Babylonstoren historic Cape Dutch farm
by Diana Studer
- 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)
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'.
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!
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 nartjieMy ouma in kaneelDaar's iemand in anysDaar's 'n vrou in elke geur- D. J. Opperman
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)
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.
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!
In the healing garden are herbs and traditional remedies. Exotic Echinacea, balloon flower and Ginkgo, with our indigenous sources.
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.
350 varieties of fruit and veg include this grafting and arbor art medlar with four quince legs by Anton Roux.
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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