Q&A: Holly Heider Chapple on flowers

Holly Heider Chapple
Jun 21, 2018

Holly Heider Chapple founded her wedding and event floral design business 25 years ago. The business was home based and offered Holly an opportunity to make a living while staying at home with her 7 children. Over the years, Holly Heider Chapple Flowers continued to grow through social media, her blog The Full Bouquet and her international workshops on her unique style of flower designing. Hope Flower Farm in Loudoun County is where she and husband Evan host floral design classes and other events.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 15 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Holly Heider Chapple founded her wedding and event floral design business 25 years ago. The business was home based and offered Holly an opportunity to make a living while taking care of  her 7 children. Over the years, Holly Heider Chapple Flowers has allowed Holly to develop a unique style and she is called the "Flower Mama" by many of her fans. Her business continues to grow through social media, her blog The Full Bouquet and her international workshops on her unique style of flower designing. Hope Flower Farm in Loudoun County is where she and husband Evan host floral design classes and other events. Ask away.

Hi Everyone! I'm Holly Chapple I'm a local floral and event designer. I'm a mom of 7 and we own a flower farm in Waterford Va. I also design editorial spreads for magazines and online publications. I have been doing weddings for almost 26 years! 

Hi Holly! . . . would love to hear your advice and guidance re: social media for designers and your thoughts on how the internet has transformed your business. Do you have a list of do's and don'ts for operating in the online world? Many thanks!

First and foremost, you have to get over your fear and be present on social media. Be a postivie voice and consider how your words will inspire others. Be real, and don't get caught up in being perfect.

Do you think that succulents are overused and cliche now? What's a nice substitute for an outdoor dinner party?

I still believe succulents can be used in an artful way. I appreciate the fact that they are hardy and can be replanted and repurposed. I do have to admit they were over used. For outdoor garden parties I love creating a design my father called French gardens. This centerpiece is created by chosing a low shallow pot or planter and mixing in several different types of annuals, such as wave petunias, ivy, potato vine, herbs and other plants of interest from the garden center. This is a design that will live on throughout the summer. 

I'd like to share a link to my recent story on Dehumidifiers. With all this rain, basements need a little help keeping away that musty smell and you'd be surprised at the other benefits of using one. Like: your cereal will be crunchier. Check it out.


I have a hard time keeping plants alive so I've deferred to mostly fake ones and get cut flowers cheap from Trader Joe's but it's still a bit of an expense. Do you two have any favorite resources for artificial greens and flowers? I quite liked the greens selection at Ikea and the flower selection at Crate and Barrel, any others?

I have found a new appreciation for faux, but my resources typically come from my wholsaler. I would say as long as you like the look of the stem you should go for it!

I see that you like to stop by the side of the road and cut flowers. Do you have to ask permission to do that?

I always ask permission if I am on someones priviate property. I have been known to trade flowers or baked goods! If I do see something on the side of the road, in rural areas, as long as I am certain it is overgrowth and considered brush - I will take it! I'm an avid gardener and I know what is foraged material and what is someones planted property. That is key!

There's nothing more frustrating than buying fresh flowers that don't open, or that die quickly. How do you choose good blooms (should they be closed, partly open, open all the way) and keep them looking fresh (I've tried that powder packet, a penny in the vase, bleach in the water....)

Buying flowers from reputable flower shops or local farmers markets is the key! Sadly, grocery store flowers are considered lost leaders and they are not of high quality. In general, blooms that are tighter will last longer. 

How do you decide what kind of bouquets to do for brides? I notice they are very loose now and not structured. Are they hard to hold?

I always listen to my brides and execute their wishes. The loose and airy bouquet is the current trend, but our studio is able to produce any style. I think that the loose bouquet is just as easy to hold as the small one. I actually produced a mechanic for floristry that reduces the weight of the bouquet. My partner is Syndicate Sales!

Re: social media posting -- some designers are strictly business-related while others opt for more personal/lifestyle postings. . . what do you think is the best approach?

I have an incrediblt portfolio of professional images, and I could opt for the perfect feed. However, that's not really my vibe. I like to promote others, show things in the now and also share about my family and community. It's a personal choice that speaks of your brand!

We're turning our formal living room into a playroom for our small children. It currently does not have any overhead lights or fan, and we're trying to decide whether it's worth it to install. The room does not get much light, but we expect it to mainly be used during daylight hours. Do you think this is a worthwhile expense, or could we make do with standing and table lamps? Would it affect re-sale value in the future?

Anything that inhances the beauty and functionality of your home will help with resale. It's all about what's best for you and your family during this current phase of your life!

Do you have any recommendations for a tall, hardy indoor plant that would not be dangerous for pets and kids? Something that only needs very occasional watering would be best. Or would faux be a better option?

Areca palms are something I would suggest, but I'm not 100% positive about safety. Please verify that! 


Why do peonies get ruined by rain when other flowers don't?

The rain weighs the flower down and since the blooms are so large they typically end up on the ground. The density of the petals also holds in moisture which will cause the bloom to decay. It's best to get them out of the rain and enjoy them inside! If you are going to leave them outside, stake them up.

What would you say are the top trends now in wedding design (e.g., style, colors, flowers, etc.)? thanks!

Loose, airy and organic are the current vibes. I personally love muddy tones and a bit of brown in all of my creations. The brown makes lavender smokey. Brown makes red moody. Brown makes yellow golden. Brown warms things up and softens the intensity of color, which is romantic and has an old world feel!

Are a lot of people really allergic to this? Should you not pick it by the road and use it in your flower arrangements?

I have always heard that, but I have never witnessed it! Note, the variety found at flower shops is different and certainly does not cause the same reaction. 

What flower design books do you recommend for those who want to learn more?

I would highly recommend "Cut Flower Garden" by Erin Benzakein from Floret Flowers. "The Flower Workshop" by Ariella Chezar. I also love books by Gregor Lersch and Hitomi Gilliam for a more artistic approach. 

This question reminded me that my mother kept a pair of scissors in the glove compartment of her car just for that purpose. Her favorite wild flower was Queen Anne's Lace which could be found along the road side on vacant lots or in the ditches along side the small roads. She was forever pulling over to pick a bunch!

Yes! I actually keep clippers in the car as well. Queen Anne's lace will forver have my heart! Interestly enough, when you purchase it for commerical use it is a much cleaner and crisper flower, a variety that is so beautiful. Have you seen the dark plum queen anne's lace? It's epic! It's a wonderful thing to grow.

Hi Holly, I recently got a cat, and not thinking, I picked up a mixed bouquet of flowers at Trader Joe's. Then I realized that some flowers are toxic to cats! Do you have any recommendations for flowers that would look nice in a vase (but also not kill my cat if she goes nibbling)?

We have barn cats for that very reason! Actually my children have cat allergies, but I'm sure there's a list of cat friendly flowers online!

For your reading pleasure, in this Sunday's Summer Home and Design issue of the Washington Post Magazine and now available to read online:

Read Jessica Contrera's  story about Holly Heider Chapple and her flower business here.

Read my story about Blair House: The President's Guest House here.

We got an insiders tour of the 120 rooms of Blair House and have a lot of history and stories plus a photo gallery of the rooms, many of which are being refreshed by Washington designer Thomas Pheasant.  Blair House is celebrating 75 years of providing housing and hospitality to some of the top leaders of the world and former presidents and their families.


Do you have any advice or tips when ordering flowers to be sent for an occasion?

I would give a list of flowers that you like, and flowers what you do not like. I would ask that the design be loose, airy and not contrived!

I'm thinking of starting a business of wedding floral design from my home. I've done a few weddings for friends and they were thrilled with the results, but I have no training. Do you think it's important to have professional training?

I always considered myslf self taught. But I realize now that a lot of my talent was inherent, and that I was exposed to training and design by my father and grandfather. I have to say, studying design and good business practices will certainly make your journey much easier and more sucessful! Trial by fire is no fun! To this day, I am in constant pusuit of more knowledge and that's why I thrive! 

I'm underwhelmed with all but one of my vases, which are mostly hand-me-downs or came with bouquets. I'd like to buy one really good one that would go with lots of types of arrangements. Any suggestions for material, shape, size, etc.?

I love to shop at antique shops or flea markets for unique containers. Make sure you chose a vessel that holds water, is deep enough for the stems and has a generous opening. Going to Home Goods, Pottery Barn and CB2 can be inspiring as well!

Are there on line sources available to the consumer to order simple cut flowers to insure freshness rather than buying at the supermarket? Economical ones?

I think the largest resource for that is "Farm Girl Flowers" check her out!

If you were to have only three vases, which shapes would you own? I have no room to store a lot of them.

I would have to chose a compote bowl, champaign bucket and small cordial glasses.

Do you have any specific bouquets or potted plants that make a nice gift?

Flowers from your local farmers market are always a good investment! While potted plants are great, I prefer to buy perennial plants or shrubs as gifts as they continue to come back each year when planted in the garden. It's an annual reminder of your generosity!

You mention that loose, garden-style flowers are popular now -- would you call this style modern or classic? Do you see any other trends on the horizon?

I think the garden style is classic and we are starting to see a modern twist to this design style. The use of tropical foliages and flowers mixed with garden blooms is an emerging trend. 

Why don't you like "Roundie Moundies" ? I think they look elegant in a bride's hands.

I produced them for many years and I still believe they are classic. However, I am a more is more kind of person! (Hence the 7 kids) haha!

This reminds me of when I was a kid, we lived near a field. My mother showed us how to put Queen Ann's Lace in a vase with water and food coloring, and the next day the flower would be that color ! Magic.

I love that trick! It's been years since I have done that with my kids. 

How will you expand your business and keep control?

Expanding is not the issue, control is the problem! We are working on that every day. I need to generate enough revenue to be able to hire the staff to support this studio. Since most of our work is seasonal, this is a challenge. A strong team is essential for growth. 

Are you thinking of writing a book?

Many people have suggested this and requested it, but I simply do not know where to begin and do not have enough time to force it into fruition! So I will wait until it is meant to be!

Your personal story is so inspiring! What have been the keys to your success? What is the biggest challenge?

My mother taught me to stay at the dance with the person who brought you! So loyalty, and rememberinf where you came from have been my biggest keys to success. My biggest challenge is making sure I am not being misinterpreted. 

What do you think of the look of tiny vases all over the table each holding one stem?

Love this! This is why I mentioned the tiny cordial glasses as one of my favorite containers. Start collecting! 

Thanks so much for being on the chat Holly. Inspired to up my flower game. This Q&A will be taking a summer hiatus for the next two weeks. See you again on Thursday July 12 when our guest will be our decorating columnist Elizabeth Mayhew. Happy Summer everyone.

Are they any farms where you can pick your own flowers?

Not that I know of! There's a tulip farm in Gainesville in the spring. Pick your own can be dangerous to the crop!

It was a pleasure to be a part of the Washington Post Q&A! You can find us at Holly Heider Chapple Flowers, Hope Flower Farm, Chapel Designers and Holly.SyndicateSales. 

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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