Botanical Garden Grants

Quarryhill Botanical Garden, an ACS Reference Garden and Grant Recipient

The Jean Iseli Memorial Grant

The American Conifer Society annually awards a $4,000 grant to a public garden, arboretum or horticultural institution that emphasizes the development, conservation or propagation of conifers, with an emphasis on dwarf or unusual varieties.

Jean Iseli was an ACS founder and conifer propagator. This award was established in 1986 to honor his name and memory.

Iseli Nursery pledges to grant the winner a 50% discount on any plants purchased in conjunction with this award, up to $8,000.

Grant Application

A successful application should contain the following:

  • Name, address, and phone number of the applicant and institution
  • Short overview of the mission statement or horticultural background of the institution
  • Brief description of the plans to utilize the funds
  • List of conifers to purchase
  • Budget

Note: Not more than 20% of the grant monies to be allocated to labor/staff time.

Deadline: Applications for 2022 must be received by March 19, 2022. The announcement of the grant recipient will be in April 2022.

Send applications by email or USPS to:
Ethan Johnson
39005 Arcadia Circle
Willoughby, Ohio 44094-7879
Email: Ethan Johnson

Reference Garden Grant

Each year the ACS awards a $3,000 grant to one of our Reference Gardens. These grants are used to expand or develop their conifer collections, provide signage or educational materials, among other projects.

Send inquiries to:

Debbie Merriam, Reference Garden Coordinator

inInformation on selected past Iseli Award winners:


University of Connecticut Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford, Connecticut, by Michael Harvey

Arborist Nick Pettit saw the need for better interpretation of the Bartlett Arboretum’s conifer collection and thus applied for the Iseli Award. After receipt of the award, plant labels and stakes were contracted. Volunteers have helped with the assembly of each label with its stake. As a result of the Iseli Award, over 300 taxa of conifers cultivated at the Bartlett Arboretum are now interpreted with a common name, scientific name and family name.

Part of the conifer collection contains a number of witches’ brooms that Dr. Sid Waxman, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Connecticut, had grown. He obtained some of them by shooting them out of trees using a shotgun. They include Pinus strobus, Tsuga canadensis and Sciadopitys, among others.


Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, by Andrew Bunting

The monies from the grant were used to update the display labels in the conifer collection. While many had display labels, there was a significant number that did not. At least one plant of each taxa in the collection was given a 3-inch by 5-inch engraved label created in-house with a Hermes Vanguard 3400 engraving machine. Each label includes the scientific name, common name and scientific family name.

The conifer collection is integrated into the entire arboretum, although significant portions of conifers are located in both the Pinetum and the Dwarf Conifer Collection planting. Currently there are 330 coniferous taxa, including the following genera: Abies, Araucaria, Calocedrus, Cedrus, Cephalotaxus, Chamaecyparis, Cryptomeria, Cunninghamia, X Cupressocyparis, Cupressus, Ginkgo, Glyptostrobus, Juniperus, Larix, Metasequoia, Microbiota, Picea, Pinus, Pseudolarix, Pseudotsuga, Sciadopitys, Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Taiwania,Taxodium, Taxus, Thuja, Thujopsis,Torreya and Tsuga.

The mission of the arboretum is to grow and display the best ornamental plants for the Delaware River Valley for gardeners of average means. Plants are acquired based on this mission. On a regular basis they add new species, cultivars and selections that have ornamental potential and promise.

Several genera have been recently curated. The curation process involves evaluating current collections, researching ornamental plants that are missing and procuring new plants. In the last 10 years the process has been completed for Abies, Cryptomeria, Cupressus, Picea and Pinus.

The conifer collection greatly supports the arboretum’s educational programs. Many lectures, workshops and seminars have focused on the collection. A self-guided tour/brochure titled “A Cast of Conifers” helps the interested homeowner see some of the best specimen conifers in landscape situations. Future plans include adding to the significant collections, evaluating lesser known coniferous genera and expanding under-represented genera such as Cupressus.

The Scott Arboretum is free and open to the public. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days of the year, making it one of the most accessible public gardens in the mid-Atlantic region.


Rotary Gardens, Janesville, Wisconsin, by Mark Dwyer

The award was used by Rotary Gardens to help develop its juniper collection. Over 40 varieties of Juniperus are now on display at the gardens, the majority of which are situated in the rugged rock garden. Rotary Gardens continues to develop its existing conifer collection with an emphasis on dwarf conifers as space becomes more limited. There are currently over 175 different conifers in the gardens.

1995 Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia, by Geri Laufer

The Atlanta Botanical Garden used the Iseli Award to add many conifer cultivars to its collection, including some new introductions to the United States. Twenty new conifers were imported from the Netherlands, including four cultivars of Podocarpus nivalis and several Van Hoey Smith selections. New species from China and some new cultivars of Cryptomeria japonica were also targeted. Some of the conifers were ordered directly from Iseli’s Nursery, bringing the grant full circle.


The Dawes Arboretum, Newark, Ohio, by Michael E. Ecker

The Iseli Award provided $500 to The Dawes Arboretum in 1994. Part of this grant was spent on five conifers from Hobbie and Associates, Loudenville, Ohio: blue star singleseed juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’), Iseli fastigiate Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Iseli Fastigiate’, seemed appropriate), Baker Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Bakeri’), a weeping form of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and weeping European larch (Larix decidua ‘Pendula’). The larch did not survive but the others are doing fine. The remainder of the money was spent for materials and manufacturing costs to make 165 Metalphoto labels for conifer specimens.

The collection now consists of 3,600 conifers encompassing 883 different taxa. Many of these are located in a 13.7-acre area fittingly called the Conifer Glen. Southwest of the glen are an additional two acres near Dawes Lake that serve as a spill-over for duplicate accessions.

In the next few years additions to the glen will include a wheelchair accessible trail to a very pretty overlook, bridges and boardwalk to cross a small stream and an observation/interpretive structure. Visit the Web site for Conifer Reports,


University of California-Davis Arboretum, Davis, California, by Diane Cary

The University of California-Davis Arboretum was founded in 1936 with the planting of a collection of California native trees, including Jeffrey and foothill pines (Pinus jeffreyi and Pinus sabiniana), incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), and coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Seedlings were donated by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Since that time, conifers have continued to form an important part of the plant collections and support the education and research missions of the arboretum.

Most of the conifers in the arboretum were planted in the early 1960s. The collection now includes 131 species and cultivars of conifers adapted to the local Mediterranean climate, distributed among the following genera: Abies (8), Callitris (6), Calocedrus (1), Cedrus (4) Cryptomeria (2), Cupressus (19), Cunninghamia (1), Glyptostrobus (1), Juniperus (34), Keteleeria (1), Metasequoia (1), Picea (1),
(47), Pseudotsuga (2), Taxodium (2), and Tetraclinis (1).

Among the uncommon conifers in the collection are four species of Callitris, the cypress pine native to Australia and Tasmania; a single specimen of Pere David’s pine (Keteleeria davidiana); lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana), a native of northern and central China, whose name reflects the tendency of the bark to flake off to reveal creamy white branches and trunks; Himalayan white pine (Pinus wallichiana), a beautiful soft-textured, graceful tree native to the Himalayas; Tetraclinis articulate, the arar tree and source of sandarac, a hard resin used in industry; and big-cone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), a handsome tree with long swaying branches, rarely found in cultivation.

The arboretum used the Iseli Award to label the conifer collection. Staff prepared labels using a photoengraving process and mounted them on the trees where possible, using special expansion screws, or on metal stakes. Part of this funding also supported the production of an interpretive sign in the conifer collection. The 18-inch x 24-inch sign was produced with a photographic process, imbedded in fiberglass, and mounted in a custom- fabricated stand.

The arboretum is most grateful for the support of the American Conifer Society for these important educational projects. The staff believes the value of a public garden as an educational resource depends as much on interpretation (plant labels, educational signs and exhibits and brochures) as on the strength of the collections. In fact, to the uninformed visitor, interpretive materials are all that distinguish a botanical garden or arboretum from a park. Interpretive displays provide access to the horticultural and botanical ideas that underlie the garden design. They increase awareness and appreciation of the natural world by pointing out the characteristics of a plant or the theme that guides a collection. Effective interpretation can expand the plant palette of gardeners and horticulturist, and educate the public to the impact of our life choices on the environment.

Full list of past award recipients:

2017 – Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Glen Ellen, CA

2016 – No award

2015 – Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA

2014 – No award

2013 – Montgomery Botanical Center, Coral Gables, FL & Atlanta Botanical Garden, GA

2012 – Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

2011 – No award

2010 – Charles Keith Arboretum, Chapel Hill, NC

2009 – Red Butte Garden, Salt Lake City, UT

2008 – Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, MI

2007 – Rotary Botanical Gardens, Janesville, WI

2006 – Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, PA

2005 – Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, CO

2004 – Illinois Central College, East Peoria, IL

2003 – Henry Schmeider Arboretum/Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, PA

2002 – Milwaukee area Technical College, Milwaukee, WI

2001 – Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville, NC

2000 – The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL

1999 – University of Connecticut Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford, CT

1998 – No award

1997 – Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA

1996 – Rotary Gardens, Janesville, WI

1995 – Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, GA

1994 – The Dawes Arboretum, Newark, OH

1993 – University of California-Davis Arboretum, Davis, CA