So inviting are the richly landscaped grounds at the Berdine/Meyer home in Amado, it's no wonder many winged creatures are drawn to it, along with the couple's two-legged and four-legged visitors!
From fruits and veggies to flowers, cactus, succulents and more, Bill Berdine and his wife, Stacie Meyer, are living the gardening life.
In the shade of a fruit tree, with a striking view of the Elephant Head mountain formation to the northeast, Berdine this spring was keeping a close eye on the developing fruits. An addition to his “To Do” list will be thinning the clusters so the best ones can grow and ripen.
He grew up with a garden in northwestern Pennsylvania's Appalachia region, the 11th of 12 children, and for a time “we lived off what we grew,” Berdine points out. After a 35-year career in the college of education at the University of Kentucky, he was ready to escape the cold, gray Kentucky winters. He and Stacie, a special education teacher, moved to Green Valley 10 years ago.
Gardening in this much different Southwestern environment became their focus, and together they set out to learn about the growing seasons in Southern Arizona by joining the Green Valley Gardeners. Bill is now president of that popular local service club, and Stacie helps secure sites for the club's annual spring Garden Tour.
The pair first made their home in Green Valley's Esperanza Estates, and Bill enrolled in the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension's Master Gardeners Program to learn what grows well here and when.
“I flunked HOA living,” he deadpans, explaining that in 2013 the couple purchased eight acres in Amado, once part of the Salcido cattle ranch. The only structure there was the old cowboy bunk house, which the pair incorporated into their new abode. In 2015, they were able to move into their new 2,700-square-foot, three-bedroom home that includes plenty of large windows offering expansive views of the kitchen garden to the south.
“I love it here,” Stacie says, taking a break this spring from harvesting bluebell seeds in that garden. Also growing there are Thompson seedless grapes, black mission and brown turkey figs, a Meyer lemon tree growing above a flourishing mix of Big Bertha flowering cactus, plus more blooming beauties that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
This time of year, Stacie works in the gardens daily, watering and dead-heading plants by hand, which she finds fun and relaxing.
Their outdoor kitchen area — with a spacious grill and plenty of counter space — was something Bill always wanted and allows him to smoke “anything that moves,” his favorite cut being pork shoulder.
From the kitchen garden, a brick pathway with a distinctive metal-hoop covering leads to “Stacie's She Shack,” a craft studio where she creates tile mosaics figures, paints, and enjoys comfortable seating around a fireplace when her girlfriends visit. Two cozy patio areas also provide outdoor seating options.
“It's my happy place,” she points out.
While the 50-plus fruit trees to the north of their house are one of Bill's projects, Stacie handles the pollinator garden they established around her studio. Milkweed, salvia and other flowering plantings can easily attract about 200 butterflies in the summer, as well as hummingbirds, finches, doves and a pair of horned owls.
To the north side of the home is the couple's herb garden where rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil and society garlic grow. Nearby olive trees produced 35 gallons of Kalamata black olives in 2018— a successful first harvest by the pair with help from some of their friends.
Teamwork & patience
Nearby, a lovely Tombstone rose bush full of lush, white blooms in April thrives against a low wall surrounding the couple's master bedroom courtyard, home to large, red San Juan roses, blue germanders and more.
Across their driveway to the north is the main orchard, where Bill planted 50-some fruit trees five years ago. Included are apples and apricots, peaches and pomegrantes, figs and more.
“An orchard, if you're a gardener, will teach you patience,” Bill points out.
Much labor and patience are required to plant and sustain a property this size, so the couple invested in a tractor and Bill learned to use a backhoe.
He gives much credit to his wife. “She’s a better gardener than I am and she has great patience,” he says.
“We complement each other well,” Stacie points out, citing Bill's sense of design and her good eye for color. “Together we've learned the growing seasons are so different here,” she adds.
Tomatoes grow here even into December and irises bloom almost year-round. The pair also continues to discover what plants can and cannot handle the Southern Arizona summer heat, that it's too cold for citrus at their Amado property, and that it's best not to overwater.
Growing olives, figs and pomegranates is something new for them. And Bill's love of fruit trees shines through as he checks out this spring his apricot, Ana apple, golden Dorsett, Asian Pear, Red Baron and EarliGrant peach trees. Just to the west in the vegetable garden, spring plantings include artichokes, tomatoes, eggplant and squash.
Bill works in the garden daily unless high winds prohibit it. “In the summer, we work until it hits 100” degrees,” he points out.
And these venerable gardener wouldn't have it any other way.
Karen Walenga | 520-547-9739