Holly Chapple lays out and inspects each flower that goes into a bridal bouquet. Picture: Jennifer Heffner for The Washington Post

Washington - The minivan stops, half off a country road near Holly Heider Chapple's home in Waterford, Virginia. She leaves her keys in the ignition, grabs her clippers and heads for a flowering dogwood tree she has spotted on the side of the road.

Now your event is going to smell a little like dogwood, too.

This is the not-so-secret secret to the success of Holly Chapple, one of the industry's best-known proprietors of a style of floristry that has taken over Instagram, Pinterest and Martha Stewart's aesthetic. 

It is sometimes called garden style or botanical style or "Holly-ish." "It is really so ridiculous that that's a phrase, but that's what people tell me," she says. 

Gone are bouquets arranged in perfect spheres ("roundy moundies," in the biz), traditional red roses and jarring color schemes; today's floral designs are lush and loose and look as if they've been foraged from the backyard of Mother Nature herself - because they have.

This approach is more than a matter of taste or trend; it's a renaissance that has emerged from a new business model. Traditionally, being a respected florist meant becoming certified through expensive formal training and the purchase of a brick-and-mortar business. 

A mixed-flower bouquet example of Holly Chapple's handiwork. The loose, “garden” style has taken over Instagram, Pinterest and Martha Stewart’s aesthetic. Picture: Jennifer Heffner for The Washington Post

Chapple has neither of those things. She plucked flowers from her garden, learned as she went and became a success in large part because of social media, not because the industry's influential power players deemed her one.

"They hate her," says Hitomi Gilliam, an AIFD-certified florist who has befriended Chapple. "They don't see her at [floral-industry] meetings, so they develop this thing about her. They say: 'Oh, she works at home. She's just a 'Basement Betty.' "

Basement Betty (n.): a derogatory term for a woman who runs her business from her home. Implication: a bored housewife who went to Hobby Lobby, made the bouquet for her niece's wedding and now claims to be a professional.

"It's such a misconception," Gilliam says. "I have become a huge defender of her. I tell them, 'Basement Betties don't do $100 000 weddings.' "

Valerie Powell in a Holly Heider Chapple-designed floral hat, is a cancer survivor. Picture: Jennifer Heffner for The Washington Post

Chapple's business began not in a basement but on a front porch in 1992, when she was working as a travel agent. At 25, she'd just had her second child. She grew up working at her father's garden center and had always said she had no intention of going into the business herself. 

But she wanted to be around for her children, and in suburban Washington there was zero chance of her family subsisting on one income. "What are you going to do?" a neighbor asked.

"I think I'm going to do weddings," she said.

"Great," the woman responded. "You can do mine."

She had her first client. Eventually, "we put an addition on the house and had some more children. Then we put another addition and had some more children," she recalls. All the while, her business grew.

Then came a blog, a social media following and an idea: She knew other home-based florists were looking for the camaraderie the traditional floral world reserved for its members. So in 2010, she assembled more than a dozen of them in New York City.

Soon the gathering turned into a full-fledged organisation, the Chapel Designers. Today, the group has 238 designers from 35 states and 11 countries, all working under Chapple's mentorship.

The Washington Post