Garden business that took root in a Post Office is a national winner again!

A nationally acclaimed, family-owned garden centre that grew out of the porch of a sub post-office nearly 40 years ago has now won the UK’s “Garden Centre of the Year” for a phenomenal fourth time!

Back in the 1970s, green-fingered Alan Cowell ran a Sub Post office on Tyneside but he was finding more customers wanted to buy his home grown plants, fruit and vegetables from the porch than his stamps. He found a plot of land nearby, started a small market garden and the rest is history.

The prestigious ‘Garden Centre of the Year’ award was given for the fourth time to Cowell’s Garden Centre by The Garden Centre Association in recognition of excellence in the “display, quality, range of plants and customer service in a garden centre nationwide”.

Founder and owner Alan Cowell says: “To win this national award against hundreds of other competitors across the UK for a fourth time is outstanding and we are all delighted and very very proud.  Our brilliant team of staff always work incredibly hard to make Cowell’s that little bit special and it seems the gardening people at the top agree we are!”

Manager Operator Martin Cowell also attributes some of the success of the Cowell’s Garden Centre down to its great range of lovingly-reared but “hardy Geordie home-grown plants”. He says: “Like Geordie lads and lasses, they don’t need a coat in winter! We get lots of people from the South here who buy our plants because they know if they’ve been reared in the North East they’ll survive anywhere!”

As testament to the excellent quality of their plants, Cowell’s Garden Centre offers a two year guarantee on all outdoor hardy plants. 90% of garden staff are horticulturally trained and are always happy to offer expert advice. In addition, Cowell’s has one of the largest varieties of plants in the region.

For instance this Garden Centre offers 50 different varieties of sweet peas – many of them ready to plant now – and grow between 60,000 to 70,000 colourful perennials, alpines and bedding plants.

Cowell’s Garden Centre is currently busy growing many new varieties of flowers for the new season ahead, including a new range of Scabiosa with names like ‘Blackberry Fool’, ‘Cherry Pie’ & ‘Blueberry Fool’ which all sound good enough to eat!  You’ll also find fantastic new Brunneras with their lovely silvery architectural foliage and baby-blue flowers in spring.

Cowells also stock a very unusual range of Bidens which are normally only found as a yellow patio and basket plant, but these new varieties ‘Hawaian Flare Orange Drop’ and “Hawaian Flare Orange Yellow Brush” are vibrant oranges and reds which would make a fantastic addition to any hanging basket or container.  Anyone interested in these great new plants is advised to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter as numbers will be limited.

A popular new plant combination that Cowell’s grow is the Trixi – three varieties of different patio & basket plants in a variety of colours, grown as one plant.  All Trixi combinations flower throughout the summer and autumn and are fabulous in pots or hanging baskets.  Perfect for small gardens!

Manager Operator, Jane Cowell says: “The whole family, as well as all our staff are very pleased to have won this award for the fourth time. Despite its success, Cowells Garden Centre remains a small, friendly family business with a great range of quality products, expertise and time for its customers and I believe this is why people return again and again”
Manager Operator Martin Cowell says: “Seriously, we all try very hard to make Cowell’s the best there is, whether that’s making the displays so lovely that they really lift people’s spirits; or friendly, expert advice; or in our vast range of plants. We never stop!  Our customers from the South keep asking us to open a branch near London as they say there’s nothing like Cowell’s down there”.

It’s been a labour of love for the Cowell family whose interest in horticulture spans four generations. The story behind the success of Cowell’s Garden Centre is one of hard work, passion and commitment.

Green fingered Grandad Tommy Cowell would spend hours in his Walbottle allotment in the 1940s and 50s growing vegetables and fruit for all the family. He passed his passion for gardening on to son Alan.

Alan Cowell and his wife Mavis ran the Kenton Bankfoot Sub Post Office from 1971 to 1978. As well as posting parcels and picking up pensions, Post Office customers were offered a fantastic array of plants, fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers from the Cowell’s garden.

Very soon, more people were visiting the Post Office for plants and gardening advice than were posting parcels and the Cowell’s garden was becoming so jam-packed with plants that Alan needed more room.  He managed to acquire a few acres of land nearby at Woolsington and started up a market garden, while still running the Post Office.  By this time the family were also running a fruit and vegetable shop locally so the family were effectively running three businesses.

Alan’s son and daughter, Martin and Jane, who both manage Cowell’s Garden Centre now under the watchful eye of their father, remember working in the market garden aged around five and eight: “We would either be standing in the freezing cold, opening and closing doors for customers, or working in the potato fields, still cold – but at least we were moving!” says Martin.

It soon became apparent that the market garden business at Woolsington was taking off in a big way, due mainly to the quality and variety of the plants and produce, as well as the horticultural knowledge and enthusiasm of the family. Jane’s children Lewis and Jessica now both help out in the business too.

The nationally acclaimed, multi-award winning Cowell’s Garden Centre now sees tens of thousands of customers through its doors every year, offers a large range of garden products, garden furniture and giftware but most importantly, has one of largest ranges of plant varieties in the North East.

This hard working family and their loyal staff take enormous pride in providing great quality plants and garden accessories as well as excellent horticultural expertise and advice for all.
Cowells Garden Centre is still situated on the same nine acres of land in Woolsington where it was founded by Alan Cowell in 1978.

As well as special offers running every week which customers can access by signing up on Cowells’ website the family are planning some cracking offers and discounts over Easter weekend.
Please note Cowell’s Garden Centre is open Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday only.  By law, Garden Centres are not allowed to open on Easter Sunday.

Normal opening hours are 9am – 5.30pm every day. Check website for seasonal changes.

For more information about the company and its services or products, you can call Martin Cowell on 0191 286 3403 or email at

Cowell’s Garden Centre, Main Road, Woolsington, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE13 8BW

March 23, 2015