Harmony in the Garden Blog

Garden therapy in the midst of trauma – a story and a giveaway


I’ve been home from my trip to New York for ten days now and have been excited to share with you some of the gardens I visited but life seems to have gotten in the way – for now, at least.

On the last day of my trip, I received a phone call from Dan, my ex-husband, letting me know that he was in a terrible biking accident and has been in the hospital’s ICU for the past ten days.

An avid biker, he hit a bump while going fast which pitched him to the ground resulting in 9 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a broken shoulder, a broken nose and a collapsed lung.

And yes, he was wearing a helmet (or I’d be writing an entirely different post today.)



Cover, back, cropDespite our divorce, Dan and I have remained friends over the past 20 years, making it our priority for our daughter’s sake.  As a result, he has become part of our extended family.  Since his family lives far away, and we live so close to Stanford hospital, my husband and I offered to take him home with us while he convalesces.  I’ve spent the past week helping him manage his pain and assisting with every basic task.

But most importantly, I’ve been trying to keep his mental outlook as positive as possible, knowing full well how important it is to keep depression at bay in a long-term situation such as this.

So when I received an email from my good friend Debra Lee Baldwin, offering me the opportunity to review her newly released adult coloring book, Sensational Succulents, I jumped at the chance thinking it might help Dan.


Debra contacted Timber Press, who immediately Fedex’d a copy to us.  In a nutshell, I can’t emphasize enough what a gem this book is.


Urn, photo-drawing-colored page_2


It’s as if this book was written specifically for Dan, who is an artist and professional graphic designer, as well as a passionate succulent collector.  To put it mildly, he was blown away by the beauty and detail of each illustration. Working from Debra’s original photographs, the illustrator, Laura Serra, translated them into highly detailed works of art (check out Laura’s ‘About Me’ page – it’s incredible!)



After careful consideration, Dan chose a page to color, but unfortunately the only pencils I had to offer were those my daughter used many years ago.  And since he broke all the bones on his ‘coloring hand’ side he could only color a tiny bit at a time due to the pain.

But nevertheless, I set him up in my office, opened all the windows, turned on my fountain and left him alone to create.

He quickly dove in and spent a few happy hours doing something he loves to do, letting the worries and pain drift away – even if for a short while.




The reason why the simple act of coloring can be so helpful for people is explained by Debra:

“I assumed that the stress-reducing properties attributed to coloring were overstated until…I met a therapist who told me she recommends coloring to patients recovering from traumatic loss.

‘When your right brain is engaged,’ she said, ‘your left brain is free to process data and solve problems…the creative aspect of coloring is empowering because you’re in charge of the outcome.’


While adult coloring books have been gaining in popularity for a wide variety of reasons, seeing the therapeutic effects it has on someone in so much pain has reinforced my conviction in the healing power of creativity.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this fantastic book, you’re in luck!  Debra Lee Baldwin and Timber Press are hosting a giveaway on my blog.  To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below!


………………………………………………………………The Fine Print…………………………………………….

*********Update – congratulations Sandi Leonard!  You’re the winner of Debra’s coloring book!  As soon as you send me your mailing address, we’ll get the book out to you asap.  Thanks again, everyone!

A random winner will be chosen by midnight June 19th and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by June 23rd, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. Please provide your first and last name to enter this contest so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway.

This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. No purchase necessary to win. This sweepstake is also void where prohibited by law (wherever that is, I’d sure hate to live there!) By entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions.


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  • Rebecca, what an inspiration your story about Dan is. You are one in a million to be there for him. I am so happy nobody hit him, and he was wearing his helmet. As you know I am in remission from 4h stage ovarian cancer. I have some pain issues to take care of and therapy, as the result of 7 surgeries in the last year. I have been at odds as to how to give up the pain. Your article did it. I love succulents, and have quite a few, now I can get a colouring book and colour succulents to my hearts content, enjoying the beautiful plants and getting therapy at the same time. I am going to Lake Almanor until July 23rd, and after exercise and therapy will colour to my heart’s content. Thank you again Rebecca, for being in my life. When I toured your back yard paradise with my Garden Club, I knew you were special. Love and Hugs, Jean .

    • Jean, what a lovely email – thank you for sending it. I’m so happy to hear you’re still in remission and recovering (slowly but surely) from 7 surgeries in one year (wow!!! My record was 5 and I thought THAT was bad) I really hope you enjoy Debra’s book and that the act of coloring her beautiful succulents brings you a bit of relief from the pain. Hang in there and enjoy your trip to the lake! Love and Huge to you, too…

  • Rebecca, Debra’s new coloring book is quite inspirational. Thank you for reviewing it and for sharing the personal story of Dan. I surely hope he heals quickly. So sorry to hear of his biking accident. It’s wonderful how you are helping him to get better and I am sure he appreciates you and your husband.

    I love this beautiful coloring book. Thank you for showing it off and congratulations to Debra and her illustrator for this lovely book. (By the way, Debra, you have inspired me to learn watercolor painting. That one blog post you wrote a few years ago got me going!)

    • You are so welcome, Mary – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sending positive vibes for your ex-husband’s healing. I have been astroke survivor for over 20 years. A little over two years ago, the health care provider that facilitates my stroke support group began offering free monthly art therapy classes for stroke survivors. It also sponsored a Stroke Camp where arts and crafts are part of the activities offered. Adult coloring pages were one of the options offered at camp. I found the coloring to be very relaxing and meditative. These books look beautiful!

    • Thank you for sharing your inspirational story with us, Deborah.

  • I took a certificate course in Horticultural Therapy about 10 years ago and have been practicing therapeutic horticulture in both my professional and personal life! Coloring books weren’t around then, but I can see where they would be a good addition. I am trying to figure out how to do simpler ones with the assisted living residents I work with. My daughter also makes adult coloring pages, so I get to be her guinea pig whenever she completes a new one!

    • What a fantastic idea, Cathi – creating simpler pages for assisted living residents. My grandmother spent several years in various levels of assisted living and when she was healthier I know she would’ve loved this creative outlet.

  • Rebecca, I send you & your hubby hugs & kudos!! What an overwhelmingly amazing show of compassion for you & your hubby to take your ex in, & care for him during recovery!! Reading comments from others, I am reminded to count my blessings & to have an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes, more often than not, I take my good health for granted. There but for the Grace of God go I. I send prayers to those people who commented & shared their stories of ill-health or misfortune. If my name were drawn to win this coloring book, I would ask you to please give it to one of your other less fortunate commentors! I will buy Debra’s book… & as I color, I will send prayers to those who are less fortunate than me. Bless you.

    • Thank you, Carol. My ex-husband has enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and also remarked that he felt lucky compared to so many others’ stories, and was counting his blessings. Life turns on a dime, doesn’t it? I make it a point to try my best to remember how lucky we are and to embrace each day with joy and love. Not always easy, but it’s a goal at least. XO

  • I love it! How good and decent of you and your husband. So true about the flow. I engage in it by appreciating, arranging and caring for my succulents. This is a great escape for with life’s hurdles and mundane(ness). I just now decided to start a website on succulents and cancer. Wish me luck.

    • That’s fantastic, Mary – I wish you the very best of luck with your health and your new website! 🙂

  • Such a wonderful story. Would love a chance to win a book to discover or help somone else discover this type of therapeutic activity.

  • Yes coloring is very therapeutic. I love succulents and coloring so would love this book.

  • Wish I had known about this therapy when I was house bound recovering from my accident. I sat in the wheelchair in the living room looking at my awful lawn That was when I decided to rip it out and the process started——met you, Rebecca and look at the gorgeous garden that I look at every day and love now. I believe that out of every bad thing, comes something new and good. You are an amazing ex-wife and Tom is even more amazing!!

    • Boy, now that I know you like I do, Pam, you would’ve loved this coloring book! But you were coloring in your own way – in your mind. And then by sharing your ideas with me to help translate into a reality. Sending you lots of love!

  • Oh my goodness. I am so glad the outcome of the accident was not worse. And what a lucky guy to still have you. I hope he continues to recuperate well and with Debra’s book he has something to keep his mind off the pain.

  • Beautiful story of forgiveness, compassion, and openess. We all need these things, both to give and to receive. Thanks for sharing. Praying for recovery.

    • Thank you, Nancy – we appreciate it.

  • So many of my friends have been coloring such beautiful pictures lately that I see posted on their Facebook pages and it’s made me want to join in on the fun. So I’d be thrilled to be the winner of this giveaway.

  • Hi Rebecca — I couldn’t be more pleased that my book is able to play a small part in Dan’s recovery. Your readers also might like to know that all the book’s original photos (the ones Laura Serra used to create the line drawings) are on my website (click on “Photos/Coloring Book”). Please keep us posted on how Dan’s doing, and send him my very best regards. And get him something better than Em’s old colored pencils!

  • Rebecca hope your ex husband heals quickly. Even though some of us have an ex spouse I believe that forgiveness is what gives us a strong heart and passion for life. My Mother-in-law gave everyone a coloring books for Christmas, of course mine was all flowers and gardens. I did find it relaxing in the wintertime while I was dreaming of my gardens future. Our garden is very large and our kids laugh that we call the sections of our garden in phases (phase#1 ect.)My husband asked how many more phases will we have? I said well we have 7 acres left! 😀

    • I can’t even imagine having over 7 acres in which to garden – makes my back hurt just thinking about it! I bet your ‘phases’ are gorgeous, though. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Love the combination of design elements and therapy.

  • I truly hope your ex-husband recovers quickly. He definitely seems to be in good hands.

    I, unfortunately, am about to begin my own recovery. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I also have been coloring as a healing hobby. I do find peace in doing so.


    • Oh Sandi, I’m so sorry. I know all too well the feelings you must be experiencing right now and I want to let you know that I’m here if you’d ever like to talk or ask questions. I’ll be praying for you as well as for a fast recovery.

  • You are an inspiration to all of us, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all get along so peacefully! I have just potted up my many succulent starts in my new pumice that you recommended, and now have a new project with the succulent coloring book, who knew of the healing properties of coloring. Thanks for the inspirational message, and to Dan and his mending in your beautiful garden.

    • Thank you, Susan, Dan is getting stronger every day. 🙂

  • Much like you, and how it helped Dan, having Lupus and Fibro I’m so surprised all the positives coloring has brought. I was the one that made fun of the silly commercials when they first came out. If it’s a bad day I can color at my own pace and still feel as if I accomplished something that day. I would suggest it to anyone. Thank you.

    • I’m so happy to hear that coloring has helped you with your own physical ailments (though sorry to hear you have them in the first place) I had to laugh at your comment abut the commercials, as I laughed to. After seeing the effects on Dan, though, I’m not laughing any longer. I, too, would suggest coloring to anyone.

  • You are the most dear, charming, and kind person ever! And such a poignant writer! How wonderful that this is helping Dan. I’ve met gardeners who have been traumatized in some way (one recently with a brain tumor) and simple creating helped heal them faster. In his case, intricate mosaics. I’m so glad that I got to meet you!

    • Hi Linda, I’m glad I met you, too – I only wished we lived a little closer! I hope your friend with a brain tumor is doing well – what a scary thing to go through.

  • What your post reveals most is that, in the end, all we have is each other. No matter our history, we need each other. Good on you for making that manifest. A colleague of mine was recently hit by a semi while out cycling (another testament to the saving grace of a bike helmet). He is especially restless at this point. Perhaps I should give him a coloring book; coloring certainly helped a few of my other colleagues get through a stressful semester.

    • Oh yikes, hit by a semi? That’s a miracle that he survived! You summed it up beautifully when you say that in the end all we have is each other. So true.

  • I hope your family’s love will help Dan quickly on the way to good health. I have always thought the coloring book craze is all about therapeutic calming. When you concentrate on one thing, the rest of the world falls away. Dan’s colors are lovely in the photo you included!

    • Thank you, Jo – Dan is back home in Santa Cruz and trying to pick up the pieces of his life again, getting stronger each day.

  • You are the Angel your ex needed! I commend you.
    All my pots on my deck are filled with succulents so I am a fan
    and would love to try coloring some.
    Thanks for all your fun – interesting – newsy emails. You spoke at my Garden Club in La Jolla a few years back and I’ve been looking forward to all of your mail ever since.
    Cheers to you ?

    • Thank you Bev, it’s so nice to hear from you (I have the fondest memories of speaking at La Jolla – one of my favorite garden clubs ever!)

  • I just purchased two coloring books and a set of colored pencils for my Mom! She has been struggling with depression since my Dad passed away, and I thought she might enjoy coloring. She is a terrific artist and has not done any painting for years, so hoping this will lift her spirits and start her artistic juices flowing again. This book would be perfect for her!

    • What a sweet gift for your mom, Diane – I certainly hope they help her cope with her loss.

  • Would love to have this book. Battleing multiple myeloma and often color.

    • Oh Carolyn, I’m so sorry to hear about your myeloma. 🙁

  • You are a good person to help out a friend in need Rebecca! I send good thoughts for a speedy and complete recovery for Dan.

    I think I could get into this coloring book! Good luck with everything Rebecca!

  • Rebecca,

    Wow, how quickly things can change…Dan is lucky to have you in his life. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story and interesting book!

    I am going to share it with a young friend, who has Chronic Lymes Disease. She started a small business called ‘Boundless Art’- an organization for children with chronic illnesses. Beautiful bags of really nice art supplies are prepped & distributed to both kids and adults in specific hospital departments. The response has been amazing. I think my friend will be thrilled with that book. It seems that each of us, ultimately, want to feel free from physical and emotional pain. Art Therapy is such a powerful tool for healing on many different levels. It involves letting go, openness, exploration and the ever-surprising experience of joy from creativity, even in small moments.

    Ahhh…The Curious Promise of Limited Time…

    Sending strength & healing vibes your way. Thank you again for shining your bright light on others!


    • Juliet, what a beautiful comment – thank you. And bless your friend who is doing so much to help those children.

  • What a wonderful story. I had heard about this coloring book from Debra’s blog but hadn’t really thought about the truly therapeutic aspect of coloring. My grown up daughter was given a coloring book for Christmas and she recently started a collection of succulents for her new apartment so this would be a perfect gift for her if I win! Thanks for the share and speedy recovery to Dan.

  • I am so fond of Debra’s succulent plantings. How wonderful that they were recreated in a coloring book for all os us to enjoy. I love that container garden your ex-husband chose to work on. Hoping he continues to enjoy coloring as he works on his recovery. The increasing populairty of adult coloring books is creating an exciting opportunity for adults to engage in yet another fun activity we had been led to believe we had “outgrown”.
    How very fortunate your daughter is to have gown up with parents who have been able to put differences aside to focus on her needs, not to mention a husband who has graciously welcomed the ex- to recuperate in their home.
    Best wishes to all during this challenging time!

    • Thank you, Sue, I appreciate your kind words. And yes, one more thing we thought we’ve outgrown is added back to our list – hooray! 🙂

  • I love the coloring book, but even more I love hearing how open you and your husband have been to helping nurture your ex back to health. What wonderful hearts you have!

  • Great idea! I work in a hospital and would love to share this with my patients.
    I’m going for a bike ride today at the beach with my husband on our tandem for a 63rd Birthday ride!
    Then off to the succulent show in Encino!! What a day???‼️

    • Happy birthday to your husband – I hope you had a beautiful day at the beach AND the succulent show!

  • Coloring really is therapeutic! What a wonderful way to help a loved one!

  • Thank you for sharing this story of love in action, and for including me in your fun giveaway!

  • What a beautiful story…I wish more families could learn to work together so well.

    I’d love to win the succulent coloring book!

  • Rebecca, it sounds just like you to help with your whole heart. And you know all too well the work he has to do. The book looks beautiful.
    Dot Ingels

    • Thank you, Dot. Nice to hear from you!

  • Wow, what great therapy and so happy he was wearing a helmet.

  • You and your family are true Nightingale’s as one person commented. Thank you for sharing as always. DianeZ.

  • I’m a succulent fanatic and have a collection of markers. I’m ready to color.

  • You do your daughter proud to care for her dad! My friend’s elderly mother. Broke her hip and she too is an artist and an adult coloring book helped her survive weeks of immobility–plus she gifted her finished pages to the sides who helped her as thank you notes. But a succulent book to color would be doubly therapeutic for us gardeners!

    • What a great idea, Joan, to gift the final pages to those who helped her. I just love this story, thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Yes, I would love to win the coloring book. Sounds like it really made a difference in your ex-husband’s progress.

  • This looks like fun. Also a wonderful way to coax the arthritic hands into some fun stretching.

    • When Dan sat down to color, he was amazed at how hard it was (as well as painful) – there are so many tiny little muscles in the hand and arm that we’re unaware of when we’re healthy. I totally agree with you, Kay, and think coloring would definitely help stretch arthritic hands in a gentle and fun way.

  • Rebecca, you & your husband are Florence Nightingale-sweet hearts! I am so sorry to read about your ex-husband’s terrible accident. I am lifting up healing prayers for a speedy recovery. This is a journey for all of you as he recouperates.
    I knew coloring in coloring books wears good for creative purposes but had not read before your article how it occupies the right side of the brain so the left side could work on problem solving. Fascinating!
    Debra is a talented, creative spirit. He gifts will nurture many souls. Blessings & prayers to all.

    • Thank you, Deborah – your prayers are working as Dan is healing so much faster than I thought he would! Debra is indeed, talented – couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Such a great idea to help him recover. I have just the friend to give this coloring book to, to help in her recovery.
    You and your husband are so caring of your X husband , and that makes my heart swell with joy and respect.
    I love your blog. Keep up the blessings you give us with each new blog.


    • Thank you so much, Karen, what a heartwarming comment. xo

  • What a great story! Thank you for sharing. Thank goodness he was wearing a helmet!

  • I never thought about the healing powers of coloring. What a great gift adult coloring books would make, let alone for a person’ sown pasttime.

  • So sorry to hear of the upset in your family. My granddaughters enjoy adult coloring books and I would love one for myself…especially if it’s flowers!! Thanks so much.

  • Wow this looks like so much fun and very relaxing! Thanks for the chance to win.

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