Our Company started in Chislehurst in 1913. Seventeen year old Arthur Cooling, (the Grandfather of Paul Cooling), started growing market garden crops as a part-time occupation. He purchased one acre of land at the rear of Chislehurst High Street in 1920 and it was here that the first second-hand greenhouses were built.
In 1955 Michael joined his father Arthur to form a partnership, trading as Coolings Nurseries. The first Garden Centre trading commenced in the same year with the sale of fertilisers, insecticides, peat and compost. By the mid 1960’s Coolings was one of the first Garden Centres in the UK. The first car park was made possible in 1966 when a house in Willow Grove, Chislehurst was purchased making access from that main road possible and was opened at Easter, just 4 weeks before Arthur died whilst working on the nursery. At that time Shirley Cooling took over the book keeping, a role she continued single handily until 1992.
Coolings continued to grow and influence the trends in the Garden Centre market. We were one of the first to introduce self-service bedding plant packs, also the introduction of colour ‘point of sale’ to sell bedding plants and to hold regular in-house demonstrations.
By the mid 1980’s, it was obvious that the entire site needed rebuilding and plans were passed for this. However, with the rapid escalation of land prices it was more prudent to sell the site and move to a location that had room for greater growth.
Our 14-acre site, The Gardener’s Garden Centre, situated at Rushmore Hill, Knockholt was purchased in January 1990 from the Robinson family, who also had a good reputation for plants.
In July 2004 Coolings purchased our second site, Coolings Lifestyle, at Main Road, Knockholt, only 1.4 miles from our The Gardener’s Garden Centre. This site also has an interesting history being Whitelegg’s Nursery until 1991, then becoming Country Gardens and finally Wyevale before Coolings purchased it. The Coolings Lifestyle site comprises our fabulous new eco-building, which houses our garden shop, gift area, garden furniture and barbecue ranges, Blueberry Café and the 6-acre Willow’s Birds of Prey and Wildlife Trail.
In 2017 Coolings purchased The Potted Garden Nursery located in Bearsted, Maidstone. Tucked into it’s woodland backdrop, this well-established garden centre has always focused on plants, and has a large selection of herbaceous, shrub and climbing plants as well as roses, trees, grasses, bamboos, bedding plants, and products for every gardener’s needs.
Wych Cross Garden centre was the fourth site to join the group in August 2019. Nestled in the Ashdown Forest, this nursery had a long-standing reputation for growing roses up to the early 2000’s and we are pleased to be growing roses again on-site. The refurbished shop, Hybrid Tea Room and 3-acres of plant retail are open 7 days a week with a huge selection of top quality plants and an experienced team of horticultural experts.