Rose bush climbs to top of Fairview Heights home

Robert Teahan, holding his Jack Russell terrier Tippy, has a rose bush that has grown taller than the top of his garage in Fairview Heights.
Robert Teahan, holding his Jack Russell terrier Tippy, has a rose bush that has grown taller than the top of his garage in Fairview Heights. News-Democrat

Robert Teahan’s rosebush reaches for the sky.

Growing on the side of his Fairview Heights attached garage, the bush is heavy with hundreds of red flowers during the month of May. It has climbed to the rooftop and eased its way into an air vent by the eaves.

Robert, 79, doesn’t do much to tend the prolific plant.

“I trim it, tie one of the branches up that’s falling down,” said the tall, kindly retired Missouri Pacific Railroad clerk. “It took care of itself. It just grew.

“It’s been here since we moved in in 1971. It was small then.”

He estimates the plant may be close to 18 feet tall and just about as wide. (According to the Guinness World Records website, the tallest rose bush is 18 feet, 7 inches, and was grown by Robert Bendel at his home in Morristown, N.J., and measured on Oct. 12, 2009.)

“It always blooms for Mother’s Day,” Robert said. “That’s when we take pictures out there.”

He has plenty of family to pose — five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Wife Kay, who now lives at Cedar Ridge in Lebanon, is usually the beneficiary of rose bouquets.

“I take her something every other day,” he said. “Soda, or if I make some ham and beans, I take that. When I am carrying flowers, I always get comments.”

Robert is more fisherman than gardener. His 16-foot fishing boat is parked on the driveway near the rose bush. He and fishing buddy Jim Threlkeld go after bluegill and crappie south of Belleville. They still talk about a giant catfish that just wouldn’t give up. Jim pulled it in, they took photos, then tossed it back into the water.

Talk to Robert any length of time and he may mention that he was chairman of Fairview Heights Zoning Board of Appeals for 40 years, a volunteer job. He also was a union rep for the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks. His oral history is on record at SIUE’s Lovejoy Library in a collection about labor management in the St. Louis area.

When he’s not fishing, plants hold his interest.

“We had a gardenia plant 20 to 25 years ago. I nurtured it and it grew really big and had beautiful white gardenias blooming twice a year. I always took them to my wife. She liked me to put them in a bowl and float them around.”

That plant died a couple years ago when Robert was away. He knows this year’s roses are about spent.

“Their season doesn’t last very long,” said Robert. “The ground is full of rose petals now.”

That’s OK.

Robert has houseplants on the deck, and soon it will be blackberry season.

“I grow blackberries in my backyard all along the fence,” he said. “I’ve grown them for years and years. They’re just putting on the blooms right now.

“In July, I’ll pick blackberries and make cobblers. I also make blackberry jelly and jam. My grandkids love the berries, and the jelly.”

Contact Maureen Houston at or 618-239-2664.