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By |2021-06-24T11:26:29+10:00June 24th, 2021|Indoor plants|

Greening your home to fight the winter blues.


By Rachel Gleeson
for The Village Observer May 2021

It is my opinion that you can never have too many plants in your home! I find that plants are a wonderous ever changing part of my surroundings that make me feel comfortable and at one with nature (without having to step outside!)

For many of us the winter months can be quite challenging in regard to how much time we are able to spend outside. It is often too dark, cold, rainy or just downright miserable to be out there which can sometimes feel quite depressing.

This is when indoor plants come into play. It is a fact that plants contribute to sustaining our air quality and also positively contributing to our state of mind!

Many people seem to think that growing plants inside their home is a difficult task. This is not so. There are many suitable plants that can overcome the challenge of air conditioning/heating, low light levels and even neglect.


Most plants that thrive indoors are species that originate from tropical environments. They thrive in shade/bright light and enjoy similar temperatures to us humans.

Make sure you do a little research on what plants would suit the unique conditions of your home. Dont just go by the label as often these are very vague and include as many aspects as possible so as to sell more plants! Ask for advice at your local nursery or if you are unable to do this there is a lot of information online.

Light level/aspect... All plants need light to grow. Most shade/indoor plants thrive in high levels of indirect light. If you are unable to provide this for your plant, you can use artificial light provided by LED lighting in your home. Simply position under a decorative lamp or a spotlight for a minimum of 12 hrs a day (use a timer if necessary). The LED light will provide the necessary spectrums of light that the sun naturally provides (blue and red). These will enable your plant to grow.

Airflow... Good airflow keeps a plant dust and bug free. In nature the wind and rain wash away pests and keep leaves clean. To mimic this regularly open doors/use fans to create airflow. Wipe the surface of large leaves clean to remove dust and keep an eye out for bugs especially on the underside of leaves. Mealy bugs are a very common pest that occur on indoor plants (look like small white cobwebs on the underside of leaves.) Remove with a cotton bud or spray with white oil/mild soapy water.

Watering…On average most indoor plants require watering once a week. You can extend this time by using pots with ‘water wells’ which have a reservoir of water in the base, which is great if you travel, are time poor or simply forgetful! These are a great time saver!

Fertilise your plants every couple of months by adding soluble fertiliser to your watering jug.

happy gardening!


By |2021-06-24T11:36:41+10:00June 24th, 2021|hypertufa planter, Plants, Uncategorized|

Make your own


By Rachel Gleeson

for The Village Observer April 2021

The term ‘hypertufa’ simply means ‘man made rock’. When making hypertufa planters we are attempting to mimic the look of natural porous limestone.

The three main ingredients you need to make your own hypertufa planters are cement, peat moss and vermiculite/perlite. Vermiculite holds water within its air pockets and also lets the pot ‘breathe’ so is a good option for making a ‘moss pot’. However, if you want to make a vessel for plants that like a dryer environment (such as succulents) a better option would be perlite which will make the pot drain more quickly.

Peat moss is organic, very light and has incredible water holding capacity. The combination of these three ingredients’ result in a very natural looking strong, lightweight vessel, which ages beautifully.



• 1 part cement
(sifted to remove any lumps)

• 1 1/2 parts vermiculite
OR perlite

• 1 1/2 parts peat moss

• bonding adhesive
(hardware store)

• water

You will also need

• Mixing tub

• gloves

• disposable face mask

• spray cooking oil or plastic wrap

• garbage bag or old plastic bags

• mould (pot/tub/dish)

• metal brush or course sandpaper

This is a messy job,
so make sure you wear old clothes!

Estimate how much mixture you need, according to the size of your mould, it’s best to make more than you think you will need. Have on standby an additional smaller mould, so you can use any leftover mixture on instead of it going to waste. Decide what side of the mould you are going to use (the inside or outside).Spray area with cooking oil or cover with wrap (to assist removal of pot from mould)

Add the three dry ingredients first and mix well. Add bonding adhesive (about 3/4 cup diluted with a couple of cups of water). GRADUALLY add more water to the mix to form a consistency of cottage/ricotta cheese (it should hold together in your hand when squeezed). Allow mixture to sit for a few minutes.

Start with the base & add a layer 3-4cm in thickness. Tamper down firmly with your thumb to remove air pockets. Work your way around the side walls (2-3cm thick). Use your finger to make a drainage hole in the base. Smooth off all edges. Once finished, cover your creation with plastic and place in a shady location for a couple of days.

Two days later: Carefully remove the pot from mould (your pot has not yet cured and is fragile). Use sandpaper or a metal brush to smooth or rough up the texture of your pot according to what type of look you are after.

Recover the pot with plastic and place back in a shady area for at least three weeks.

Three weeks later: Remove plastic and immerse your hypertufa pot in a mix of 90% water and 10% vinegar for 10 minutes (this will remove the excess lime from the pot and make it more plant friendly). It is now finished! Initially your pot will look rather ‘new’ however once planted out and regularly watered your pot will take on an aged natural ‘mossy’ patina.


By |2021-06-24T11:38:33+10:00June 23rd, 2021|Bonsai|


The Basics

By Rachel Gleeson

for The Village Observer March 2021

For many gardeners, caring for a bonsai is a creative, rewarding and space saving form of gardening. A bonsai plant can recreate a forest or a beautiful mature tree in miniature, allowing us to enjoy the wonder of nature in our suburban homes.

The art of Bonsai originated in China and was then embraced and further developed by the Japanese(“bon-sai” meaning “plant in a pot” comes from the Japanese language).The artform and its popularity spread throughout Europe and America thanks to returning soldiers from World War 2 who took home these fascinating little trees as mementos.

Many plants are suitable for bonsai however those with interesting trunks and compact fine foliage are ideal. Apart from buying a readymade bonsai you can buy young nursery plants, prune the branches into shape and watch them grow or rescue garden castaways that can be cut back and pruned into shape.

Many people think that caring for and maintaining a bonsai is difficult. This is not so! The watering, feeding and pruning of bonsai are general gardening techniques that can be learnt easily, even by beginners! The main reason why people fail is by allowing the plant to dry out or suffocate it in waterlogged soil. Bonsai pots are small and heat up quickly when exposed to intense sunlight meaning delicate roots can become dry very quickly. To avoid this keep your bonsai in a semi shaded position/bright light and avoid full sun. On the flipside bonsai do not like to be waterlogged and need free draining soil.

Because your bonsai plant lives in a small pot, it has limited soil to obtain nutrients. Replacing the growing media every couple of years and trimming the plants roots enable’s more nutrients to be replaced and space for fresh new roots to grow. Use a good quality potting mix and add in one third sand to help provide adequate drainage. Because bonsai plants are constantly being trimmed (always producing new roots and shoots )

A bonsai will essentially remain young and never reach maturity. This in theory means that your bonsai could potentially live forever!

Some recommended plants for Bonsai in Sydney

• Bougainvillea • Callistemon

• Jacaranda • Japanese Maple

• Trident Maple • Serissa

• Port Jackson Fig • Japanese Box


By |2021-06-24T11:47:59+10:00June 22nd, 2021|Uncategorized|

In the garden


By Rachel Gleeson

for The Village Observer Feb 2021

During the last 12 months the COVID pandemic has created a ‘botanic boom’ throughout the world. Indoor plants have provided comfort and company to many millions of people, who have been in isolation at home. Studies show that sharing your space with plants has a positive effect on reducing both stress and anxiety levels. The caring for and “parenting” of plants offers hope for regeneration and kinship.

Terrariums, have once again risen in popularity and are a great choice for apartment dwellers and plant owners who are time or space poor. Terrariums provide an almost foolproof way of nurturing and displaying plants that need humidity and moisture to thrive. They provide a tropical ecosystem under glass that would otherwise be unachievable in most homes.


Materials + Plants:

Any glass vessel with a lid, such as coffee jar/bottle can be used. A basic terrarium requires just 4 ingredients – small pebbles (for drainage), Charcoal (to neutralise odours), soil and plants.

For a plant to thrive in a closed terrarium they must love moisture, shade and humidity. These are my favourite terrarium plants, all of which are available from nurseries in the Sydney locality.

• Hypoestes (‘polka dot plant’)

• Fittonia (‘nerve plant)

• Syngonium (‘arrowhead plant’

• Small ferns

• Small begonia varieties

• Peperomia

• Ficus pumulia (creeping fig)

• Haworthia

• Heartleaf philodendron

• Pilea (‘chinese money plant)


– Firstly place 4-5cm of pebbles in base, followed by a small amount of charcoal.

– Place plant(s) on top of charcoal and gently fill around the base with similar amount of soil.

– Decorative moss, rocks, figurines, shells can be added on to the top layer.

– Carefully add water to the terrarium, just enough to reach the top of the pebble layer. Place the on lid and you are done!

– Over the next 24 hours a fine mist of condensation should become visible at the top of your terrarium. If instead, your vessel has large droplets of moisture, take the lid off for an hour or two to allow some of this to evaporate).

Keeping your terrarium well:

– Your terrarium will need rewatering whenever there is no condensation at the top of the jar/vessel (probably every couple of months). Additionally, you can give an occasional wipe down to clean the glass.

– Trim your plants if/when overcrowding occurs, with a long-handled scissors.

– Make sure you keep your terrarium in a bright location as it needs light to breathe and grow (avoid hot areas and harsh light). If your room is too dark, simply place under a lamp containing a LED bulb for eight hours a day (connect a timer). This will replicate the sun’s rays and enable it to grow.


By |2021-06-24T11:19:16+10:00June 21st, 2021|Plants|

Are you looking for a fuss free, easy going plant
to share your home or office with?

Airplants are
a great choice!!

By Rachel Gleeson
for The Village Observer June 2021

Tillandsias, commonly known as “air plants” come in lots of different shapes and sizes, grow inside very happily and are very easy to look after. Air plants can survive in low light areas and love the temperate humid weather conditions that we Sydney siders often experience! They make the perfect house mate for apartment dwellers as they do not need much room, require no soil….no mess! Tillandsias produce an assortment of striking foliage and stunning flowers. Most are quite small (around 5 to 20cm in length) and fuss free. There are over 400 varieties in existence, and range in price starting from around $10 for the more common varieties and a lot more for the rarer specimens! These plants make great collectables! The leaves of these little guys are made up of tiny scales, capable of absorbing nutrients and water from the air. Therefore, tillandsias do not need to live in soil. The few roots the plant produce are solely used for anchorage to their chosen homes, which are most commonly branches within the canopy of trees or wherever they fall. In our homes they look great in decorative vessels such as glass or shells or suspended from the ceiling/shelf in groups attached by string or fishing line.


Most air plants have strappy silver or green leaves that are formed in a rosette or round shape. Those with silver or “fuzzy” leaves occur naturally in sunny dry climates. Specimens with darker smooth glossy leaves are found in shadier situations with more rainfall, thus requiring more frequent watering. Your air plant will reward you with a stunning flower, from most commonly a palette of pink, purple and red. During or after flowering your air plant will produce on average between two and six “pups”. Sadly, your original plant will slowly die and be replaced by these growing young babies. They can be detached from the original plant when around 1/3 the size with a sharp knife.


● WATERING – 3 ways to keep you air plant hydrated

● SPRAYING – Use a water sprayer to mist every day or two to replicate rainfall and create humidity.

● DUNKING – in the sink/fish tank or a bowl of water. Use this method for a quick refresh or for those with leaves that are hard to mist

● SOAKING – The easiest way to know that your air plant has had a good drink! Submerge for 1-3 hours once a week, or after a period of neglect.

In nature air plants will receive nutrients through water that has absorbed nutrients from bird/insect droppings. To replicate this fertilise use soluble orchid fertiliser diluted in your spray bottle every few months. Tillandsias require good AIR CIRCULATION. A fan or gentle breeze will help it dry off after being watered. They do not like to sit in water or be permanently damp. Avoid positions such as lidded terrariums or wet areas. If you are looking for a fuss free, easy going plant to share your home or office with. these little guys are a great choice.

happy gardening!

Better Homes and Gardens Magazine Feature

By |2019-06-24T21:39:56+10:00June 24th, 2019|Plants|

Better Homes and Gardens Magazine beautifully featured Ivy Alley.

“If you’re the sort of person who can’t throw out anything, then be encouraged by this northern Sydney garden with its hundreds of plants in a zany, crazy collection of containers. Ivy Alley takes recycling to an exciting and eclectic extreme. But don’t think hoarder – everything is for sale”

Real World Gardener Podcasts chats to Ivy Alley

By |2019-06-24T21:47:25+10:00May 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Real World Gardener kindly chatted to me on their Plant of the Week Program

“Today I’m about to take you on a fantastic journey with a nursery owner who goes beyond the plastic pot in her nursery. I’m talking with Rachel Gleeson, horticulturist and owner of succulent and bonsai nursery, Ivy Alley. Let’s find out. Hopefully you’re inspired to use some unusual containers to pot up your plants. Definitely take a leaf out of Rachel’s book.”

Listen to podcast here

Better Homes and Gardens walk around tour of Ivy Alley

By |2019-06-24T21:54:49+10:00May 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Better Homes and Gardens Featured Ivy Alley on their program.

“Graham visits a very unique nursery that has sprouted and grown from a woman’s love and passion for plants, the big difference here? It’s in her backyard and access is from a laneway! For the owner, Rachel, it was either stop gardening or start a nursery to house her ever growing collection of plants. And what better way to keep an eye on your plants than to grow them close to home – actually at home. Graham discovers some fantastic upcycling projects, lots of garden inspiration and with the help of Rachel makes a very unique planter… You’re going to love this!”

Watch segment here

A lovely blog post from iGarden Home of the Compulsive Garden

By |2019-06-24T21:31:19+10:00May 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Thank you for the lovely feature on your blog iGarden

Passing through the curtain-festooned entrance, I entered into what seemed like an enchanted world: an oasis-like cloistered garden of an artistic soul who loves to arrange plants in original, creative ways, using vintage items for the display. I felt as if I was in a Victorian-era conservatory, with plants arranged in and amidst an array of quirky garden ornaments, old wares and interesting furniture repurposed to hold plants! Cleverly placed mirrors make the space seem bigger. Old ladders are employed as effective plant stands, as is an antique dressing table and a stacked set of old wooden packing crates. Many of the ideas could be used in compact gardens to make the most of available space.

Check out the story here

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