125
Royal Horticultural Society
Gold Medals

All Change at Chelsea

The English Garden May 2016

Tim Penrose of Bowden Hostas explains how he plans to take the Great Pavilion's Monument site by storm

People will inevitably compare our display on the Monument site in the Great Pavilion to the Hillier displays that occupied that position for so many years. Our exhibit will be an interactive space that you can walk through. I came up with the idea for it so I'm prepared to take the plaudits and the brickbats in equal measure.

We have two fern experts, two bamboo experts, and a plant collector on board with us. The theme is A Plant Collector's Journey. I thought of using and Orient Express train carriage, so I rang up the train's owners, Belmond, and they said they had been thinking of being at Chelsea for some time.

The train carriage we're using, Zena, is from the sister train to the Orient Express and it is being taken out of service for two weeks – the longest amount of time for which it has ever been taken out of service.

Moving a train to the showground sounds stressful but it lies in Battersea, less than a mile away from Chelsea so it shouldn't be. Unfortunately it can't go over Chelsea Bridge so it has to be taken up the M25 and down the M4 – a round trip that will take seven hours. It will take another three and half hours to unload it at the showground.

It is no good just plonking a train in the middle of an exhibit though. We have divided the display into Platform 1 and Platform 2, which will have distinct areas of planting. Platform 1 will be cottage garden style and Platform 2 will feature ferns and orchids, like a jungle walkway. The rare fern book, from 1705, Traité des fougères de l'Amerique will be on display too, housed under bulletproof glass.

I do like to do things differently. Hopefully it will be exciting and create a bit of a stir.