"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
That’s what one of the framed motivational posters says in the small, informal conference room of Tom Anderson’s business, Landscape Services.
"We never say we have a problem here," the 50-year-old Las Vegas native said. "We have a situation and we’ll take care of the situation."
Anderson, who started working in landscaping in 1972, said he’s done every job from a planter box in a backyard to an $8 million landscape project at Peccole Ranch.
"I really feel that landscaping is my life and part of who I am," he said. "I understand the plants and the climate and the circumstances."
Landscape Services, at 35 W. Mayflower Ave. in North Las Vegas, employs more than 160 workers and specializes in custom residential and commercial landscaping. Anderson said he’s created a culture of professionalism, honesty and reliability since establishing the company in 1992.
His workload has been built on repeat business and negotiated jobs rather than open bids. His customers know they’ll be treated fairly and the work will be done on time and on budget, he said.
"You hear all these horror stories where they started on the backyard and didn’t finish because there’s a bigger job somewhere else," Anderson said.
Question: You see a lot of immigrant landscapers in Las Vegas with a pickup and a lawnmower. How do you compete with those guys on price?
Answer: I don’t. I can’t compete with them. Our custom residential has a high-end minimum and our commercial jobs are bid to more professional general contractors who require professional subcontractors. We don’t do $4,000 and $2,000 jobs. But the plans I showed you, they can’t compete with us. We put together a team for a custom house with the pool company, the pavers, the concrete guys, custom barbecue, patio covers. We give them a critical path and get the job done.
Question: How much does it cost on average to landscape a yard?
Answer: How much does it cost to buy a car? Is it a Kia or a Rolls(-Royce)? Typically our minimum for custom residential is $30,000. We’ve got a $70,000 job in Southern Highlands. That includes the trees, the grass, barbecue, lighting, all the water features. As I said, I can’t compete on the $2,000 job with the guys off the corner. I pay $100,000 for the privilege of being a licensed contractor. They don’t.
Question: You’ve done work for KB Home, Del Webb and Toll Brothers. Has the housing slowdown hurt your business?
Answer: For production housing, of course. We’re down 25 percent to 30 percent. However, our commercial division is up.
I think that landscape is more important than ever because we have to make new houses attractive to buyers without raising prices.
Question: How brutal is landscape work during the summer here?
Answer: It’s brutal. The heat gets to the men. We lose a good 20 percent in productivity. Equipment breaks down more and plant material is stressed for those two months. We can go inside. They’ve got to take it. That’s our highest mortality rate. We guarantee our plants.
Question: What are your favorite plants?
Answer: I know just about every plant you can think of and I can even spell its Latin name and tell you about its history. My favorite plants will change when I design a specific area because I do love plants.
Question: For example?
Answer: Roses. I have a rose garden. I get up on Friday and trim the roses and make a bouquet for the house.
Question: Why don’t people in Las Vegas convert to desert landscaping?
Answer: They are and they’re doing it by the droves. I’ve got to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority a big thumbs-up on that. We have a crew that does conversions for HOAs (homeowners associations) and apartments. It’s not going so slowly. I think people in Las Vegas are getting it. All you’ve got to do is drive out to Lake Mead and it’ll slap you in the face when you see the water line. I would say 10 or 15 years ago, it was difficult to sell desert landscape. There was grass everywhere. Now it’s difficult to sell oasis, not that I want to.
Question: What’s oasis?
Answer: Oasis is your traditional green landscaping with a lawn and water-loving plants. Las Vegas is a unique community. We have to put off a special look and special feel about it because of the worldwide attention we get. When we do our designs, we want to be conscious of the tight water situation. We have to be water smart, yet we still have to design landscapes that appeal. But properly designed xeriscape can have a better look than oasis.
Question: What’s xeriscape? Is it different than desert landscape?
Answer: Xeriscape is low water usage. It’s a more indigenous design of landscape that’s more suited to our desert environment.
There are tricks and procedures to the design using mounding and different sizes and colors of rocks that create dimension and texture to show off the more colorful desert plants in a way that enhances the landscape. I prefer xeriscape to oasis. Desert plants are more colorful and tend to flower more than oasis plants, they’re just not as green.
Question: You grew up here. How does the new Las Vegas compare to old Las Vegas? Some people say old Las Vegas was better.
Answer: I think Las Vegas is a better city today than it was in the ’70s and ’80s. I think it was incomplete. If you were to walk into a casino, you might say that because it was small and friendly. Maybe there were only six tables. But as far as living here, there were not as many parks, the streets weren’t landscaped, the schools are better, there’s more things to do. I think the actual civic atmosphere is better now. I just don’t like the way people drive, that’s all.VITAL STATISTICS Name: Tom Anderson. Position: Owner, Landscape Services. Age: 50. Quotable: "Las Vegas is a unique community. We have to put off a special look and special feel about it because of the worldwide attention we get. When we do our designs, we want to be conscious of the tight water situation." Family: Wife; Donna; sons, Kyle and Nathan. Education: Las Vegas High School; Clark County Community College; Truckee Meadows Community College; University of Nevada, Reno; University of Nevada, Las Vegas (landscape architecture); Chicago Graduate School of Business (accounting). Work history: Started as landscape laborer in Las Vegas in 1972; became foreman at Reno Green Landscaping in 1975 and superintendent in 1978; project manager at Blazing Star Landscaping in 1980; received contractor’s license in 1982; general manager of Jaramillo Landscape in 1989; founded Landscape Services in 1992. Hobbies: Riding all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and snowmobiles; outdoor activities. Favorite book: "Hunt for Red October," by Tom Clancy. Hometown: Las Vegas. In Las Vegas since: 1957. Landscape Services is at 35 W. Mayflower Ave. and can be reached at 386-5477.