In the Amatola district, a wise old mountain thrusts its beauteous self out of the Earth and gazes into the vastness of its surroundings. Dense, green jungle encircles and embosoms this entire colossal mountain, like a mother embraces her child with her whole body weight and soul. Standing at the foot of the mountain, this blanket of forestry allows you the pleasurable honor of sighting a few waterfalls peering out and their nourishment flowing through the vegetation.
Venturing through the pass, the crisp air brushes your cheeks and hurries into your lungs. Your ears cannot escape the melodious tunes of birds and leaves rustling, sounding like wrappers swooshing around in the wind. The higher up the peak takes you, the more your eyes feast on the three misted mountains frosted on your right-hand side. Hogsback: this wondrous gift from earth derived its name from these three mountains overseeing the tranquillity of the valley.
Julie Dunn has trekked/crawled up this forested slope regularly since she was 18 months old. At the age of 21, she got married in the Hogsback chapel to her husband, Wayne Dunn. They regularly ventured between their East London home, Yellow Sands holiday house and the mountain. “After every three months I would get withdrawal symptoms and say, ‘Wayne, I need to get to the mountain’”, she exclaims. Opportunities such as spiritual retreats and weekends away with her best friend would be another reason to be grounded in the mountain.
After visiting Hogsback for 44 years, Julie and Wayne purchased their own piece of heaven.
The garden was initially owned and designed by an architect from Johannesburg. He worked and poured his illustrious vision into the garden but sadly passed on before its completion. When Julie and Wayne purchased the garden, it was overgrown and had been standing idle for approximately two years. A map, however, was fortunately left behind, which the Dunns’ used as a template and guidance for infusing their own vision and passion for gardening into the incomplete artwork.
“The garden was always a good place for me to go and I think just working with the soil and the earth, it just soothed me,” says Julie. Gardening has become an escape and solace for her to nourish and mend her soul. Before the Hogsback garden made its welcoming appearance, the Beacon Bay and Yellow Sands gardens’ soil had bonded with Julie’s green fingers. Both of these gardens, however, could not reach their potential as Julie was busy bringing up her two sons and supporting her husband in his career. “Wayne might see this as retirement, but this is my time to shine,” she says radiantly.
Having the freedom of planting the flowers and plants according to her own vision, feeling and senses, Julie expresses her creative side in the Hogsback garden. The garden is a constant Christmas tree, decorated with crystals, benches, statues, fairy lights, poetry-inscribed rocks and beautiful flowers brightening up every corner. The garden is not only her canvas, but also her natural therapist, where she can “take her mind off of everything and put everything in perspective”.
Ailing plants and trees become her patients, as she nurtures them compassionately. Generally, her days consist of her powdering the plants with bone-meal, saving dying plants, wrapping them up in bags and tending to them until they are whole again. If she is not busy planting her potatoes in the vegetable garden in the hope that maybe this one will grow, she is seeking some advice from her Margaret Roberts books.
The garden is a meeting ground, welcoming the neighbourhood’s dogs, rabbits, monkeys, birds, baboons and occasional horses grazing on the outside lawn. But Julie also aspires for humans to indulge in the garden’s beauty by opening a tea room, as well as a bed and breakfast in the near future. Her days of working in the bank, infused with her natural inclination for baking and conversing with people, will come to the fore in her new venture.
“I love the sea, but the mountain is where my soul resides,” says Julie contently. The garden is not only a place for her to express her passionate love for gardening, but also her sanctuary, “where her soul feels at ease”. “It gives me so much more than anything has given me in my whole entire life”.
Making your way out of this spectacular wonder and back onto the main road, you look above and see the Cape parrots elegantly glide across the pure blue sky. Their wings stroke the sky with their paintbrush wings, as if living and being an organism on this earth is enjoyably effortless. When something or somewhere makes you feel more alive, freer, and closer to yourself than anything else in the world, hold it dearly and make it your little piece of heaven.