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Tom Hoblyn develops new oak arboretum

Tom Hoblyn develops new oak arboretum

The designer tells Zia Allaway about sourcing over 400 species for a project in Devon

Award-winning designerTom Hoblyn MSGD works from his studio in Suffolk and specialises in large rural estates, country houses and townhouse gardens. He has been working on designs for a large estate in Devon, and is now about to start planting an oak arboretum there, which will eventually be open to the public.

How did the idea for the arboretum come about?

We have been working for the client on the 225- acre estate at Hillersdon House in Devon for the past six years. When the client bought the estate, it had been left to rack and ruin, and we have helped to restore the once beautiful gardens. The estate includes a rhododendron garden, walled garden, orchard and deer park, plus other areas which we are in the process of developing. The client is very interested in plants, and hit on the idea of the arboretum, inspired by the crest on the house, which depicts an acorn and oak leaves, and the fact that the landscape is already home to a number of magnificent oaks. So we knew that oaks would grow really well there.

What is the idea behind your design?

We plan to literally go on a worldwide hunt for the 452 species of oak that will grow well in our climate and conditions. Our plan for the arboretum is laid out in the shape of an oak leaf, with each lobe forming a destination culminating in a piece of sculpture by a local artist – our client is a keen art collector and would like to support local sculptors.

The oaks will also be set out loosely by region; so, for example, those that hail from North America will be grouped together, but we are also including other plants that would grow naturally in the same environment. We think that this will make the arboretum a little different and more interesting for visitors, when it eventually opens to the public.

How will you source the oaks?

Some can be bought as seedlings or semimature specimens from nurseries in the UK and elsewhere, but for the more unusual, rare forms, we are searching the globe for seeds. We will then be growing them in a specially built nursery from the acorns. It’s all very exciting and I love the idea of this horticultural and design challenge. To see more of Tom’s work, visit  

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