Dating back to 1692, Babylonstoren is an historic Cape Dutch farm in the Cape. Famous for its magnificent gardens that are laid out over eight acres, the gardens are divided into 15 sections that comprise fruit, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns, a prickly pear maze, a Clivia tunnel and a plethora of trees with historical and botanical import. Every aspect of Babylonstoren including the contemporary Farm Hotel & Spa, the Farm Shop and Bakery – are led by the everchanging tapestry and botanical diversity of the gardens.

At Babylonstoren’s Farm Hotel, the overall effect is relaxed yet well-heeled with some of the existing farm buildings transformed into sophisticated guest accommodation. Set adjacent to eight acres of cultivated fruit and vegetable gardens, the hotel is characterised by thick whitewashed walls, elegant gables and hearty fireplaces that emulate an authentic farmstay experience. There are six one-bedroom suites, as well as three one-bedroom cottages and four two- bedroomed cottages that have a contemporary glass cube added to house a kitchen area for each.

New accommodation options on the farm are The Farmhouse suites, which include nine new one-bedroom suites. All the Farmhouse suites have access to an outdoor swimming pool and a hot spa area that includes a salt room, sauna and hot pool as well as a lounge area.

Housed in an old cow shed, Babel is a wonderful mix of Cape Dutch architecture with contemporary glass walls that makes for a simple yet edgy environment in which to try our tasty yet often unconventional combinations. We have a “from the garden to the table” philosophy that means that we like to serve food that is seasonal and that reflects our “pick, clean and serve” approach.

Our menu is seasonal and is always guided by what is in the garden. Our food always reflects the season, and so in summer we may serve you a yellow salad of pineapple, gooseberries, granadillas, yellow tomatoes and apricots while in winter a slow-cooked leg of lamb in red wine is more likely. Dessert subscribes to four flavours, namely: salty, bitter, sweet and sour. And while our meals are creative, we don’t like to tamper unduly with our food. Our meals are always clear in structure, so that fruit and vegetables gathered daily from the garden is often served with its skin on. Helpings are generous and depending on the weather you can take your meal in the glass enclosed restaurant or under the plane trees in the courtyard.

Set within eight 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, that 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 6th century BC, for his wife who longed for the mountains and valleys of her youth.

In 2007 Karen commissioned French architect Patrice Taravella to plan the layout of the garden. His work at Prieuré Notre Dame d’Orsan in France had impressed her greatly. There Patrice had reconstructed a medieval cloistered garden on the site of a restored 12th-century monastery. ‘I was drawn to Patrice’s inherent discipline, it’s almost Cartesian in the tradition of classical French gardens,’ says Karen. ‘And he’s remarkable in that he really understands the movement of people: how to make a garden hold you and calm you down.’

Taravella gave the garden geometric bones. His creation sits on an axis that extends east to west along the traditional lines of the old whitewashed Cape Dutch werf, then north-south from Babel Restaurant to the Babylonstoren koppie. It comprises 15 clusters spanning vegetable areas, stone and pome fruits, nuts, citrus, berries, bees, herbs, ducks, chickens as well as a prickly pear maze. Gravity feeds water from a stream by rills into the garden, flowing through ponds planted with edible lotus, nymphaea lilies and waterblommetjies.

Every one of the 300 varieties of plants in the garden is edible. Also grown as organically as possible and in a biologically sustainable manner. The fruit and vegetables from the garden are harvested all year round for use in two farm-to-table restaurants. Along the edge of the garden, a natural stream flows from the Simonsberg mountain to the Berg River, creating a space for indigenous wild olives to flourish. In their shade a collection of some 7 000 clivia lilies explode in a spectacular display every Spring. Our head gardener Liesl van der Walt and her team tend the plants that have flourished beyond expectation. So much so, it’s quite hard to believe that the gardens are not ancient.