Wade Phillips is so crazy about growing roses that one yard isn’t enough.
His collection has overflowed to two gardens adjoining his northwest Omaha home. In what he called his last census in October 2019, he had 513 of the colorful perennials.
He’s been downsizing since the loss of his beloved wife, Jean McIntosh, to cancer a few months after that count. Romance bloomed when he helped her with her gardens, and she brought more than 300 roses to their eight-year marriage.
“Each of us liked the English garden-look and enjoyed gardening,” Wade says. “We just kept getting worse and worse or better and better, however you want to look at it.”
Wade says he fell in love with the color and fragrance of roses. He and Jean spurred each other on.
Caring for all of them now is not easy by himself and at age 74, he’d like to trim the number of bushes to a more manageable 150 to 200. This spring alone he spread 20 cubic yards of mulch to keep weeds at bay and roots cool.
He hasn’t purchased a single rose this year. When he does buy one, he prefers the David Austin English rose variety. He doesn’t have a favorite.
“It’s just their style,” he says. “They are classified as a shrub but are generally a fairly large bush with dozens and dozens of huge blooms that are frequently fragrant. They are the old garden rose style, but with repeated flowering throughout the season.”
While many gardeners are daunted by the thought of growing roses, Wade says fertilize them once a month and water them regularly when it’s blistering hot and they’ll flourish. He also sprays weekly to prevent fungus.
Fertilization causes the plants to bloom more.
“Frequent deadheading and good soil, a good Ph level, are all important factors in raising healthy roses,” he says. “If you don’t understand all the things going on in your soil, you probably aren’t going to raise the best roses you can.”
Roses haven’t been a cheap passion, but that’s OK for Wade. He also has a vegetable garden.
“What do you want to do in your life with your money? Do you want to save it all for your heirs or do you want to enjoy it by looking at a nice garden every day?”