This week I was weeding around a bonsai Pinus densiflora (Japanese Red Pine) that I have grown in a pot for four decades.

I once had a Cedrus atlantica (Atlas Cedar) as well, but it didn't make it past 35 after I used chemical fertiliser instead of a good compost when I gave them their annual repot. I half knew at the time it was risky — but one survived.

Using my Japanese pocket knife to root out a tenacious weed that looks a bit like clover (but isn't), I disturbed a cricket. In the other side of the 200-millimetre diameter landscape, I discovered a self-sown wiiwii rush, which was multiplying. I gave it a root prune and left it growing by the pine.

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I also manage the maintenance of another four acres of garden.

In a previous life I had been a landscape gardener — which is mainly about weeds — and I know a number of weed control strategies.

Running through our piece of land is a creek, although under the Horizons definition (wider than a stride and deeper than a Red Band) it doesn't qualify. When there is a big flood in the river, the creek backs up and all manner of vile weeds float in.

There were once some very old willows but the creek is now willow free and I have set myself the challenge of getting rid of the tradescantia, too.

I learned gardening from my mother who used to refer to tradescantia as Wandering Dew, in her broad Dutch accent and that is what I thought it was for decades until one day I was told: "Not Dew, Jew!"

These days you hear it referred to as Wandering Weed and even Wandering Willy, which I find mildly pornographic.

Invasive tradescantia (originally from Brazil) has established itself in just about every waterway in the country, as well as just about every domestic garden. It was well established here, but now that we are living on site I've pretty much removed it from the orchards at both ends of the creek, and now we're working on the middle section.

When we lived in town we once had hippie gardeners move in next door. They had just read Bill Mollison's Permaculture Handbook and had become converts.


My suggestion that The Yates Garden Guide might be a more useful manual for learning to garden was met with a look of pity. Pretty soon there was oxalis where it hadn't been before, old carpets were laid down to control the Wandering Dew, and we had green wall of it advancing towards us.

The first rule of weed control is that you can't totally get rid of a weed and there is always the possibility of a re-invasion, so I work from the margins.

The other rule of thumb is that you can't get rid of it all but you can get rid of half of it (with chemicals), and if you do that again and again you won't have much left after a while.

Over the years we have allowed kaanuka seedlings to regrow a forest in the creek. The other bad weed that floats in is equisetum (Horsetail Rush), and both sides of the river are lined with it after it first arrived by growing through the road culvert.

I can't say I've got rid of the equisetum — it lurks deep underground — but I've got it to the point where it doesn't like to stick its head up and I'm following it through the culvert and down to the river, taking out willows as I go.

As I approach 70, I sometimes wonder why I'm still maintaining four acres of garden. Is it the environmentalist in me removing exotics weeds in favour of the original native species?

I'm not that much of an ideologue — the puriris we've planted in the creek are past the southern limit of their natural habitat and I've planted exotics like utilitarian fruit and forestry trees, too.

Why not take the bonsai and move into "a unit in Springvale"? The answer is I'm still gardening because l can, and I enjoy working on this ongoing landscape design — and I don't like "Wandering Dew".

*When Fred Frederikse is not building, he is a self-directed student of geography and traveller, and in his spare time he is the co-chair of the Whanganui Musicians Club.