Towering trees and a sea breeze dictated the plantings surrounding historic Moorakyne at Robe, SA.

Story Gretel Sneath   Photos Kristal Baker 

At Margie and Don Ferguson’s Kalangadoo cattle property, anything grows. The farming district in the heart of SA’s Limestone Coast is prime grazing – and gardening – country. It’s been that way for a long time, with the name ‘Kalangadoo’ stemming from a local Bungandidj word meaning ‘big trees in water’. 

Margie describes the garden surrounding their home as “very English”, with box hedging and roses blooming in the rich loam soil. But she confesses that it’s also “very neglected” thanks to an even bigger backyard project 100km away in the coastal town of Robe. 

In 2017, the couple bought Moorakyne, a landmark 1853 property, which had long captivated Margie. “I have always loved it, and had been driving past for many years just trying to see in, so when it came up for sale, I couldn’t let it go,” she says.

The stately 12-room home was ripe for restoration, and its sprawling yard spanning four allotments was essentially a blank canvas – a heavenly prospect for Margie, who comes from a long line of avid gardeners. “I was so excited by the fact that it had some undulation and slope, as Kalangadoo is so flat,” she says. 

Moorakyne’s garden has become the ultimate design challenge. Ten enormous Norfolk Island pines planted more than a century ago heavily dictate both garden layout and plant selection. “They dominated the garden to the point that nothing else would grow, so I don’t have much of the old garden apart from the retaining wall and lake stone edging – we tried to preserve it and keep the formality as a nod to the heritage status of the house, but we’ve really had to just go with the flow,” Margie explains.

This story excerpt is from Issue #147

Outback Magazine: February/March 2023