In ancient times the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were world renowned as an oasis of lush greenery in the midst of a desert landscape. According to ancient sources, Nebuchadnezzar had the Hanging Gardens built around 600 BC for his wife Amytis, who was originally from Media and felt homesick for her verdant and mountainous home. The elaborate garden was constructed to replicate her lush homeland and cheer her up.
However, upon further research, one finds that the existence of these gardens is actually unconfirmed as no firm proof of their location has ever been discovered and many people now believe that the gardens may have been a myth all along. Fortunately there is no such concern about the Gardens of Babylonstoren.
Located between the towns of Franschhoek and Paarl on a winefarm in the Cape Winelands, the Babylonstoren garden is fast becoming known as one of the great gardens of the modern world, well at least in South Africa.
Inspired by the Company's Gardens of the Cape, over 300 species of organic vegetables and fruit are grown across eight acres of the formal garden and these are harvested throughout the year to supply the two restaurants on the estate.
The garden is divided into fifteen clusters including vegetable areas, berries, fruit trees, indigenous plants, and even a prickly pear maze. And just as it has happened for over 300 years in this part of the world, water is channeled into "leiwater" waterways from a stream into various areas of the garden to keep the plants well watered year round.
The garden at Babylonstoren is an excellent place to see nature at play - from the changing colours of the seasons, an "insect hotel" alive with life, a new crop of unusual plants and flowers or a cheeky squirrel stealing fruit for his supper - there is always something to keep you entertained. So much so that one visit is never enough, in fact it's far better to plan multiply visits. One way to do this is to visit at least 4 times each year - each time in a different season!
“a garden is like someone you love, it is beautiful in every season.”
Gilles Guillot, head gardener at Prieuré d’ Orsan
Whatever the season, there is always something happening in the garden. Guests are invited to join in the harvesting, pruning, planting or picking of the many fruit, herbs, nuts, spices and vegetables. The gardeners also give guided tours every day at 10:00 to help you discover what's "in season".
Here are a few ideas of things to see in the garden during each of the 4 seasons...
Take a stroll on a carpet of golden leaves
The pumpkins are ready for harvest - marvel at their size and variety
Quinces, eggplants and persimmons are also abundant in the garden.
It’s also a great time to taste the newly released white wines.
Mushrooms are in season - try to catch a glimpse of one of these beauties growing on decaying wood
Expect to find plectranthus taking over the Puffadder tunnel
Winter is citrus season - lemons, oranges and naartjies are in abundance as are prickly pineapples - look out for these unique plants
Very early spring (although it may still feel like Winter) is the best time to see the fruit trees in blossom.
The plum orchards on the farm, as well as the apple, pear, quince, almond and stone fruit trees in the garden are covered with blossoms and it makes for a breathtaking view from the top of the Babylonstoren koppie.
A walk along the river path in September is a must to admire the 7000 clivia in bloom or visit the Mick Dower Clivia Collection on display in the Puff Adder.
Warmer weather brings a buzz to the garden as the Cape honeybees get hard at work foraging for pollen and nectar.
The warm weather gives us an abundance of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, berries, watermelons and figs.
It's also harvest time on the farm and the wine cellar is at its busiest, a great time of the year to do a cellar tour.
It's also worth noting that the Babel Restaurant changes their menu with the seasons too as most of their dishes are inspired by what’s in season in the garden.
Tel: + 27 (0) 84 275 1243
Images & Text: Kathryn Rossiter