Local nursery Bowden Hostas went down a storm at the Chelsea Flower Show recently when they brought in a red London double decker bus to be the focal point of a display around tree ferns.

Tim Penrose, who runs the Sticklepath nursery with his wife Ruth, called on contacts within his former profession as an undertaker to locate a bus that could be part of the display ­­— transporting it all the way from North Wales.

He explained that, with Chelsea postponed to September this year — later than the usual May when the nursery’s hostas are in their prime — he had to work harder to make a splash.

To this end, he even drafted in Westcountry touring outdoor theatre company Illyria to add a theatrical flourish performing musical numbers from Gilbert and Sullivan from the top of the open topped bus.

Tim said the display had been so successful at drawing people in that they had seen orders flood in. They also gained a Silver Gilt medal at the central London show, which ran from September 21-26.

The stand showcased the four specialist collections of plants that the nursery now offers — agapanthus, ferns, hostas and bamboos.

The Penroses’ daughter Felicity, 18, created many of the displays within the stand, which was Bowden Hostas’ 18th appearance at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Tim said: ‘I like to do things differently each time. I get frustrated if things are always the same.

‘We have done something different and unusual each year. This year is the most extravagant thing I have done.

‘When the RHS rang up in January and said the show was not happening in the spring, they said “I expect you want to have a smaller stand won’t you, because your hostas won’t be in season?” Me being me though, I said no, we will have a bigger stand, and it has worked very well.

As the hostas would not be in peak season, he looked at making a feature instead of the substantial Dicksonia Antarctica ferns the nursery also sells, hoisting them onto the top of the bus as well as arranging them around the stand.

‘They each weigh one and a half tonnes,’ he said. ‘People just had to have a look at them. I found a little old lady having lunch on top of the bus. You couldn’t make it up — aren’t the British public wonderful?’

The bus displayed Sticklepath as its destination on the front, with the names of the four types of plants the nursery specialises in listed. It also displays a number 1 — ‘because we are the best’.

‘We are all about preserving heritage, people who have specialist knowledge of the plants,’ he added.

Among customers placing orders at the show were hotelier Rocco Forte, fashion designer David Emanuel and politician Lord Heseltine.

Tim said he thought even his late father-in-law Roger Bowden, not one given to praising all his flamboyant gestures, would have liked the fact that the bus was displaying Sticklepath as its destination.

‘I would like to have thought that he would have thought that was pretty good. He was very much a Sticklepath person.’

Tim added that he and his team were now working on ideas for the Chelsea Flower Show next year, which will be held at the usual time of May.

Bowden Hostas was built up by Roger and Ann Bowden, with daughter and son-in-law Ruth and Tim Penrose taking over the business in 2004.