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My Turn: 'Julia's jewels' sustain a new generation of Hauppauge family

Regina Phelps' garden at her home in Hauppauge.

Regina Phelps' garden at her home in Hauppauge. Credit: Regina Phelps

"Once upon a time,” when we were all a young family, Julia’s four grown children — including my husband, Bill, and their spouses — would visit her on each spring or summer holiday. Easter, Mother’s Day and many others would find us at her home.

The grandchildren would be so excited, carrying their cellophane-wrapped plants (with the big bow from a long-gone local nursery) to give to Grandma. The plant or shrub that they picked out — sometimes bigger than they were — would almost always be a bright, colorful azalea or rhododendron, or occasionally soft-white lilies that were Grandma’s favorites.

While we were all there watching, the children would line up like little tin soldiers bearing gifts, sometimes cutting in front of one another to give theirs first. Later, they would watch while their parents planted their offerings wherever Julia wanted them planted.

Over the years, the plants became positioned neatly on either side of the curving driveway; they appeared almost as a necklace, like Julia’s necklace. The plants were small at first, but Julia enjoyed watching them grow and always knew which child had given which plant. These plants became “Julia’s jewels,” and as the years went by they grew larger and more beautiful.

Originally Julia had 5 acres, her house sitting on one. Julia gave each of her four children an acre, including us, and split the last acre. But we already had a small house in Deer Park and didn’t need an acre at that time.

But 31 years ago, when Julia died, my husband and I moved into her home on that acre. Now it’s become Bill and Gina’s garden — our jewels. We live in the middle of this wonderful garden, surrounded by a circular driveway 400 feet off the main road.

We have cherished every minute of living here in this old house with old and new flowers. We never replaced Julia’s jewels, but enhanced them by planting hibiscus, lilacs, foxglove, wildflowers, andromedas and more. The gardens have grown and grown with glorious colors: pinks and greens, oranges and lavender, and shiny glossy whites, like soft-white pearls, mixing with the other jewels.

My husband and I are seniors now, like Julia was, and love the gardens. Though only about an acre, our property bursts with large, magnificent blooms and blossoms. We’ve added more plants each spring and summer — some of them from our own grandchildren. With the colorful bursting of flowers, we can almost see Julia smiling as she holds a small cellophane-wrapped lily.

Regina Phelps,


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