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By |2021-09-27T14:35:38+10:00September 18th, 2021|Uncategorized|

Grandmas’ treasures  REPURPOSED

By Rachel Gleeson for The Village Observer September 2021

Grandmas’s treasures repurposed! Do you have a stash of bequeathed treasures that you really don’t have a purpose for, however would never dream of parting with? Ok, let’s go pull it out of the boxes all and find a glorious stage for them in your garden!

Silver Platters -Hanging bird planters. This is a great way to show off antique silverware. Drill through the middle of the tray using a “metal”drill bit . Secure a hook bolt through the hole and secure onto a chain.

Pewter mugs -plant hanger. These trophy mugs look great grouped together. Display and grow your favourite cutting or plants. Add drainage by drilling through base with a ‘metal’ drill bit.
Use wire to secure the cups to the hanger (instead of hooks) as the wire allows you to manipulate and adjust the mugs position.
Silver tea and coffee pots. Along with their accessories such as sugar bowls/milk creamers are a beautiful way to display flowers, or can be used as planters Simply drill a hole in the bottom (using a ‘metal’ drill bit) and remove lid (or wire it open).

Tea cups/saucers make dainty plant vessels and wonderful gifts! Place cup upright on a soft surface (eg teatowel) and use a “ceramic” drill bit to drill a hole in the base. Spray area to be drilled with water to prevent overheating. Use moderate, consistant pressure when drilling (be patient!)

Cake Stand Hang and use as a small bird feeder, or display with plants (pictured mini living moss balls). They look great in groups hanging. Musical instruments Trailing plants (such as rhipsalis pictured) look fantastic in this vessel! The brass will age/weather and form a beautiful blue patina over time.

Soup Terrine lid – Hanging basket. Drill four holes (using a ‘metal’drill bit on your drill) Also drill two holes in the base,either side of the handle for drainage. Purchase a hanging basket chain set from the hardware store/nursery and clip through holes.

If you don’t have a stash of these lovely bygone things, they are readily available from second hand stores, auction houses or online. Just ask at your local hardware store for the appropriate drill bits, wire or hooks needed to complete these tasks.


By |2021-10-01T16:31:05+10:00September 18th, 2021|Indoor plants|

Make your own
A great way to recycle your old food jars

By Rachel Gleeson for The Village Observer August 2021

If you are stuck at home at the moment and feel like doing some “indoor gardening” this little project may interest you!

Materials you will need:

• recycled food or storage jars

• planter pots (old or new) with drainage holes.

• jute string

• pebbles/gravel (optional)

• duckweed- this floats in the water and is available from Ivy Alley, aquarium stores or online.

• Plants

Putting it together…

Check your pantry (or your neighbours) to find some used jars of various shapes and sizes. Pair each vessel with a suitable size pot that will fit snuggly in the top. Wind the string around the top of each jar approx. half a dozen times to decorate, then tie off. Place 2-3 cm of gravel/stones in the base of each jar and then half fill with water. Next, add a small amount of duckweed to each vessel. Cut around a dozen pieces of string to the approximate length of each jar and knot together at one end. Thread the string through the inside of the garden pot until it protrudes out the base and the knot is anchored on the inside. Place the pot in its matching jar and trim string so it sits just above the gravel in the water. The water will be absorbed into the pots soil by the string! Now simply plant out with your favourite indoor plants.

Make Your Own (DIY!!) Self Watering Pots

By |2021-10-01T16:38:04+10:00September 18th, 2021|Self Watering Pots DIY|

Make Your Own (DIY!!)

By Rachel Gleeson for The Village Observer July 2021

Are you unsure of how often to water your houseplants? Finding it difficult to stick to a regular watering programme? These are common problems that often lead to our houseplants looking sad and unhealthy. When a pot plants soil dries out between watering, it shrinks a little and causes a gap to form between the potting mix and the side of the pot. when re-watering the water often runs down the side of the pot before it has had a chance to hydrate the soil and your plant remains thirsty!

The easiest way to overcome this problem is by giving your plant access to a permanent reservoir of water. You can do this by using a self-watering pot. You may have noticed that the range of self-watering pots available on the market is very limited and rather anaesthetically pleasing.! Solution… Make your own!


Hardware Store:

• Builders BOG (if your pot currently has a hole in base)

• Copper pipe offcut

• 2 masonry drill bits.. one small & one same width of the pipe

• Silicone sealant (clear ‘gutter and roof’)

• Pond sealer


• Drill

• Hack saw (for cutting pipe)

• Paint brush

• Hammer


– Choose a concrete, terracotta or ceramic pot. If it has a hole in the bottom mix builders bog and apply generously to plug it up.

Drill a hole through side of pot approximately 1/5 of the way up (first drill hole with the smaller drill bit and once done use the larger to make it wider).

– Cut a piece of copper (about 5 or 6 times the thickness of the pot) and gently tap it through the hole with the hammer so it protrudes out both sides.

– Apply silicone sealant around pipe. Let dry.

– Paint the inside of the pot with pond sealer to just above pipe. Flip and also paint base (that sits on the ground normally). Repeat when dry.

– Fill the pot to painted level with polystyrene pieces or gravel.


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

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