Carl Axel Nobelius migrated from Sweden in 1872 and with his training and experience in horticulture he quickly obtained work as a nursery assistant, and later foreman, for the prominent landscaping firm Taylor and Sangster of Toorak. He then moved on to work for South Yarra nurseryman Joseph Harris.
However, Nobelius dreamed of having his own nursery, so whilst continuing to work for Joseph Harris in South Yarra he began looking for land where he might be able to fulfil his ambition. He subsequently purchased a partially cleared 25 hectares (63 acres) ‘allotment’ near Emerald in 1886, which he worked on, over a number of years, on his weekends.
In 1892 Nobelius left his job in South Yarra and moved his family up to his Emerald property. Whilst Nobelius initially concentrated on establishing a small orchard, he soon turned his attention to raising nursery stock and early the following year he began trading as ‘Gembrook Nurseries’, as Emerald, at the time, was part of the Parish of Gembrook.
The nursery business, which focused upon mainly supplying fruit trees on a ‘wholesale’ basis, grew steadily, and by 1899 it employed 23 workers. However, at that time the business had to transport its trees by bullock dray 25 kilometres to Narre Warren station before they could be transported to Melbourne by train. Given that these trees were lifted and transported in the winter months, this proved to be very difficult.