When it comes to what’s most important, Holly Heider Chapple has a clear top three—her husband, Evan; their seven children; and Holly Heider Chapple Flowers, the wedding and event design business founded by the couple in Leesburg, Virginia.
In addition, the energetic floral-industry trailblazer finds time to tend to Hope Flower Farm (the family farm in nearby Waterford), teach and host floral design seminars on the farm and around the country, travel to trade shows, nurture the Chapel Designers (a collective of floral/event designers founded by Holly), and collaborate on new ventures with her business partners.
Even with her nonstop schedule, Holly truly loves what she does. When interviewed about the greatest influences on her career, a handful of alliterative topics resonate throughout her comments: foundation, family, farm, faith, food, flowers, and future. She explores many of these topics in her new book, A Life in Flowers: Lessons and Affirmations from the Garden (BLOOM Imprint, October 2021), which shares her story, beginning with a childhood spent surrounded by plants at her family’s nursery in the 1970s.
Reminiscing about those early years, Holly explains how her family’s influence played an integral role in her foundation of flowers.
Flower: How did growing up in your family’s landscape and nursery business shape your relationship with flowers and nature?
Holly Heider Chapple: Flowers were a constant in my life. Perhaps that’s why I have trouble remembering my first flower/garden memory. When I close my eyes, I see the cultivated fields of flowers, vegetables, and plant stock. The greenery and the flowers were as constant and consistent as my parents. They were family.
After traveling the world, you’ve created something magical at Hope Flower Farm. How has this changed your life, your business, your career, and your partnership with Evan?
Hope Flower Farm is now the home we wanted for HHC Flowers, but we had to earn it. It took many years of hard work for the company to actually own something. Hope Flower Farm signifies independence for the business. No longer just Holly’s side gig, the company supports and provides for several staff members, serves the community, and offers a floral-infused destination for its visitors. For Evan and me, this is the result of our joint effort. We walk the land and know that if we feed the soil, we will bloom and continue to sustain our family and our community.
How has your floral design aesthetic evolved, and/or has it remained constant?
My design style has always been loose, airy, and organic—and always influenced by the garden. Our home was planted with many different types of old-fashioned shrubs and perennials; my father’s garden center was another resource for my work. What changed my story was the advent of social media. For the first time in my life, I had an outlet and a resource to share the designs I was creating, and I was able to showcase my preferred design aesthetic.
What are the signature elements of a “Holly-ish” floral arrangement?
My designs are full and lush, with lots of attention to texture and tone. I love to see undulating designs that show the natural movement in botanical materials. When it comes to color, I am most enthralled with varying shades of a hue—so that the transition in the shades is smooth, warm, and inviting.
Why are flowers important to your clients’ weddings? How do you get them excited about trusting you to bring the right flowers to their event?
My clients understand the importance of flowers at an event; they realize that they bring elegance, sophistication, warmth, and meaning. I am also pretty confident my passion and excitement about flowers are contagious. When I start speaking about the flowers as if they were dear friends that must attend the wedding, everyone begins to feel the excitement.
Founding the Chapel Designers has allowed you to influence design trends and techniques the world over. Why do you think its impact was so great?
There was a void within the wedding and event floral industry. Because I willingly answered questions and put myself out there, Chapel Designers was born. We were leading the industry with our combined publications and voice. When 200 florists learn about a new color, stem, or design mechanic, it significantly impacts the profession. Through collaboration, we all have become better designers.
With as much hands-on experience as you have gained over your almost 30-year career, is there anything you’re eager to take on with upcoming projects?
While the last two years have been complicated, they have had their benefits as well—they catapulted me into the life I want to lead. For many years, I produced weddings and events every single weekend. I planned my life around those events and the educational workshops we offered, which left me no time to grow Hope Flower Farm.
As a way of getting back to the list of core values and goals I had for my company, my schedule has been scaled back. I still design for the weddings and events that I want to work on, but I have the time to pursue online teaching, as well as onsite business opportunities at the farm, including the recent opening of a retail store. We also opened the farm to the public, bringing to fruition our dream of having flower festivals such as the peony and dahlias festival.
As we move into 2022, educational opportunities at the farm will be a massive part of the coming year. We will be working with European masters to lead advanced classes, as well as focusing on our wedding and event network, Chapel Designers.
In addition, Hope Flower Farm is now an official winery under the name of Jack Cat Winery. We hired a winemaker to produce a flower-infused cider (we just pressed our first batch of apples!) and, ultimately, our own wine. We have gotten our ABC license so that we can serve on site.
In 2022, partnerships with some of my favorite companies will continue to be a priority. We have a line of floral supplies with Syndicate Sales. Also, Jose Azout, owner of Alexandra Farms, and I have filmed a certification course, available in early 2022, about garden roses, which will cover their unique qualities, care requirements, handling, and designing. Finally, Details Flowers and I have partnered to offer Holly Heider Chapple-branded proposal templates for wedding and event designers. So there are a lot of creative things happening, along with many unique new offerings coming soon.
What advice do you have for anyone who wishes to create their own life in flowers?
Begin! Gardening and floristry are beautiful practices for everyone. There are so many ways to start to live a life that is full of flowers. Plant the first seed; then insert the first stem and watch it magically evolve into a life of flowers.
By Brenda Silva
Photography republished with permission from A Life in Flowers: Lessons and Affirmations from the Garden (BLOOM Imprint, October 2021)