.
A very clever gravity waterway feeds water for this huge garden as it has apparently done for the past 300 years. Of course I was also impressed by the fact that the dams were painted a bold colour - a strong contrast to the rest of the white walls everywhere else. I think it said 'look at me ... look at me - we're not just any old dams - we've got a story to tell'.
Very neat and organised
The garden is divided into fifteen neat and organised clusters including attractive areas for vegetables, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and the biggest chickens I have ever seen.
These guava trees are very old and were laden with sweet fruit - and we were allowed to have some. When last have you eaten a guava fresh off a tree?
The tour guide (left bottom) was a wealth of information of both the history of the farm and of the plants. A horticulturist / historian ... note the secateurs on the hip - (girl after my own heart).
And that is the koppie Babylonstoren after which the farm is named. Quite steeped in history, and its impressive that this information has been carefully accumulated and presented as part of the tour. More here
"The Drakenstein Valley was inhabited by nomadic Khoisan communities for tens of centuries. In 1692, when the borders of the Cape Colony expanded after the arrival of French Huguenots, the farm was granted by Governor Simon van der Stel to the burger Pieter van der Byl. He laid out the first vineyards and altered water courses to provide irrigation. "
And by the way, I think its worth coming here when the seasons change. I would imagine it to be quite spectacular when the roses bloom as well as the clivias which are planted in masses along the riverbanks (visible from this bridge that leads to the fruit orchards).
I hope I am right - I think these were plum orchards - standing to attention like soldiers - waiting for the command to spring to flower. Must be a pretty sight when in blossom.
Many birds visit here where all sorts of dry grasses and bamboo have been planted for their pleasure. Not in pic - a giant mulberry tree - I wonder if it keeps them away from the fruit orchards.
Note - getting in is easier than getting down though. Don't even think about it if you are wearing a dress!
I thought these woven baskets so clever - and although I don't have vineyards to use for this purpose - there are some other creepers that might escape the shredder next time I cut them back.
This plaque encourages weary walkers to remove shoes and walk on the camomile - a soft groundcover. Beware of bees though when it flowers.
Being in the middle of our winter in the Western Cape, there is not much flowering at the moment. So this gorgeous pink flower got a lot of attention - it was rambling over the one of the many pergolas that are used on the farm. This is no ordinary creeper - it is a Passiflora Mollissima - a Banana Passionfruit. From Brazil, its apparently tasty, juicy and often used to flavour drinks and ice-cream too. I had never heard of it before.
Being the daughter of a bee-keeper, I was charmed by the carved door leading to the enclosed bee-hive sanctuary - with their private little orchard in tact. The very informed Tour-guide did explain here about an experiment they were doing with the bees and I am so sorry I only caught the tail end of it - by this time I was tired, brain fried with all the info and in desperate need of coffee. No info on their website either.
and the grand finale - home made scones, lemon curd and watermelon preserve - with cuppacino.
Much more to see and do on the farm - own wine, own bakery, sells imported cold meats and local cheeses.
Earlier I mentioned that the garden was designed by French Patrice Taravella - Designer and Owner of the Orsan Gardens, located in the Berry region, Central France. I can see why his expertise was chosen - his gardens ooze passion.
Situated between Stellenbosch and Franschoek.
Note - except for four images from the farm's website, the rest are my own :)