Local Business Profile

2018 Brings Big Changes for Dooley Landscape Designs

Leslie LaBry and Mike Dooley, owners of The Garden Nanny and Dooley Landscape Design, respectively, team up to design and build your dream landscape, and keep it maintained.
Briana Gomez, February 2018

Mike Dooley, owner of Dooley Landscape Designs LLC, has been a landscape designer for 35 years. He began his career as a landscape designer and contractor in San Antonio, Texas in 1981. While in San Antonio, he also started his first landscape nursery. After a few years, he sold that nursery and decided to move to New Mexico to live closer to the mountains and deserts that he learned to love.

He bought property in Rio Rancho and opened the High Desert Gardens nursery. Pressures from big box stores eventually took their toll and the nursery closed after a decade in business. Over the last several years, Dooley shifted his focus and has concentrated on installing his landscape designs with the hardscape aspect of the designs installed by his masonry associates.

It was during this time that Mike Dooley met Leslie LaBry and fell in love. Dooley encouraged LaBry to go into business for herself doing maintenance projects and small landscape installations. From this, The Garden Nanny was created and Leslie has turned it into a very successful business with 60 plus “A” ratings on major referral sites. “The story of my business at this point is a love story and a story of success and transition,” Dooley says.

Dooley Landscape Designs LCC is now kicking the new year off with big changes. Mike Dooley is going into semi-retirement and establishing himself as an “independent” landscape designer. He no longer has a landscape crew and only produces landscape designs that clients can purchase at a very reasonable rate. The client owns that design and can install the project themselves, or have all or part put out for bids.

In the landscape designing business for 35 years now, Dooley understands the wants and needs of customers. As an independent landscape designer, Dooley first meets with the clients and makes a “wish list.” At the initial consultation, he takes detailed notes and draws a sketch to make sure he is headed in the right direction. He then discusses the budget with the clients and whether their “wish list” might exceed the budget before he starts the design.

“After designing and installing over 3,000 residential projects, you learn how to create a really great plan, in a reasonable amount of time, that meets the budget,” says Dooley, “When you reduce the time spent creating the design, you also reduce the cost dramatically.”

According to Dooley, “independent” landscape designers may inflate the time spent drawing plans and scheduling more consultations than needed. This can result in a hefty design fee. “The problem with many landscape designers is that they have the reputation of being expensive. So most people don’t call a landscape designer, and try to figure it out on their own, with marginal results,” he says, “If you truly listen, take good notes, and do a simple sketch initally, there is no reason for it to get too expensive,” Dooley adds.

Dooley says people usually call two or three people for landscape designing and get a bid. The people you receive your bid from will normally charge you for the design. “The problem with this is that you’re obtaining three different plans from three different people with three different prices.

“The main goal should be finding a landscaper that has a great reputation, a plan that meets the customer’s needs and also has a reasonable price. Sometimes a landscaper will have a great plan but are too costly, or you like the price but you don’t like the plan,” says Dooley, “It can be frustrating when you find the plan you want and want to choose another contractor, but the designer won’t let you use their plan and have someone else — with a better price — install the job.”

To avoid that stress, Dooley recommends that you start by getting a plan you love and then obtain bids, just like you would do if you were having a new home built.

According to the Home Advisor website, “Costs for landscape designs will vary depending on the size and location of the project. On average, it will cost $4,200 to have a landscape designer create a detailed plan for your property.”

“My starting price is $350 for most plans and you own those ideas,” says Dooley. Corrections are rarely needed but if it is the case, he charges $85 per hour for his time. He also offers consultations and can assist picking out pottery and plants from growers at the same rate.

For those that want bids but don’t know where to turn, Dooley also refers contractors that he has used to do his own masonry work for many years. For designs that don’t include a lot of masonry work, he refers The Garden Nanny to bid the work. Since Mike has personally provided the training, he knows The Garden Nanny will do the job to his meticulus and demanding specifications.

If these trustworthy contractors then complete installations, THEY pay Dooley for the plan and the client pays NOTHING for the design and consultations. This solves the problem of high priced landscape designers.

“So that’s what this year is all about,” Dooley says, “It’s my transition from being a contractor to an “independent” designer turning out plans that people can purchase and have installed or install themselves.”

Dooley has an extensive reputation as a designer and even wrote a book on the subject, “Landscape Design for the Horticulturally Hopeless” is available on Amazon. Dooley has also been author of the “Landscaping Made Easy” column in New Mexico MarketPlace magazine for 7 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge and practical experience to every job he takes on.

For a quality landscape design at a reasonable price, call Dooley Landscape Designs at 400-0257 or visit



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