ILCA’s 2017 Man of the Year Bill Davids

Clarence Davids & Company President, Bill Davids
Bill Davids

“Like father, like son,” is a phrase that in many ways could be applied to this years Illinois Landscape Contractors Association Man of the Year. The honor that is being accorded, however, recognizes an individual that, while continuing in the family landscaping business that his dad launched back in 1951 and serving – as his father had – as a president of the ILCA, 2017 Man of the Year recipient Bill Davids has made his own mark on the company he now leads – and on the industry it serves.

Though Bill followed to a large degree in the footsteps of his father, company founder Clarence, each man had a distinct vision for the company, which they applied in steering the business – an enterprise which has won more than 200 awards on state and national levels for achievement in landscape design and maintenance. Recently, in 2015, the company was recognized with four awards in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Association’s Curb Appeal competition.

“We worked together many years,” relates the son, in recalling the familial collaboration. For his part, Bill Davids would pursue the design-build process, introducing a service offering that he believed was “necessary to go along with maintenance.” Today, the company is a full-service contractor offering a wide array of services from maintenance, design-build, installation, lawn care, snow removal and tree pruning to creating seasonal flower displays and providing holiday decor.

“Design always interested me,” says the younger Davids, who studied horticulture at Michigan State University. He conveys that in business such as the one in which he grew up – and grew into, “There’s a lot to learn.” He also acknowledges the senior Davids’ appreciation of this requisite to success. “My father thought education was important,” he relates. The current company president, in turn, carries the same outlook when it comes to developing employees. “We support further education,” he says. “As we’ve been blessed as the company grows, we bless other people with key positions.

A great example

The company also maintains a focus on environmental consciousness and sustainability, as well as expresses a commitment to providing a safe work place for employees, its customers and the general public. Impressive, too, is that fact that Bill Davids can name some big-time commercial clients that the company has maintained from the contractor’s early ventures into this market – an accomplishment that can be credited to company leadership.

Bill’s business leadership style has not gone unnoticed. Industry colleague, Jim Melka, who as founder of Melka Landscaping & Garden Center in Mokena, Ill., is another south suburban contractor observes, “The one word that comes to mind when thinking of Bill is ‘professionalism.’ It radiates throughout the entire company.”

Clarence Davids & Company has also maintained a long-time relationship with ILCA, a relationship that Bill values strongly. “ILCA has meant a lot to us over the years,” he says, citing learning opportunities the affiliation has afforded. He also expresses an appreciation of the affiliation with what he sees as some of the “most knowledgeable and largest landscaping firms in the United States.” It appears that fellow ILCA members have a mutual appreciation for Bill’s service to the association.

Preceding Bill as president of ILCA was Kenny Gallt, founder of Foliage Design Systems, Lombard, Ill. Gallt: “Bill is one of those quiet supporters of ILCA and the landscape industry. Through Bill’s leadership, he has grown Clarence Davids landscaping business into one of the most distinguished companies in the country. While doing this, Bill has found time to give to others in the community, and to ILCA as a past board member, office, and president.

“But more important, the association has always been able to call on Bill and his company for his support for talent for ILCA committees and participation in the ILCA programs,” Gallt continues. “Bill through his leadership sets a great example for anyone in this industry.”

A steady hand on the rudder

Frank Mariani, who leads Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Ill., served on the ILCA board with Bill, and shares some observations of Bill’s manner. “What I enjoyed most is his steady and consistent hand on the rudder. He always took the time to think before he spoke and for that reason his words carried a lot of weight,” relates Mariani. “I also admire Bill as he took over for this father Clarence, who was a well-respected legend in our industry and one of the founding members of ILCA. Those were big shoes to fill and Bill was and still is up to the job!”

Also serving on the board with Bill was Scott McAdam, president of McAdam Landscaping, Forest Park, Ill. “What I always remembered was that he was a quiet leader,” recalls McAdam. “He had a calm demeanor about him and was very thorough in his thought process. He always had the best interest of the industry, even before his company, no matter what issue was before the board. He was also very humble and well grounded. He was quite passionate about the industry and what the association could do to help move us to be a more professional organization.”

Perhaps Melka sums up why Davids is being recognized with the Man of the Year honor for 2016-17. “Bill has set the bar to provide the highest quality of service and integrity in the landscape maintenance industry,” declares Melka. “I am proud to be involved in a profession that has such as a dedicated and reputable individual like Bill Davids.”

NOTE: This article appears in the January 2017 edition of The Landscape Contractor. It was written by Barbara Dutton.


2016 has been a great year! We are extremely thankful to our clients and friends who have made our 65th anniversary a success!

Check out this highlight video of some of the projects we completed this year!

“Back to the Future with Clarence Davids & Company”

NOTE: The following article was written by Barbara Dutton and is an excerpt from the August edition of The Landscape Contractor.


     As this company enterprise celebrates 65 years in business, reflections on its early days and its enduring philosophies and practices are certainly due.

     The year was 1951. Automobile owners could expect to pay 19 cents a gallon for gas on their way home from work for an evening that might include watching an episode of newly debuted I Love Lucy, after puttering around their backyard – a prized aspect of a home in the rapidly developing suburbs of the post-World War II era.

     It was in this climate that Clarence Davids & Company was launched by Clarence Davids, Sr. The family-owned landscape management firm is now operating under its second generation of leadership, headed by Bill Davids, son of the founder. Having studied horticulture at Michigan State University and worked closely with his father in the business, the younger Davids now serves as the company’s president.

     He attributes the business’ endurance to sustaining an environment marked by customer satisfaction. “We owe our longevity to our customers,” he reflects. “We strive to establish partnerships with our clients by providing prompt, quality landscape services at fair competitive pricing.”

     The company’s client base consists of high-end residential, multi-family, industrial, commercial, and institutional property owners. Headquartered in Matteson, Illinois, with branch offices in Plainfield and Ingleside, the full-service contractor offers maintenance, design-build, installation, lawn care, snow removal, tree pruning and removal, seasonal flower displays and holiday decor services.

     Over the 65 years of its operation, Clarence Davids & Company has garnered more than 200 awards recognizing landscape design and maintenance achievements. Among these was a first-place accolade from the Chicago business group, the Magnificent Mile Association, in recognition of a winter/holiday display created by the landscape contractor. Davids makes proud reference to an Illinois Landscape Contractors Association honor recognizing the company as being the only business, of the original founding members of ILCA, still in operation.

     Client satisfaction, industry involvement, education, and employee retention appear to all have added up to a substantial legacy of success. “We look forward to continuing to provide beautiful, sustainable landscapes to our customers well into the future,” comments Bill Davids.

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Project Spotlight: Midway Plaisance

Clarence Davids & Company is proud to have installed countless landscapes throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. We have installed several gardens on the Midway Plaisance over the past few years. This site is now featured in the What’s Out There Chicago Guide from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The text below is an excerpt from the Guide.

The Midway Plaisance is a 90-acre linear park that includes a mile-long boulevard that links Washington and Jackson Parks. Designed in 1870 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and Calvert Vaux, the park was meant to feature a pleasure drive and an intricate canal system that would provide a water approach from Lake Michigan to the Washington Park mere, but this design was never realized.

In 1893, the Midway Plaisance was selected as the entertainment section of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Amusements such as the world’s first Ferris wheel were located here, as were exhibitions, foreign pavilions, and other attractions. After the exhibition closed, the site was redesigned by Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot to include drives lined with elm trees, walks, bridle paths, and an axial canal down the center (never built). A dry fosse currently marks where the canal would have been.

The Midway Plaisance cuts through the University of Chicago campus and has been improved over the last century. In 1999, Olin Partnership and Wolff Landscape Architecture worked with the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago, and local community members to develop a master plan for Midway Plaisance, resulting in designs for the Allison Davis Garden, a Winter Garden, Reader’s Garden, and an ice rink. Clarence Davids & Company received an award from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association in 2009 for our work on the Midway Plaisance.

Photo credit: Abbie Lydon
Photo credit: Abbie Lydon
Photo credit: Abbie Lydon
Photo credit: Abbie Lydon

Plant Combinations That Say Summer!

“For Summer, I have always loved using Allium ‘Summer Beauty.’ It is a great stand-along perennial, but part of its beauty is that it also works well with numerous other plants, which makes it so versatile,” says landscape designer Abbie Lydon.

One of Lydon’s favorite combinations is Allium angulosum ‘Summer Beauty’ with Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ and Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb.’ “Allium is a later summer bloomer – July into August, but by blending it with the stachys and coreopsis you get a great mix with color lasting from June well into August and September.’ she explains.

The coreopsis is the first to bloom. Beginning in June, it blooms profusely throughout the season. It has 1-2″ bright yellow flowers atop lacy foliage that gives the plant an airy texture. It grows in loosely rounded clumps 1-1.5′ tall in full sun.

Allium angulosum ‘Summer Beauty’ send up its 1.5-2″ round, lilac flowers from late June into late July. the plant grows 16-18″ tall with a similar spread at maturity in full sun. Its glossy, grass-like leaves offer a contrasting texture.

About the same time, Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ joins the flower show, strutting its stuff into mid-August with 2-3′ tall rosy-lavender spikes. Hummelo has slightly crinkled medium green foliage that develops in layers. It matures to 16-22″ tall with a spread of 10-12” and grows in full sun to light shade.

Palmisano2Lydon likes the way all three plants offer a pleasing textural contrast in their flowers and their foliage. “Combining all three makes a colorful display full of texture,” she says. “This combination is a wonderful way to get the most out of your summer season.”

This article appeared in The Landscape Contractor May 2014.

Paul Hughes Featured in Chicagoland Gardening Magazine

Paul Hughes, our material coordinator and buyer of annual color in the Fox Valley office, was recently featured in the Chicagoland Gardening Magazine. The article asked several plant experts about their favorite bulbs. According to Paul, the bulb that gets the most attention on our commercial sites is crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). He also really likes winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). Here is a link to the article online!

Check out the fritillaria (yellow up-side down looking flower) in front of the Crate and Barrel Store on Michigan Avenue. Our friends at Hoerr Schaudt designed this beautiful planting!
Check out the fritillaria (yellow up-side down looking flower) in front of the Crate and Barrel Store on Michigan Avenue. Our friends at Hoerr Schaudt designed this beautiful planting!

Abbie Lydon Featured in The Landscape Contractor

The Landscape Contractor May 2013
The Landscape Contractor May 2013

Abbie Lydon, landscape designer in Matteson, was featured in The Landscape Contractor earlier this year. She was asked to participate in the design exploration panel and develop a landscape design for an urban two-story duplex townhouse. The client for this project was a retired Chicago couple that wanted to transform the space into a modern retreat to unwind and entertain family and friends.

Full Site Plan
Full Site Plan


Abbie’s design for the front yard includes a natural bluestone entry with an infinity water feature made up of black granite slabs. The front yard also includes built-in seating made of a natural limestone veneer. There is also a fence with horizontal cables and a wooden railing that was designed to further define the space. The modern planters are filled with contrasting pops of annual color and are thoughtfully placed to enhance the design.


The backyard features an outdoor kitchen complete with a stainless grill, refrigerator, and warming drawer. There is also a firepit that is surrounded by built-in seating. The planting design in the back features an espalier Japanese Maple, with additional shrubs and perennials, including summer beauty allium, liriope, boxwood, and switch grass.