WHATEVER Gloria Hibbert touches springs to life.
It has taken her just four years to transform her bare house yard into the award-winning garden it is today.
From shale and rock, Gloria built up her garden beds with topsoil and turned a small baron block on Gympie's Southside into a lush "Zen Garden".
It shared in winning Best Small Garden in the region's first garden competition held in a decade, organised to coincide with this weekend's Gympie Garden Expo.
While Gloria's favourite section of the garden in the backyard, first impressions count and visitors to her house at McPhail St are immediately rapt with the desert scene featuring vibrant succulents and cacti in the front yard.
Needing little water, this part of the garden practically looks after itself and that's how it was planned.
"I rarely come out here, it's very low maintenance and easy to care for, but this is where I spend most of my time," she said ushering me out the back. "This is my place of retirement. It's serene, peaceful and calming."
As she led the way into the backyard I passed a life-sized Japanese garden, complete with sand, stones and rake. Also known as a dry-landscape garden or a Zen Garden, they are common in Zen temples for use as meditation areas. Further in, and the Asian influences - a blend of Chinese, Thai and Japanese - combine with Aussie practicality to create a spiritual safe haven right in the middle of suburbia.
Gloria doesn't have a favourite spot; the yard is too small to favour any particular corner. Almost half the backyard is devoted to her latest gardening hobby - bonsais.
Other than ongoing maintenance of her garden and her bonsais, Gloria reckons she won't have anything more to do by Christmas.
"When I chose the house plans I planned the yard at same time," she explained.
"I've dilly-dallied around gardens all my life. Succulents came into my life in later years. Before that my interest was in clipped shrubs.
"My gardens are aesthetically pleasing to me. I plant what I want and that's it."
This is the smallest yard Gloria has owned. The garden at her last home in Gympie was entirely different and is still being maintained by the new owner.
"I just like doing this for myself. I don't do it to put it on show. I love that I can go out in the garden and forget the rest of the world," she said.