Christina Matthews has always had an eye for beauty. Before she became one of Over-the-Rhine’s go-to florists/farmers and owner of The Flower Lady, Matthews worked in the beauty industry as the admissions leader of Paul Mitchell’s The School Cincinnati. Her background in the aesthetics industry compelled her to become a first-generation farmer and champion of sustainability.
“I became involved with OTR People’s Garden as a result of the culture established in Paul Mitchell schools—a culture that encourages employees to do more for their community by giving back,” Matthews says. “I also led the school’s Green Team, which focuses on civic responsibility, and finding innovative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.”
Inspired by a commitment to environmentalism, Matthews was able to secure funding from the CEO of Paul Mitchell Systems, John Paul DeJoria, for the People’s Garden. DeJoria is also the founder of Grow Appalachia, an organization that partners with communities in central Appalachia to develop food security. Grow Appalachia has supported the garden ever since, and Matthews currently serves as volunteer garden coordinator.
Flowers, though, are a particular passion of hers. Her nature-loving parents and grandparents showed her the magic of farming and flowers from a young age. Through her work at the People’s Garden, which is located on McMicken Avenue, the same street her grandparents lived on when she was a child, Matthews eventually decided she wanted to pursue a career as a farmer-florist.
“Flowers spark joy for me,” she says. “It’s that simple. They make me happy, and I am addicted to the feelings they provoke in others.”
In 2015, Matthews and her husband downsized from a two-story home in Oakley to a 600-square-foot condo in OTR. She quit her job at Paul Mitchell’s cosmetology school—“a secure job I loved,” she says—and began figuring out how to earn a living as a first-generation farmer.
Doing so required her to take horticulture classes at The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, and participate in online workshops hosted by Erin Benzakyin, the owner of Floret. Although Matthews has always had an eye for flower arranging, she quickly realized there were technical aspects of floristry that she needed to learn, such as decorating arches, making flower crowns, and constructing backdrops and installations.
In 2016, she launched The Flower Lady, which provides unique floral arrangements for weddings, shops, restaurants, and photographers. She also makes flower crowns and wreathes, offers private workshops and garden coaching, and sells flowers in bulk.
Matthews remains devoted to the environment—she uses zero pesticides in her gardens, instead opting for organza bags to keep pests away. She wards off groundhogs with garlic pepper spray and sprinkles of human hair collected from local salons. She also wraps bouquets with recycled newspaper and most of her vases are thrifted or recycled.
“With regard to conservation,” she says, “I first utilize the rainwater we collect in both garden locations before I turn on the hose. I compost regularly. My goal is always to leave the earth a little better than we find it by reducing, reusing, and recycling.”
To book a class or consultation, reach out to Matthews via her website—and keep an eye out for her upcoming October classes, held at Taft’s Ale House on Race Street and Taft’s Brewpourium on Spring Grove Avenue. She’s also available for private workshops and garden consultation sessions, and is open for 2020-2021 weddings.