Story of Pinetree Lodge Garden and how it evolved

 19th Century

From available early 19th Century records, the garden currently comprising about one acre, was part of the Oakmount  Estate in Kilmeen.  According to a local historian, the distinctive dry stone wall, being our entire southern boundary, was probably built as part of Oakmount in the 1790s.

In a “Topographical Dictionary of Ireland” published by Samuel Lewis & Co in 1837, Kilmeen was described as a parish to the north west of Clonakilty on the road to Dunmanway and had 3,980 inhabitants. It comprised 8,343 statute acres of which 5,324 were arable, 1,408 in pasture, 864 of bog, 80 of woodland and the remainder in rough pasture and waste land. The surface was uneven and the soil light but productive. About half of the land had been brought into tillage “since new roads were opened in 1820”. At Oakmount and Lisnabrinny were extensive remains of ancient woods.

The principal seats of ownership at the time were those of Herbert Gillman at Bennetts Grove, James Gillman at Oakmount and the Rev. Godfrey Smith at Lisnabrinny.

The Gillman family were originally from Exeter in Devon in England. The Griffiths Valuation of Ireland records Oakmount as being held in Fee ( Freehold) by James Gillman and was valued at £17 and 5 Shillings. James Gillman is noted as being among the principal lessors in Murragh parish and Herbert and William Gillman as executors of James Hillman, offered over 500 acres of these lands for sale in January 1862. Several members of the Gillman family were the vendors when lands and property in the town of Dunmanway were offered for sale in January 1866.

There is no specific reference to disposals of the Oakmount Estate in this period or how the estate passed into new ownership or was sub-divided. However, it is likely that the property had been fully or partly untenanted (vacant) for long periods of time and was ultimately vested in a new owner by the Land Commission under the Land Act, 1923. Unfortunately, the vast archive of Land Commission records are not yet digitalised and in the public domain.

We are investigating further and will publish up dates.

20th Century

There is a long gap in references until 1944 when a survey undertaken by the Irish Tourist Association refers to Oakmount House as “substantial farm dwelling” inferring a much smaller area of land than previously described.

We believe, Pinetree Lodge Garden had been mapped and carved out from Oakmount in the early 1950s, the first owner being Willie O’ Driscoll. He died and Land Registry records show that the ownership passed to Henry Archibald Ian Mac Innes having an address at Gardeville, Enniskeane, County Cork from 25th November, 1974.

My late husband, Ulrich Treutler, came from Germany in 1977 and bought the property in a very run down and dilapidated condition. He moved to Ireland in late 1978 and I followed on St. Patricks Day 1979.

The land had been abandoned and wild for the previous 25 years and was overgrown with nettles, brambles, scutch grass and every other kind of weed you could think of.  The only feature now in place that existed then is the large double Sycamore tree on the Southern boundary. Apart from that there was nothing other than an old Elm tree which died from Dutch Elm disease around 1983. Bit by bit, we reclaimed the land with some flower borders around the house and the lawn directly at the back of the house which is still there today. The house dates from about 1800 and was an Irish bothan built for humans and animals and constructed from large field stones drawn from the land. As we gradually renovated the house by breaking bigger doors and windows for more light, we used the surplus fieldstones as internal walls and mounds in the centre of the garden to create shelter and divisions. The current pond and lawn area between the two mounds was my vegetable and fruit garden from 1981 to 2002. Beyond the large mound, in the period 1982 to 1988, we started planting all the mature trees including the small mature variegated Acer and the Magnolia Stellata, set into an all grass area. Back then, walk ways were cut into the 3 to 4 feet high meadow to allow the children to drive through with their tricycles and later bicycles.

From 2006

Due to personal circumstances, the garden was neglected for a few years ending in 2006 and this time I started reclaiming the land again with my current husband, Harry Sexton. Harry started at the first lawn behind the house and worked his way all the way to the very end of the garden to create the current lawn areas.  We didn’t have a lot of time then to design or maintain borders and laying out the garden as a lawn was the best option. We felled many old conifers which were blocking out light and sucking water and nutrients from the soil. We planted a lot of shelter hedging and shrubs and dug the pond out in 2010. In 2014, Harry applied to be one of the 3 gardens in Ireland for the garden programme on Sky Television “Show me your garden” being a peer reviewed competition for the best garden of the three, the others being a lavish garden in Crosshaven, County Cork and an exotic tropical garden in Cork City. The programme was broadcast in January 2015 and while we did not stand a chance of winning, it inspired us to do much more with the garden. As Elaeagnus, Laurel and Grisilinia hedging grew and matured, the new shelter facilitated the creation of a number of ‘rooms’ comprising mixed herbaceous borders; a woodland collection of ferns; hydrangea, rhododendron, azalea, camellia and other acid loving shrubs;  roses, some tropical plants, as well as our old mounds, a mature pond and a new ‘tree house’.

The newest addition is what we call the PLINTH which was the indirect consequence of tree loss and boundary damage caused by Storm Ophelia in October 2017. The plinth gave us a new panoramic view  of  Ballinacarriga Castle, lake and valley, as well as views to the Maughanclea Hills, Nowen Hill, the Sheehy Mountains, including  Knockboy and Carran to the north west. To the North, we can see the Paps and Mullaghanish in the Derrynasaggart Mountains in Kerry. The plinth is planted with native Scotch Pine in a triangle of large boulders with other conifers, a native trailing Birch and a standing stone we found during the clearing and now surrounded by heathers. A small field stone ‘Bee Hive’ is finishes of the plinth in an old Irish traditional way.