Bowden Hostas RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibits took a £20,000 journey

The largest installation ever seen at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which is attracting the longest queues at the event, is intended to celebrate the great explorers of the past who travelled the world hunting for exotic plants to be grown in British gardens.

It should have taken about five minutes to transport the stand's centrepiece Belmond carriage the couple of miles from its Battersea depot just across the river Thames to the show site in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

But instead the 60ft, 40-ton carriage was forced on a 90-mile circuitous route that logistics experts envisaged could take over five hours.

Due to weight restrictions on London bridges over the Thames, Belmond chief engineer, Julian Clarke, started planning the route three months ago.

The carriage was lifted on to a low loader on 12 May and the convoy with an escort vehicle set out at 7pm after the rush hour. But instead of heading north to cross the Thames the load had to go south past Clapham Common  through Balham where it was forced to stop. The load had to be lowered three inches to pass under the bridge at Balham underground station and then raised again before the convoy continued on the A298 to the M3 and then the M25 clockwise to get around south London. It then joined the M4 near Heathrow, before heading east  as far as junction 3, then turning onto the A312 into central London, then going south west on the A3220 to reach the A3212 which goes along the north side of the Thames on Chelsea Embankment to the riverside entrance to the show ground.

The journey took almost four hours arriving just before 11pm ahead of schedule. It cost £20,000 for the journey.

The carriage which was  built in 1928 in Birmingham by the Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Company is now sitting on specially laid tracks inside the show’s Grand Pavilion where visitors, including the Queen, will be able to embark on their own journey of plant discovery.

Tim Penrose, chief executive of Devon plant suppliers, Bowdens, has been planning this horticultural expedition for four years where people will arrive at platform one to see typical English country garden varieties, then climb aboard the Pullman before descending on platform two into a far-flung world of jungle ferns, tree ferns, hostas, orchids and bamboo. There is even a stumpery and a bamboo recreation of a vintage plant hunter’s cabin and on display too will be the oldest fern book in the world dating from 1705 valued at £22,500.

The stand won a silver medal. Penrose said he would like to return to the monument site at Chelsea in 2017 which Hillier has occupied for decades until this year but the RHS had not given him the site. He said the stand would raise Bowden’s profile as a supplier of landscape projects and not just as a mail order supplier.

Penrose added: "We are making the display as authentic as possible  with plant collectors’ ephemera such as binoculars, nets,  microscopes, journals and vintage Louis Vuitton trunks.  But I have decided against issuing tickets for the journey as we shall have two Belmond stewards inside the carriage moving people along."

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