Staley practiced landscape architecture as John H. Staley & Associates beginning as early as 1939, when his firm produced the very useful reference Ornamental Plants of California. Following the war, in 1946, Staley joined with Ted Osmundson in the firm of Osmundson, Staley and Gibson with offices in Oakland and Los Altos. Gibson left the firm by 1949 and it then became Osmundson & Staley. The firm was active in Oakland’s annual Spring Garden Show and, in 1955, Staley designed the entire show around the theme of “Rainbow Waters,” a series of fountains. He was also the author of a small weekly garden design column for do-it-yourselfers in the Oakland Tribune. Staley left the firm in 1965-66 and again began doing business as John Staley & Associates. In 1967, his firm was responsible for the master plan for California State College at Hayward.