Babylonstoren historic Cape Dutch farm

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

After 42 years at Kirstenbosch where he was curator of the Conservatory, Ernst van Jaarsveld, who studies plants that grow on cliffs, has retired to Babylonstoren (owned by Karen Roos former editor of Elle Decoration and Koos Bekker CEO Naspers)

Wicker eye to lotus pond at Babylonstoren
Wicker eye to lotus pond at Babylonstoren

A wicker eye across the lotus pond from the grape arbour. Kitchen garden started in 2007 by Patrice Tarravella from the Loire Valley. Inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the original Company's Garden in Cape Town - as Sir William Temple wrote in 1685 - 'divided into four quarters with long and cross walks - orange, lemon, lime and citron trees - with plants native to Europe, Asia, Africa and America'.

Babylons in lavender toren in spekboom
Babylons in lavender
toren in spekboom

Paths which seem to wander at random spell out Babylons in lavender, across the avenue is toren (= tower) in spekboom hedge. To be read from a small plane ... or on Google Earth!

Grape arbour shades cars, Roman camomile lawn Orchards with pumpkins, Tahiti lime
Grape arbour shades cars, Roman camomile lawn
Orchards with pumpkins, Tahiti lime

Car park is shaded by grape arbours. Lawn substitute is Roman camomile. Orchard rows planted wide apart for a second crop where competitive pumpkins lurk. Tahiti limes 'don't grow well in our climate' so theirs are planted in Versailles tubs - a stately echo of my small potted lime. Written across the base of a wide shallow pool - my girlfriend is a naartjie (= mandarin, clementine) - cinnamon is granma - someone is anise - every fragrance reminds me of another woman.

My nooi is in 'n nartjie
My ouma in kaneel
Daar's iemand in anys
Daar's 'n vrou in elke geur
- D. J. Opperman

Plums, pomegranates Carob pods, Sharon fruit
Plums, pomegranates
Carob pods, Sharon fruit

Pile of purple plums offered to restaurant customers where they pay their bills. Pomegranates ripening. Familiar leaves, a carob tree (ours is male) - we nibbled on sweetish pods (not the HARD seeds). Persimmon, kaki, Sharon fruit.

Lunch served in glass containers with cotton serviettes. Sadly, plastic straws which was disappointing! Selling a leather- lined gardener's apron for almost a thousand rand ($81 or 58 pounds)

Mulberry tree Mother of the garden
Mulberry tree
Mother of the garden

The mother of the garden, the oldest tree, is a weeping mulberry. Simon van der Stel had planned the mulberry trees for the silk industry. Despite being so old, this tree was successfully transplanted. Plant labels are slate.

Bees and ducks
Bees and ducks

The handle on this courtyard door is a clear warning. Bee hives are wooden from chic European houses to our Ujubee bee-friendly houses, to Winnie the Pooh's woven baskets. In hotels recommended by Conde Nast, the insect hotel is diverse and upmarket. The youngest grapevines are caged to protect them from being eaten by the ducks. Resting in the midday heat from bug patrol in the vineyards, as it was, HOT!

Healing Garden at Babylonstoren
Healing Garden at Babylonstoren

In the healing garden are herbs and traditional remedies. Exotic Echinacea, balloon flower and Ginkgo, with our indigenous sources.

Garden of the San
Garden of the San
(bottom right Kumara plicatilis)

Ernst covers Robertson Karoo, Hantam Karoo, Eastern Cape and Simonsberg Mountain in the Garden of the San. Rocks and soil were collected from donor farms. Kumara plicatilis the fan aloe is indigenous to fynbos. Mine is a third of this size. We did a guided walk (booking and good shoes essential) then I left the Ungardener in a chair in the shade here, while my camera and I did a second circuit.

Medlar on quince roots Arbor art by Anton Roux
Medlar on quince roots
Arbor art by Anton Roux

350 varieties of fruit and veg include this grafting and arbor art medlar with four quince legs by Anton Roux.

Puff Adder shadehouse
Puff Adder shadehouse

Ernst's influence in the Puff Adder shadehouse. Hanging baskets filled with shade-loving succulents forcing you to, slow down. We will return in autumn for the Plectranthus.

Two streams flow despite our drought. Thick mulch and drip irrigation from their dam.

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Pictures by Diana Studer

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Comments

  1. Now it is even higher up my list if we ever make it back to the Cape. Thank you Diana. The Healing Garden looks beautiful and the shadehouse. What a great idea and place to stop on such a hot day.

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  2. That is just gorgeous! Do they grow all that fruit for their restaurant? I adore the bee house! And that shade arbor! Thank you so much for sharing these photos.

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    1. It is a commercial farm. They export plums. And supply two restaurants and a small hotel.

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  3. It is strange that plastic straws are still widely used in this time of plastic oceans. I wonder why they were ever invented. What is wrong with paper straws? The shade house is beautiful.

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    1. Strange because there are glass, stainless steel or bamboo straws available. When I whined at them on FB, they told me, in season, they use lotus stems as straws.

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  4. Thanks for the tour of that beautiful property, Diana! I love the shade house. I wish I'd had room for something that large. The bee-shaped cut-out in the door leading to the bee area was a wonderful touch too.

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    1. I thought of you. They also have two warehouse sized shadehouses where they store named Clivia, succulents, and other shade lovers ... for display in the Puff Adder in season.

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  5. Ooohhhhh, I like! And it looks so warm and lovely and I love the path spelling out the name (I'll be on google maps in a second!) Great photos too. Lovely read Diana xxx

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  6. Fascinating place! The shade house, citrus and fruit trees, and pathways are wonderful. What a regal Mulberry tree! We have a Mulberry tree here and at our cottage. I love to use the fruit in desserts.

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  7. What a stunning garden with so many fine details! Beautyful!

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  8. I enjoyed reading about this quite unique property, and just wish I could see the lavender words from the sky! The shade house and healing garden are very interesting too, as is the whole property. I hope you can do a post in Autumn on the markets. I look forward to that.

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    1. on Google Earth I can make out enough letters to see that it is there b a b y l ... etc. in front of the restaurant called Babel.

      I vividly remember Ernst's exhibition of Plectranthus years ago at Kirstenbosch.

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  9. what an unusual, special place, Diana, and the largest insect hotel I have ever seen. I already look forward to seeing and hearing about your return visit to see the Plectranthus.

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    1. and this insect hotel from the university of Zurich. More sciency less decorative
      https://eefalsebay.blogspot.co.za/2017/03/Zurich-Lauterbrunnen-Biel-botanical-garden-August-2016.html

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    2. thanks for the link. On the TV news tonight there was a story about the dire water shortage in Capetown. I thought of you, Diana. Must be tough.

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  10. You do take us on incredible journeys Diana.

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    1. I could use your sprinkle of snow most gratefully today!

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  11. A fascinating post Diana, I would really enjoy visiting this garden. I especially love the shade house especially after reading about Kris's at Late to the Garden Party. I'd love to create something like that here. I hope you are getting enough water I read yesterday in the Guardian that Cape Town will run out of water in April. fingers crossed for lots of rain.

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    1. I will write about our water on my next post. Still hoping we will squeak thru with huge effort from everyone.

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  12. Wow that looks a fantastic garden despite those plastic straws! I love the wicker eye and the carved bee so much better than a warning sign and how they have imaginatively created the shade. Sarah x

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    1. The carved bee is twice clever, as the opening serves as a handle for the door - you cannot miss the BEE warning.

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  13. Diana, I think of myself as pretty environmentally aware, but I just heard this past week about the damage done by discarded plastic straws on the Great Barrier Reef and efforts to ban plastic straws in Australia. I don't like to drink with a straw, so I usually remove them from my drink -- but they still end up in the waste stream. From now on, when I get a drink in a restaurant, I'm going to ask them to leave out the straw.
    As always, your flower photos are a treat, especially at this time of year. Also fun to see the ripe pomegranates on the trees.

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