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Home Blog The Farmer & the {Florist} Interview: Holly Heider Chapple
December 15th 2014

The Farmer & the {Florist} Interview: Holly Heider Chapple

Written by
Floret

1_HCF_JodiMillerPhotographyFor this week’s installment of The Farmer and the {Florist} I am delighted to welcome and introduce Holly Heider Chapple. Based in Loudoun County, Virginia, Holly is renowned for her large, elegant floral installations. Her work has adorned elaborately restored barns, ultra-luxe ballrooms and some of the most storied buildings in our nation’s capital. Holly’s design studio and workshop is located adjacent to “The Gardens”—her extensive cutting garden which supplies seasonal flowers to many of her designs. With more than 20 years of experience Holly and her team of designers provide exquisite florals for upwards of 170 weddings per year.

In 2011, Holly founded The Chapel Designers group, an international collective of wedding and event floral designers. The organization provides professional development, training and support to floral designers in the U.S. and abroad. Through this collective, Holly offers hands-on workshops where participants learn her distinctive design techniques and explore—or even set—new industry trends.

Erin: Holly, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today. With 170+ weddings a year, your calendar has to be a bit crazy. Wow! How many of those weddings require travel outside of the metro D.C.-area?

Holly: First and foremost thank you for this interview Erin! The majority of our weddings are in the DC/MD/VA market. We design several destination weddings each year and we hope to be doing more. I am excited about these opportunities as a result of my years of experience and my strong industry relationships, specifically with suppliers and designers. As our brand grows the opportunities for designing destination weddings continues to increase.

3_HCF_JodiMillerPhotography

Erin: Wedding trends here on the West Coast are often a little different than those on the East Coast. What are some of the themes you’re seeing there?

Holly: Because I design in VA/MD and also Washington DC, often all in the same weekend, we are really working several different vibes. The weddings in DC are typically indoors in ballroom spaces. When I design in VA or MD, our venues range from private estate, to barns, vineyards and old manor homes that have been transformed into wedding venues.We are noticing an overall more formal feel to our events. We have been on a very rustic vibe or trend for years now. Lots of barn weddings with the stereotypical rustic containers and décor. Now we are seeing lots of requests for ballrooms or glamorized barns. Transforming a rustic space into a more formal and elegant environment is actually very pleasing. I love the juxtaposition of mixing old and new, rustic, and formal. Thankfully the soft airy loose romantic vibe that has been going strong for years is still alive and well but the mediums within and around the design are changing. We are seeing more formal linens and china or with more polished or formal containers. Our cut glass crystal bowls, candlestick holders, and votives have been in high demand. Thankfully the feel of the flowers has for the most part remained the same; most brides still want a loose and airy design rich with garden roses, vine, blooming branches and unique elements inspired by my gardens.

Holly Chapple bridal desiMuch to our surprise we are also seeing a return to a clean round shape with some more traditional types of flowers like orchids or callas. We are also happy to see that the buying local flowers movement or working with a farmer-florist movement has finally caught on. Although we did some of our biggest luxury/ballroom events of our career in the last 18 months we have also had a huge increase in requests for our “from the garden package.” This is super exciting for us because I get to be a luxury event designer and the farmer-florist. I have to admit though, the weddings we design totally from our garden have something extra special about them. Those designs are truly unique one of kind miracles.

13_HCF_AbbyJiuPhotographyErin: It sounds like flowers have always been a part of your life. I understand you grew up in a household of horticulture lovers, is that true?

Holly: Yes my parents have had a garden center all of my life. We also had a working farm with livestock and nursery stock. At one time we had over 100 acres planted with trees, produce and pasture land. That plant material was either used in my fathers landscaping business or sold at our garden center. I often say I was raised in a greenhouse. When my husband and I married we bought a little two acre property. It was loaded in lilac, hydrangea, peony, viburnum, fruit trees and many other goodies. It was from this property that I started to design. We began growing for farmers markets as a source of income so that I could stay home with the children. At market people began asking me to design for weddings and that became my sole focus, however the flowers on our property were always inspiring our designs. We still reside at the same location but my husband Evan has come on board with our company and he has enhanced our gardens and offerings significantly.

The Maples Farm; October 29th, 2013Erin: I love the #Hollyish hashtag you use to denote designs that reflect your distinct style. If I’m not mistaken, it looks like more and more of your creations feature flowers from your garden, am I right? Tell me more about your cutting garden and the flowers you are growing on your property.

Holly: The #hollyish hashtag actually started when others in the industry began calling my designs “hollyish.” I started hashtagging designs that felt like I had created something special or magical to me, I also hashtagged a design “hollyish” if I felt that I had perfectly executed the brides wishes. I remember to hashtag “hollyish” when I feel like I really nailed the design.

You have indeed seen an increase of blooms or designs from our gardens. Several years ago we had to set minimums for brides to work with our studio. The amount of inquiries we were getting was more than I could handle and I was doing a lot of luxury event design. Simultaneously my husband was increasing our gardens. Two years ago we found we had an abundance of gorgeous garden blooms but they did not fit in with the look of the majority of the weddings we were selling. In addition to that, I was also bothered by the fact that our studio was no longer working with the bride that had a more modest budget. Because of this we created the “from the garden package.”

This package was carefully worded and crafted so that we could sell our flowers from the garden, to offer a product to brides on a tighter budget and so that I could design with creative freedom. We also carefully crafted our wording of this offering, so that it did not diminish the value of local or garden grown flowers.

Holly Heider ChappleThis “from the garden” option did so incredibly well last year. It was a gift to the brides and a true pleasure to me as the designer. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun this option is for me compared to the crazy sourcing and scouring the earth I have to do for our luxury event designs. Now I have found a home for all of our unique blooms who were just not the right shade of blush!!! Our gardens are established with peonies, virburnum, lilac, hydrangea, fruit trees, pieris, and other fun elements. We also grow zinnias, amaranthus, cotton, hyacinth bean, cockscomb, ageratum, hops, clematis, jasmine, passion flower, straw flowers, this list just goes on and on.

Erin: What are a few of your “can’t live without” flower varieties you grow in your cutting garden?

Holly: I love my autumn clematis, its vine is to die for all year long and in the fall it’s dainty white blooms make me so happy. In the fall I have been obsessed with using my hyacinth bean. I love the deep purple viney foliage and the unique bean it creates. The vine does wilt in the spring so give it a few months before you attempt to use it as a cut. We also grow cotton and I love the flower as much as the foliage. I have also fallen back in love with the straw flower. Passionflower is always going to be on my list and I am thankful for my weigela; long after it blooms we use the foliage.

16_HCF_JodiMillerPhotographyErin: You also source seasonal flowers from local flower farms, which is just fantastic. Can you share a little bit about your relationships with local growers and your local sourcing philosophy?

Holly: I fell into some of this by incredible luck. Many years ago before the big local flower movement got underway I happened to be going to get a rental cargo van for a wedding delivery. Our towns farmers market happens to be in the same parking lot as Enterprise. While picking up the vehicle I happened to notice the most amazing dahlias. The incredible gentlemen I met was Don’s Dahlias, Etc. We developed a lasting and remarkable relationship. For the first time in my life I had dahlias that were worth using in one of my meticulous designs. Thankfully he happened to live just 3 miles from my house and all of a sudden we were in dahlia heaven.

10_HCF_JodiMillerPhotographyDon has just recently been appointed to President of the Dahlia Society. I honestly think Don and I created some magic together and I think it encouraged other designers to reach out to local growers for this amazing bloom. The dahlia is absolutely a flower that should come from a local grower.

I also happened to meet Andrea from Lynnvale Studios while we were both participating in a garden show. Her studio and growing farm haunted me so when she started her delivery service I was happy to jump on board. She is an hour from my house so deliveries are essential for us as we are busy from dawn to dusk either processing or designing.

I will wrap this section up by saying I am a true flower addict; any flower farmer with beautiful product is going to be my friend.

HCF Portfolio Building Workshop, June 30th & July 1st, 2014Erin: The Chapel Designers group seems like such a great support network for studio floral designers. How many designers do you have as part of your collective now and what exciting initiatives does your group have planned for the future?

Holly: Our group is currently at about 165 designers. We are really proud of the slow comfortable growth we have seen. Designers come into the group by attending a Chapel Designer conference or workshop. Because we only host so many events each year the slots are sometimes hard to come by. We have an almost 100 percent return rate, we grow slowly and surely.

Holly Heider Chapple photo by Abby JiuThe relationships created at conferences are what ensure a level of trust between the designers. The camaraderie in our group is insanely beautiful to behold. We are currently working on our NYC 2015 conference, which will take place this coming March. I will also be hosting a mini Chapel Designer conference in Santa Barbara in January. We are adding several states and countries to our conferences this year as well. We are excited to be teaching in London this coming April and in Canada in June. In addition, I am thrilled to be hosting German designer, Gregor Lersch, for a workshop at my studio next August. We continue to add new discounts for Chapel Designers, new learning opportunities, and we are adding new friends from locations both internationally and within the US.

11_HCF_PhotographerShaunaPloegherErin: I followed a few of your posts from The Knot’s Dream Wedding (by the way, congratulations on being named lead floral designer for the event. Wow—what an honor!) and I remember you noted that all of the flowers used were U.S.-grown, which is great! I’m hopeful that high profile events like that might inspire other designers to source locally or at least domestically. In your opinion, what do you think it will take to truly move the needle? What do other Chapel Designers have to say about local, seasonal flower trends?

Holly: Designing that event was such an honor. I loved working with NYC event designer, Marcy Blum, but I have to admit my desire to impress her and The Knot really upped the pressure for me. The fact that this wedding became an all American grown wedding really increased the symbolism or the overall feeling of togetherness and accomplishment. Proving how beautiful an all American grown wedding could be really became a serious goal for us.

The blooms that we used were amazing; the quality of product was incredible. Kasey Cronquist of the California Cut Flower Commission worked tirelessly to locate the required stems we needed to pull off an event of this size.

All of the Chapel Designers loved working on this event and seeing the product. Because I am in communication with them all daily via our forum, I can also see many of the designers reaching out to their local growers. It’s interesting to watch because our individual growers seem to support the growers in other communities. So for instance, I recommend that people speak to Don, you, or Andrea about growing. They then often have their local growers reach out to people like you and the mentoring begins. I know of several instances where you or Don have helped Chapel Designers either grow a particular flower or find a suitable grower. The designers are helping to support the farmers, I don’t even necessarily mean financially but by encouraging new types of flowers or relationships. It is awesome.

Erin: I absolutely love all these new and deeper relationships between floral designers and flower farmers.  I hope that we both can continue to serve as matchmakers and connect more designers with local growers and vice versa.  This is such an exciting time to be in the industry! Holly, thanks so much for doing this interview and thank you for your vision and your leadership!

More about Holly:
Holly Heider Chapple Flowers
The Chapel Designers group
The Full Bouquet, Holly’s blog
Holly on Facebook  
Holly on Twitter
Holly on Instagram

Photo credits (top-bottom):  Jodi Miller (2), Katelyn James, Abby Jiu, Jodi Miller, Genevieve Leiper, Jodi Miller (3), Abby Jiu, Shauna Ploegher

 

7 Comments

  1. Violet on

    What an inspiring interview!

    Reply
  2. Alison Ellis on

    Inspired yet again by both of you. It’s snowy here in Vermont, but I am dreaming of growing lots of flowers next season to supplement my wedding work. I will follow your lead!

    Reply
  3. Andrea Gagnon on

    Great interview Erin, Holly is a lovely and remarkable women and truly gifted designer and mentor. It’s always a thrill for us to see little bits of our Lynnvale grown beauties peaking out from a perfectly #hollyish bouquet!

    Reply
  4. Alexandra Jusino on

    Great interview! Two of my favorites wrapped up in one awesome post. Yep, I’ve learned quite a bit about growing dahlias from Don, and sweet peas from Erin. And I can’t say enough about all I’ve learned from Holly.

    Reply
  5. Alicia Broehl on

    Lovely interview! I can feel the passion and love you both have for the industry and the work that you do. Thank you both!

    Reply
  6. Wanda Fox on

    Way to go Erin & Holly! Two of my favorite mentors!!!!!

    Reply
  7. Susan McLeary on

    Beautiful and inspiring interview!! You both give me energy- you do so much good work! Love where our industry is at the moment, and you two are doing so much to keep us moving in the right direction. Wonderful!

    Reply

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