Growing the Future visits Babylonstoren

Posted under Eco-Tourism Blog by Grootbos on 13th July 2012

Our Growing the Future staff and students had an amazing outing to Babylonstoren, outside of Stellenbosch. We were spoilt rotten by the amazing staff. Constance-Marie and Constance spent the whole day showing us around and telling us about their gardens. Johan got the opportunity to exchange ideas with all of the garden staff and they got the opportunity to pick his brain as well! We had the privilege of meeting Gundula, who was instrumental in the design and implementation of the garden and Liesl, who is the head gardener and resident fynbos expert!

Every Plant has a Purpose

All of the 300 plants that they have in their garden have a purpose! The gardens are based on the design of the Company's Garden in Cape Town and pays homage to the gardens which were set up at the the start of the Cape’s colonial history to provide food for the passing ships.

Num-num, yum yum

Amongst the fruit trees, you find interesting indigenous plants such as the num-num, the confetti bush, sour figs and ‘sierings’ (an Oxalis species). As we walked along, we were allowed to pick fruit from the garden to eat. Constance-Marie and Constance shared the innovative ways in which the various plants are used such as Elephant Foodwhich is added to salads and used as a cake decoration as well as young waterblommetjie flowers (traditionally used for a stew) which are used to decorate cakes.

We also crossed the stream, into the plum orchard. Along the stream, they have planted 9000 Clivias! We also visited the ‘tea garden’ where various herbs such as pineapple sage, lemon grass, lemon verbena and a variety of pelargoniums are grown and picked to make tea for the visitors to the greenhouse.

Something to tweet about

There were a variety of other interesting features such as an aviary. An old mulberry tree has been transplanted and is an attraction for the birds.

They have set up a variety of little boxes and there are baskets in which the visitors can watch the birds!

We also met the ducks who catch the snails and the Austrolorp chickens who are supposed to lay eggs but haven’t done so in a while! We also saw: an indigenous Chamomile lawn; walked through their veggie garden which supplies the restaurants with its veggies for their red, green and yellow salads; their experimental garden that the chefs visit every day to see what works and what they might use in their kitchens; and the citrus area which features banadillas (a kind of grandadilla which is longer and yellow and tastes like a cross between passion fruit and banana, and has pink flowers!

What's that buzzing noise?

We were then taken into two enclosed courtyards. One of the courtyard’s has mulberry trees with comphrey as a ground cover and the other courtyard contains almond trees and a few beehives. Johan got to share his knowledge and expertise on the matter! There is also an area which specialises in fruit trees and an area specifically for citrus. They have made a kumquat hedge, and have paved the inner area so that they can experiment with water furrows which they have included in the design.

We visited their indigenous garden section that they use to make tassie massies for the guests. They grow a variety of buchus and other plant species for this purpose. We had the pleasure to see the pool they have prepared especially to attract dragonflies which in turn is connected to a water feature which is based on one found in the Castle in Cape Town. Our last stop before lunch was to look at the area which has been prepared for asparagus and we even saw an asparagus spear poking out of the ground!

Homemade and garden fresh

We were treated to lunch in the Greenhouse, which is a glass structure where meals are served. We had lovely homemade ice tea, sandwiches made with homemade bread baked on the premises with a variety of fillings which included various meats and cheeses, salad fresh from the garden served with herb oil and homemade chutney. To end off, we had their special rosewater and chocolate cupcakes.

We also received a grand tour of their kitchens, their mushroom room where they have recently harvested 4kg’s of mushrooms, their spa and gym, the cottages for guests and their wines, cheeses, chaterie and baking areas ending off with an introduction to the ‘Liewe Jesus’ donkeys, so named for the cross on their back!

Ons sé baie baie dankie!

We want to thank the Babylonstoren staff for hosting us and making us feel so welcome! Thanks to Constance-Marie and Constance for spending the whole day with us, Liesl who made sure to tell us that we would always be welcome to return, Gundula for exchanging ideas with Johan and Simoné for showing us around the property! We had an awesome outing and felt very welcome! We will most definitely be back and look forward to having the Babylonstoren team visit us one day soon!

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