“When it comes to design, the words classical and traditional are really what Mike Bayon Garden Design
is all about”
After taking a degree in Philosophy and Politics at UEA, Roger gave in to wanderlust and saddled up his bike for a cycle ride – to Athens! Returning eventually to the UK and ‘dabbling’ in various jobs to raise money for his next trip – “my plan was to cycle round each continent” – he got in touch with his fellow ex-UEA student Andy Gardiner, who was working for Mike Bayon and “absolutely loving it”. In 1984 Roger put his travel plans on hold to join Andy and experience the unique Mike Bayon school of garden apprenticeship. “I was taken on to do the maintenance gardening. It was a real, hands-on learning experience and I picked it up fast in the best way: making elementary mistakes and learning from them.”
Roger soon developed a comprehensive knowledge of plants and became expert at sourcing everything from the most popular garden shrubs to the rarest specimens. However, his natural managerial ability made him the obvious choice to assume responsibility for the company’s maintenance business, which was expanding rapidly: “It just got bigger and bigger, to the point where we had two trucks and two teams who were out five days a week all over London. But at that point we really wanted to focus on the Design and Build side, which was also taking off. The 1987 commission to design Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s garden in the South of France was the big breakthrough; Andy and I were left to run things and it was a huge learning curve for us. But there was a tremendous amount of energy in the business and we were building so many good gardens – and getting a great name too!”
The 1990 recession was a uniformly tough time for small businesses but, thanks to Roger’s deft managerial skills and the company’s rock solid, local client base, Mike Bayon Garden Design weathered the storm. It has now been in business for three decades and has a varied clientele across London and the South of England and also takes on prestigious projects abroad.
Roger and Andy continue to combine their managerial, construction and design skills to create gardens with the signature Mike Bayon stamp of joyous individuality. As Roger says: “The sort of garden we like to make is one with structure, texture, colour and life. We aren’t fashion-led; we’re fresh ideas-led!
“I like gardens in which you can sit down and relax, look at the flowers and wildlife and feel relaxed – as if you’re in a lovely, natural space. What gives me more pleasure than anything is watching the life that comes in and out; you can never take the birds and bees, the newts and frogs in the pond for granted. For me, the flowers and life is what it’s all about. It’s not a style statement; yes, it must be stylish and smart, but not a style statement. I simply want people to love sitting in the gardens we make for them.”