Friday, 14 September 2012


Recently, I wrote about an unusual and beautiful  garden in the Loire Valley quite near to Boussac - Prieure d' Orsan. If you haven't read it , have a look here.

Patrice Taravella, one of the architects responsible for restoring the Priory Gardens in France, was also commissioned  to assist with the design of a relatively new garden on the Babylonstoren Wine Estate near Franshoek,  South Africa.    Having visited both gardens recently, it was interesting to note the similarities and contrasts between them. 

The climate in Franshoek is very different to that of the Loire Valley.  The soil conditions, the light, as well as the plant choices are also very different in both gardens.  The plants and trees at Babylonstoren needed to be much more robust to cope with the heat and sometimes very dry conditions of the Western Cape summer.  Some of the wooden structures are  similar to those  in France,  and I would love to fast forward to a visit to Babylonstoren in five years time!

This newer garden of Babylonstoren  is at the heart of the Estate, and covers eight acres.  It is laid out in a grid and there are three axis points.  The timber structures and tree plantings are formal and over 300 varieties of plants using bio-dynamic systems, are edible.  There are 15 divisions including vegetables, berries, indigenous plants as well as a 'Prickly Pear Maze'.  The watering of the garden is achieved using age old gravity methods.  The various walks through the garden total over 3 kilometres. 

The vegetable and fruit gardens supply the Babel Restaurant as well as the Farm Hotel on Babylonstoren.  These formal beds, some bordered by espaliered fruit trees,  are divided by walk-ways, some of which are covered with peach pips instead of gravel.

We had lunch at Babel before our stroll around the gardens and the food was superb.  Below an assortment of photographs of the abundant experience that is Babylonstoren.

Fruit trees trained onto a timber trellis
Fig trees are trained over slanting timber structures, facing the sun.  This, together with the wall behind, providing protection and increasing the heat,  will ensure abundant fruit.
Timber structures against the backdrop of the mountains

The owners are currently expanding the Clivia garden.  There are over 7000 Clivias (indigenous to South Africa)  growing alongside the stream, beneath wild Olives and Oak trees.  A new timber structure, known as The Puff Adder has been built to display the new Clivia collection.  'The structure of balau slats on steel frames, designed by Patrice Taravella and engineered by Terry de Waal, eliminates about 40% of sunlight but allows a free flow of air, creating ideal conditions in which Clivias can thrive'.   Unfortunately,  we were just a little too early to see the Clivias in full bloom, although those  in the timber tunnel were abundant.  

Clivias beneath the wild olives alongside the old stone wall

The more unusual yellow Clivia
This lovely stream which runs beside the Clivia walk.

The Clivia walk - the stream on the right and the fruit orchards on the left.

Babylonstoren is a 240 hectare working wine and fruit farm that dates back over 300 years.
The buildings are all very well preserved and some of the original structures, date back to 1690.   There is a main residence which dates back to 1770, an old cellar, a "Koornhuis" where wheat and hay was stored, a row of service buildings or barns,  a bell tower, an ornate chicken run and dovecote.  All of these buildings are surrounded by old traditional low farm walls.  Some of the  buildings have been converted into guest suites with Cape Dutch gables and thatched roofs. The Hotel offers a Spa and delightful accommodation with magnificent views of the farm and the majestic mountains that surround the farm on three sides.  


Babel - the restaurant

The unusual olive oil and vinegar containers

I hope you have enjoyed the assortment of photographs of the abundant experience that is Babylonstoren.


  1. This is the most beautiful blog, thank you for sharing. I am now dying to visit this garden! The photographs are so beautiful and you have described your visit in such lovely detail. Looking forward to your next instalment.

  2. P.S. I am LOVING the new design of your blog. Love love love!

  3. A visit to see the incredible varieties of Clivia flowering at Babylonstoren is one the best outings to welcome Spring to the Western Cape. What a lovely experience to share!

  4. I have read and heard SO much about this garden but no where with such detail, now feel I can get the hang of it, a great little potted history and wonderful photographs