MIKE LOTE | A Sit Down With The Award Winning Garden Designer


A week before the build began on his garden at the 2024 RHS Malvern Spring Festival, we had the opportunity to sit down with Mike Lote of MJL Garden Design. Off the back of a big win at the recent APL Awards, we picked his brain on what went into designing his first show garden. 

With two builds already under his belt, RHS Malvern is familiar turf for Mike but this year he’ll be bringing his own garden design to life.

It’s always interesting to know how Garden Designers and Landscapers get into the industry, and Mike’s story is just as inspiring. He started by talking about his childhood, “When I was about 16, my mum was diagnosed with cancer, and she always wanted a pond built in her garden, so I built her one!”. As well as paying tribute to his grandfather, who was an Architect , you could tell there was a real family connection behind getting into Garden Design. 

Mike then went on to talk about how he picked up work on the weekends and in the holidays while at school, working with local contractors and builders. Following school, he worked for a local block paving company, before putting himself through university. 

Mike attended Leeds Metropolitan University and graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture. 

When talking about starting his own business in 2007, Mike credits the work he did when he was younger, saying it “put him in good stead”, for what was to come down the line, and his entrance into the industry. 

Mike expressed his excitement for Malvern this year, with only a short amount of time remaining until the build got underway. The inspiration behind his 2024 garden, cleverly named ‘It Doesn’t Have To Cost The Earth’, first came to him after finishing his first Malvern build in 2022. Mike realized, while quoting several new-build homes in his local area, that everyone was going for the same thing (Patios and artificial grass), which he acknowledges isn’t very carbon-friendly. “I wanted to show that you can have a beautiful, on-trend, garden, but thinking about what materials you can use, and a way to keep the carbon footprint down”. He also recognized the amount of habitats that had been destroyed for the new houses to be built. 

It was clear from the beginning of the interview that sustainability was “a massive part of the garden , with plans to use existing materials, such as the soil, and “improve what's there, rather than importing soil from elsewhere”. 

As well as looking at what materials to use for the build, Mike highlighted their plan to use corten steel, due to the longevity, “Lasting up to 100 years”, as well as being “100% recyclable”. They also plan to bring some new products, which have never been used in an RHS show before! How exciting!

Mike revealed that he will be using elements from previous shows, including some fencing from last year's Chelsea show and borrowed plants which have already featured in a number of different shows. Repurposing products is very important in the sustainability message Mike is trying to promote in his show garden.

While discussing sustainability, it’s obvious that Mike is passionate about this topic and addressed the importance of education in reusable and sustainable practices within the industry. “The products are out there, we (as an industry) just don’t know enough about them”, but he hopes he can help spread the word about these products and is driven to help change the industry. 

The talk of repurposing led Mike to recognise the support he’s received from Landscapeplus. This year's garden features a number of Collingwood light fittings to illuminate the garden, which have previously featured in other show gardens, helping to reiterate the importance of being able to reuse products. 

We asked Mike for one thing he wants people to take away from his 2024 show garden. His response was to “Build a beautiful garden” that could be used in day-to-day life and “can be good for the wildlife too”. 

Mike plans to showcase to the public what it takes to create a garden, as he is aware “a lot of clients don’t actually see what goes into the process”. This includes doing some showcase boxes for pavings and various groundwork.

With all the talk of sustainability, and helping to educate and push the industry into a new direction, Mike is likely to inspire people to get into the industry, and for those people, he’s offered some advice; “Everyone in the industry is lovely, and wants to help bring people into the industry…. No-one wants to see you fail!”. Whilst highlighting the importance of “networking and talking to people” Mike also emphasized the importance of “working it out for yourself” because you can learn a lot from your own mistakes. 

We’re looking forward to seeing Mike’s garden “It Doesn’t Have To Cost The Earth” come to life at RHS Malvern, as well as what the future holds for him! 

Our full interview with Mike Lote is coming soon on our YouTube channels so make sure to keep an eye out for it! 

Visit MJL Garden Design's website here >>