I am listening to the soundtrack of ‘Downton Abbey’, luring my heart to rural England. I am watching Monty Don’s series on French Gardens, calling me also. Writing tonight about the magic of Babylonstoren, in the heart of the Cape Wine lands.
Best in a garden. Most spiritual in a garden. The grander the better, no, that is not entirely true, I love the small cottage gardens just as much. Babylonstoren is grand, in a style I see in Europe and of course, it was when reading Monty Don’s book: ‘The Road to Le Tholonet’ that it came together. Monty talks of visiting Babylonstoren and that the garden was designed by well known French garden designer, Patrice Taravella. Inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town and the early Dutch influence, Babylonstoren is a tribute to European garden design, lots of Delft influence and then, the lovely mixture of South African taste.
Perfect rows of lettuces and the heady surprise of hanging calabashes – watch out!
Driving into Babylonstoren is like driving into a beautiful painting. The mountains rising in the distance, almost surrounding the farm, the golden Autumn hue, pink and mink wild grass by the roadside. The vines are turning deep jewel colours, rich and crisp.
The buildings seem newly whitewashed, gently put on verdant, lush lawns. A contrast to still signs of the crippling drought experience last year. Everything is fresh and growing. As a wedding venue, you could not ask for a prettier background. And the donkeys say ‘hello’ as you enter, the speckled chickens scratching at the base of the old, oak tree. Proud and haughty chickens.
The Kitchen Garden begins around the corner of the shop and I always leave the temptation of visiting the shop, till last. And the rooms begin: long, rustic pathways of dirt or peach pips that cross-cross the garden. Small squares and rectanglular blocks. Ponds of shimmering water and a variety of fish, water-lilies, glossy and clean. The ponds and water furrows, instant attractions for children, playing their own version of ‘pooh sticks’ with leaves and twigs, anything they can chase down in the game of winning.
This is a working garden, food supplied to the hotel, Babel and the Greenhouse, which is the reward at the far end of the garden. The actual planting and schedules of it, as well as daily tours are all available on the Babylonstoren blog and I am no expert, but fancy the odd recognition of plant and design, much to the thrill of the brain so long last used when it comes to gardening.
Shades of Autumn and twisted vine, and the gorgeous delft mosaics.
For me, it is the ambling, the ‘flâneur’ and picking of path in an unhurried way. From dappled light to cool repose beside the fountain, a minute here, careless adoration of it all. Much like any successful garden, the garden at Babylonstoren works in any season. Planting is done in such a way. Structures take on a bolder presence when leaves are lost. All fifteen clusters offer up a difference scene.
The Insect Hotel. Something to think about for your own garden, no matter how small it may be. With all the fear of disappearing bees and pesticides, fostering sanctuary for wildlife should be a priority for any lover of this planet. And I do so miss my garden, have spent many years living with a single crabtree, and then David Austen rose on my balcony, and now have a sliver of a patch around my house here in the Cape, but I think I shall find a little place for an Insect hotel – as long as they stay there and don’t come into my house!
As a wedding planner, Babylonstoren holds an added charm. Their Wedding venue is the stuff of dreams. A perfect backdrop, ideal accommodation, old Dutch style buildings, nature in a five star setting. Love the whole idea of it. Stay, even if it just for a night, partake of the cuisine and spa. The new Scented building is pure indulgence: Karen Roos has thought of every detail and it will be difficult to tear yourself away.
And you can shop, take a token of this heavenly repose with you. First a wine farm, their wines a gift to my palate, but there is so much more, eg, as the Dutch say … leuk. A deli too. In short, everything for the perfect day out and indulge, in sheer beauty.
I like to visit early in the morning, and late in the afternoon. When the mountains are pink and envelope the farm in a calmness difficult to emulate elsewhere.
Please take note that there is an entrance fee of R10.00 on weekdays and R20.00 on the weekends, which is little for the glorious experience. I did however, on my last visit, enquire about some sort of loyalty card, much like the National Trust, and was offered an annual, as many times as you like to come, card for R50.00. Ask for it if you, like me, cannot stay away.
Thank you so much for reading.