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Down the Garden Paths

Down the Garden Paths

There’re enough of them in the abundant Babylonstoren near Franschhoek to lead you deliciously astray

Words: Anita de Villiers

Pictures: Anita de Villiers and Supplied

South Africa’s winner in the Architecture and Landscapes category of this year’s international Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards is… Babylonstoren. The estate in the Drakenstein Valley has only been around for six years, but the buzz around this new ‘kid on the block’ has grown in proportion to its blossoming landscape and horticultural activities.

Our cover picture for February 2015, the gardens of Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek, was taken by Dook.

Our cover picture for February 2015, the gardens of Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek, was taken by Dook.


Okay ‘new kid’ might be a bit of a tag or tweet, because Babylonstoren, near Franschhoek, is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms. It has a history dating back to 1692 when Governor Simon van der Stel granted vryburgher Pieter van der Byl land at the foot of a cone-shaped hill. The farmers of the valley had named the hill Babilonische Tooren as it reminded them of the Tower of Babel in Genesis.

It is exactly this hill that eventually became the key in the design of an eight-acre garden that would bring together a number of historical and modern elements, and create a composition worthy of an impressionistic painting. Mastermind behind the design was French architect Patrice Taravella, creator and owner of the Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan gardens in France’s Loire Valley, which has been described as one of France’s most beautiful gardens.

Babylonstoren pond

From the waterblommetjie ponds, this Cape delicacy is harvested in winter for the ultimate in traditional food – waterblommetjiebredie.


Babylonstoren is formal in layout, its main axis the imaginary line running from the hill to the heritage Cape Dutch manor house, and the two crossing lines originating from the old bell tower and wine cellar flanking the house. Within the grid created by these main avenues, the geometry is multiplied, with bigger and smaller square and rectangular planting beds and enclosures.

Six years back, once the design was in place, water features and garden sculptures completed the skeleton, and botanists and gardeners arrived to plant and propagate all things edible. Their mission blueprint was some 362 years old.

Feb 2015 CoverStory continues in February 2015 edition of Country Life.






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