Gardens Near and Far episode 3 – Babylonstoren, South Africa: Jean-Philippe Teyssier, a landscape architect, takes us on a journey to discover the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Set within 3,5 hectares (8 acres) of cultivated fruit and vegetables, the big garden at Babylonstoren is at the heart of the farm. It was inspired by the historic Company’s Garden in Cape Town, which supplied sailing ships of the Dutch East India Company with fresh vegetables and fruit during the days when the Cape was a halfway station between Europe and Asia. But we also link back to the mythological hanging gardens of Babylon. Those were thought to have been created by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century BC, for his wife who longed for the mountains and valleys of her youth.
Gardens Near and Far ep. 3 – Babylonstoren, South Africa
With the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek mountains as backdrop, Babylonstoren’s garden is majestic. Dating back to 1692, the fortunes of this historic fruit and wine farm took a turn ten years ago when it fell under the gaze of former magazine editor Karen Roos. Her passion for historic Cape Dutch style led to an authentic yet contemporary restoration that projects the farm into the future.
In 1692, Babylonstoren farm was granted to burgher Pieter van der Byl by the then Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. Prior to that, the Drakenstein Valley had been inhabited by the nomadic Khoisan communities for tens of centuries. And so it was Pieter van der Byl who planted the first vineyards on the farm and who altered the water courses to provide irrigation.
Some of the farm’s earliest structures from that time remain on the farm today, with Babylonstoren’s Cape Dutch werf (farmyard) typical of the architectural style popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. As such it is considered to be one of the best preserved farmyards in the Cape today.