Spring Gardening Inspiration, hosted by Darien Garden Club

On Saturday, March 10, Chicago Living Corridors was an exhibitor at the Darien Garden Club’s Spring Gardening Inspiration.  This event had 115 registrants and 11 exhibitors. The volunteers did a terrific job of planning, from greeting the exhibitors at the entrance to offer assistance, to providing an array of refreshments and lunch, and  wonderful perks. The best goody bag ever and a plant arrangement at every table. There were over thirty baskets of raffle prizes.

Of course, the speakers are the essential part of a good program, and the keynote was given by Dr. Abigail Derby Lewis, Senior Conservation Ecologist, Senior Program Manager, Chicago Region, Field Museum of Natural History.  “What You Plant Matters: the collective impact of urban habitat on people and nature.” She showed maps and graphs diagraming the amount of available open land in the Chicago region, and the opportunities that exist for increasing the habitat for monarchs. The challenges created by climate change were a major focus of her presentation, and the resulting impact on invasives, diseases, flooding, biodiversity, and mismatching of “pheno-phase”.  (meaning that plants will bloom too early due to warmer temperatures and not be available when the insects/birds arrive that depend on those plants.)

She recommended actions that can be taken to withstand the changes, and stressed the need for improving the health of the landscape: tree planting initiatives and the Biodiversity Recovery Plan of Chicago Wilderness were two examples.  Planting native habitat on private property was a key objective, and lines up perfectly with the mission of Chicago Living Corridors.

After the keynote, there were two tracks, with two speakers on native plant subjects and two speakers on vegetable gardening.

The variety of exhibitors was also a great feature – including tables for Conservation@Home, The Indian Prairie Public Library, Sunny Patch Farm, the Forest Preserves of DuPage County, a Seed Library (I missed the full name, but a terrific idea),  Downers Grove Organic Gardeners, the Garden Clubs of Illinois organization, and Wild Ones of Greater DuPage, as well as a table for the host organization and a few others.

The Darien Garden Club has a number of members that are growing native plants in their home gardens, and the club stands out as a leader in the garden club universe.  Chicago Living Corridors was very pleased to have been invited to exhibit at this function, and meet some of the principals of the Darien Garden Club. We will be exploring creating a connection between the garden club and CLC.  

Habitat Products and Services Directory

Listed here are businesses and organizations that provide products and services for creating native plant gardens and natural habitats on private land in the CLC Chicago Region.

See here for a list of Product and Service Providers that have not yet created an entry in the directory database.


Guidelines and Criteria


Habitat can be defined as land that supports ecosystem services such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation, carbon sequestration, air quality and human benefit. Habitat can be multi-acre tracts, called mosaic, along waterways or right-of-ways, called linear, or small parcels when in proximity are called stepping stone habitat.

The value of habitat increases when enlarged and/or contiguous to form a greenway or corridor. Since so much land in the Chicago area is privately owned, there is more opportunity to expand habitat by engaging property owners to improve and link their land into viable habitat corridors.

Criteria for Viable Habitat

Habitat that provides ecosystem services includes:

  • Native plants- forbs, grasses, trees and shrubs
  • Water management-rain barrels, rain gardens, erosion control, water-loving plants, rain-permeable pavement/walkways, lake/stream bank buffer
  • Wildlife habitat-sources of food for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, nesting sites, water sources, shelter
  • Control of invasive species
  • Reduced/minimal turf grass lawn
  • Earth-friendly maintenance practices-minimal use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, composting, appropriate mulching

The scope of these elements will vary with the size and location of the property. A small lot may have only a few native trees and shrubs, with perhaps a border garden of native plants. It could support a birdbath, a birdhouse and feeders and eliminate pesticides and fertilizer. A large lot- perhaps an acre or more- should aim to eliminate invasives and replace them with native shrubs and trees; over time replace the amount of lawn with native grasses and forbs and replace lawn under trees with native shade plants, native groundcovers or leaf mulch. In all cases, soil should be amended with compost, not fertilizer.


CLC will have available checklists of native plants for specific conditions, sources of native plants and seeds, maps of area preserves and privately-owned habitat restorations, established habitat development programs, and lists of experts to tap for advice or assistance in developing or improving habitat on private property.

Sample Criteria Checklist (PDF)



Chicago Living Corridors promotes the idea that private landowners can be instruments of change by restoring natural habitat corridors between protected conservation areas in order to:

  • improve biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • diminish the effects of climate change


Volunteer with the CLC Organization

Join our effort. Our current areas of focus are:  Outreach, Marketing, Criteria, Mapping, Website, Fundraising and Strategic Planning.

Help is also needed with writing, communicating, social media (Facebook, Twitter, website posts), newsletter, website page content and admin, responding to inquiries in your geographic area, tabling at events, reaching out to garden clubs, and general admin support. Technical assistance in website support, mailmerge (for postal mailings), Google mapping, etc., also welcome.

To get involved with CLC, contact us at info@chicagolivingcorridors.org. Tell us about your interests or organization, and provide contact info.

Join a CLC Partner Organization

Many private landowners have created native habitat on their property.  See here for an interactive map of some of those who have registered their native habitat.

The CLC partner organizations listed below promote the use of native plants and natural habitats on private landscapes. Become involved in the natural landscaping movement in your community. Join one of the organizations listed, or start your own organization, and tell CLC about it.

Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee (WPPC)
The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee is a non-profit organization dedicated to:

  • Promoting the use of native plants in the landscape through preservation, propagation, and education
  • Advocating the conservation of open space, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat,
    scenic resources, and water in McHenry County and neighboring areas for the benefit of the general public
  • Engaging in and otherwise promoting the scientific study of and educating the public regarding local natural resources

Most of our members are in McHenry County.

The Conservation Foundation (TCF)
The Conservation Foundation is a non-profit land and river protection organization founded in 1972. The support of more than 3,500 members and 500 volunteers helps us carry out our mission to preserve and restore open space and natural lands, protect rivers and watersheds, and promote stewardship of our environment in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois.

West Cook Wild Ones (WCWO)
West Cook Wild Ones promotes the use of native plants and natural landscapes.

Citizens for Conservation (CFC)
Citizens for Conservation is a 45 year old volunteer organization in the Barrington area whose mission is “Saving Living Space for Living Things through protection, restoration, and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources and education.

  • Our Habitat Corridors program promotes planting native plants and earth-friendly yard practices. Knowledgeable volunteers visit home properties in the northwest suburbs to provide recommendations.
  • Our annual native plant sale, held the first weekend of May, provides a huge selection of local ecotype forbs, grasses, shrubs and trees.

Our websites, Citizensforconservation.org and Habitatcorridors.org provide many resources for individuals.

Map of CLC Partner Organizations

Citizens for Conservation is active throughout McHenry, Lake, Kane and DuPage counties.  Each of the other organizations listed above does not have a fixed membership boundary, but does tend to be centered as shown on the map below.


You can explore all of the site locations for each of the CLC organizations here (Google map).

Tell Us About Your Organization

Is your organization not listed above, but is helping private landowners to support pollinator populations, conserve clean water, increase biodiversity and restore soil? We would like to hear about it. Please contact us at info@chicagolivingcorridors.org. The CLC support region includes the counties in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana listed below.


Boone Kenosha
Cook Racine
DeKalb Walworth
DuPage Waukesha
Iroquois IN
Kane Jasper
Kankakee Lake
Kendall LaPorte
Lake Marshall
LaSalle Newton
Livingston Porter
McHenry St. Joseph
Will Starke