Excerpt from original sales brochure in the state library circa 1925


Picture of the house circa 1925


Karkoo was perhaps best described a century ago: “Perched on a commanding knoll, an idyllic and artistic home set in most delightful surroundings amidst exquisite mountain scenery. Surrounded by a delightful rock garden, shrubbery and magnificent trees beneath which daffodils and belladonna lilies flourish in season. A rippling willow and quince bordered brook meanders through the property situated in a delightfully picturesque valley.” - Excerpt from a sales brochure for the property circa 1925 – state library.

This was the setting for one of SA’s oldest production nurseries – Karkoo Specialist Plants and Seeds. The property was advertised as a going concern as a “splendid opportunity for a keen and energetic man or woman.” This was in 1925 when the owner of the previous 19 years put the nursery up for sale – he bought the property as a nursery in 1906; how much earlier it was established is unknown. Unwittingly and quite coincidentally we were to answer this call almost a century later.

In 2000 we fell in love with Karkoo, recognizing the potential to rebuild a lost garden – ignoring the blackberry, ivy and gorse – we could begin to restore the extensive stone walls, the unique nature of the property and continue the quest first embarked on over 100 years ago.

The last 14 years has involved: Carving out 2 acres of production nursery from the side of a hill, building all the necessary structures – plant tunnels and shade houses – vital with the severe frosts in winter. Establishing a thriving wholesale nursery - with a history unknown to us at the time - while many others have been closing their doors. Taming a landscape that had been let go for far too long. Restoring the old rockery style gardens and extensive dry stone walls.

Little did we realize the full extent of our undertaking - a tough industry, difficult site and climatic conditions. Many 100 hour weeks were needed while also raising 4 children. Karkoo is evolving more and more every year and is very much still a work in progress – and like many fine things should keep improving with age.

We could not have achieved all this without our many enthusiastic volunteer helpers and student workers – to whom we are incredibly grateful. The rich heritage of Karkoo has been our inspiration and guiding influence in all we have done.

We grow an eclectic mix of nearly 1000 varieties of plants, including many heirloom and unusual plants not found in many nurseries or chain stores. We even still grow some of the lines – including sweet peas – that Karkoo was previously famous for.

We are currently re-planting the rockery, re-vegetating the creek, carting tonnes of stone from Kanmantoo and Woodside to finish building the bridges and repairing the numerous stone walls throughout the property. We intend to rebuild the stone well that we have uncovered and was part of the original Hill’s stock route.We are proud of our raised kitchen gardens that help to feed our family of 7 (including grandpa).

While we realize that we still have a way to go, we like to think that Mr. Joyner (the owner 1906-1925) would approve of all that we have achieved.

One of the original gardeners. Circa 1920.