Finding Her Happy

“When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

faces_phillips2Melissa’s passion for teaching exceptional children spanned 15 years as a special educator and 10 years in higher education. “Things couldn’t have been better,” she explained. “I was enjoying life in Carmel Valley with family while working from home as an assistant professor.” She then recounted how everything changed after she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) breast cancer. After returning from medical leave, Melissa lost her job with the university, but quickly recognized that her cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call to find her missing “happy.”

After realizing her “happy” was collecting treasures with her son on their many adventures, Melissa decided to launch Storybook Garden. Now she helps people discover their story and find their happy by creating gardens using personal treasures and non-toxic, kid-friendly plants and succulents. Melissa uses Jeff Moore’s book Soft Succulents to make sure all her plants are non-toxic to children and animals.


Melissa also creates gardens to sell at farmers markets and craft shows throughout San Diego. “The best part about participating in this type of venue is watching kids investigate each garden, ask questions, and light up with wonder,” she shared. “Their excitement is contagious and motivating.” She also hosts birthday parties, helps families build individual outdoor gardens, and volunteers at community events. “Seeing children take ownership in their own living creation gives me a sense of humble pride,” she explained. “Each Storybook Garden uses nontraditional material to tell its own story while raising awareness of the importance of creative recycling and water-wise gardening.”


Name: Melissa Phillips
Community: Carmel Valley
Profession: Storybook Garden;;;
Hobbies & Interests: Almost anything DIY, teaching children to be independent problem solvers by thinking outside the box
Favorite Local Spots: Dog Beach, Powerhouse Park, Solana Beach Succulents

faces_phillips3This March is the first time Melissa and Storybook Garden will be participating in the Spring Home and Garden Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “Without spoiling any surprises, my garden will tell the story of a family-centered community, just like in Carmel Valley,” she smiled. “And it’s going to be amazing.”

In her spare time, Melissa loves going to Powerhouse Park or Dog Beach with her son Nathan, husband, and two dogs, Prudence and Henry. She also enjoys restoring old furniture and making jewelry.

Her life advice? “You will never have enough money or time, so don’t wait. Discover your story. Find your happy.”