IN a little over a year Greg Vale has turned his backyard from nondescript to one of the best gardens in Australia.
Mr Vale's efforts in creating a Bali-inspired oasis at the bottom of the Kiama townhouse he shares with his wife, Nicki, has seen him win the Best Small Garden Category in the Australian House & Garden Awards.
Mr Vale drew on all the skills he has taught himself over two decades to construct the award-winning garden.
"I've always loved gardening," Mr Vale said. "I worked in events which left me with a lot of spare time, so as something on the side I started looking after gardens for people, mainly our friends, and it's something I find extremely enjoyable and relaxing.
"We were living in Sydney where we only had an apartment with a balcony and I was tired of coming home with dirt under my nails that wasn't mine, so part of the reason to move to Kiama was to have a garden of our own."
After purchasing their new home, Mr Vale got stuck into the task of transforming the garden.
"There was this huge deck sort of thing there, so we pulled that up and we painted the fence a less obtrusive colour.
"All the timber from the deck was recycled and used for all the plant boxes and things like that and then it was a matter of getting the right plants.
"Anybody can plant something, but knowing what will grow where is probably the most important aspect of a good garden."
While the Vales had won awards for how they designed their balcony while living in Sydney, Mr Vale said winning the Australian House & Garden award was a shock.
"After we had finished I took some photos and entered them in the competition in September last year, then around Christmas time they rang us to say we had won and it was definitely a surprise," he said.
"To be told you have the best small garden across the country is definitely something to be proud of."
While pleased to win, for Mr Vale it seems his creation is prize enough.
"It's just such a relaxing and tranquil feeling to sit out here; for us it's another room of the house and there's not much better than sitting out here right on dusk and just relaxing."