Tell us a bit about your Grace Alexander Flowers and how it all started
I lead a double life. I am a child protection psychologist during the working week and a seed merchant and flower farmer at weekends. It all started many years ago when I was having a really tough time at work, and I realised I needed something very physical and tangible in my life. I needed grounding. I am lucky enough to live in a perfect thatched cottage in Somerset and it had a little patch of ground, barely a quarter of an acre, behind it. I planted fruit trees and roses, and sowed some seeds, and it grew in more ways than one. I absolutely adore it, and I have met the most wonderful people through my business. I’ve also just started a new project, The School for Quiet Revolutionaries, online courses for people who want to stop doing what everyone else thinks they should be doing, and start doing what they want to do. Dogs are such an inspiration for this. They are simply always in the moment.
Tell us about your dogs and how they came into your life.
I moved from London the moment I finished my clinical training because I wanted dogs. That was about ten years ago now. My current pack is two utterly gorgeous Irish Setters, Morag and Maud (they are aunt and niece) and a little cocker spaniel, Hugo. I always wanted Irish Setters and I met someone out on a walk who had six of them swirling around him. Turns out he is one of the top Setter breeders in the country and I am very blessed to be allowed to have two of his incredible dogs. I used to go on at him about how much I wanted a cocker spaniel which he disapproved of terribly. However, the day after I got married, he drove round to our house, opened the boot, and there was Hugo. It was love at first sight. Like all cockers, he thinks he is the boss of the world but the girls don’t take him seriously at all.
How do the dogs fit into your general working day?
I am always working in some way or another but I am more often on the road or working at home than I am in an office. Hugo wants to be with me wherever I go so if I am working in the field or writing in my little studio in the kitchen garden, he’s always there. He’s made it into zoom calls and quite a few Instagram lives. The girls are sleepers. They only wake for meals and walks, and then they are straight back on the sofa, snoring. Maud with her tongue sticking out. None of these dogs are keen travellers so I don’t take them with me on trips as much as I did the dogs I had before, but I am always hoping they will grow out of their dislike of cars.
When you’re not working where do you like to head out to with the dogs?
We have lots of footpaths and fields around the village. When we first moved here, we named the walks after the animals we saw on them as a shorthand to decide where were going. We have the horse walk, the pig walk, the pheasant walk. Just going over the stream and doing a short walk along the valley is called ‘going to see the cows’, even when the cows have gone.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk, and what do you carry them in?
A whistle and treats. I am not sure if it is training or bribery (I am often not entirely sure who is calling the shots between us and the dogs) but taking a lot of treats on a walk is the only way to have any semblance of control over Irish Setters. Hugo is easier because spaniels love food so much. I have a tendency to tuck treats in my back packet which means that most evenings I will feel Maud trying to nibble the back of my jeans. Hugo has been known to fish trousers out of the washing basket and extract biscuits out of pockets. (he’s also obsessed by carrying socks around and can find them even buried at the bottom of the laundry.)
What adventures do you have planned with the dogs for later this year?
Fingers and toes crossed, I think we are going to make it for a Cornwall camping trip. We do this every year, trying to dodge the school holidays and picking a quiet spot on the Lizard peninsula. Fingers crossed for the weather too; camping with three wet big dogs is no fun at all, even in a bell tent.