How to Become a Reference Garden

The purpose of the ACS Reference Garden Program is to provide public access to a wide variety of conifer collections throughout the United States that will:

  • Educate gardening groups, such as Master Gardeners, botanical organizations and the general public about growing conifers
  • Familiarize gardeners with new varieties of conifers
  • Demonstrate conifer uses in the home landscape and provide inspiration as to uses of conifers in the garden
  • Promote new memberships and build enthusiasm among current American Conifer Society members
  • Promote new institutional memberships in the ACS, and closer relationships between those member institutions and the ACS.


To participate in the ACS Reference Garden Program, a garden must be sponsored by a group of current ACS members, the garden must initially meet certain specified criteria and annually must submit a short summary of their conifer-related activities for the prior year.

The ACS members sponsoring the garden may NOT be employees of the garden.

Guidelines for Garden Participation:

  • The Garden must be a current Institutional Member of the ACS.
  • The Garden must be not-for-profit and open to the public at least 40 hours per week.
  • The conifer collection must have at least 30 conifers representing a minimum of eight genera.
  • The collection does not have to be in a designated conifer-only garden but may be spread throughout the property.
  • The plants must be accurately labeled as to genus, species and cultivar.
  • The garden must be properly maintained (weeded, pruned and mulched).
  • The garden must display ACS membership materials.
  • The Garden must agree to submit a short annual summary of their conifer-related activities (format to be provided by their ACS Region) each year by the designated deadline.
  • Once designated as a Reference Garden, the participating Garden may complete and submit a Grant Request to expand their current collection, enhance their conifer program through educational programs, more descriptive signage or additional educational materials.

Reference Garden Application

The ACS Sponsor Role:

To participate in the ACS Reference Garden program, a Garden must be sponsored by a small group (2-4) of current ACS members. The Sponsor will:

  • Provide the Garden with the Reference Garden Application and review it for accuracy and completeness before submitting it. A physical review of the grounds and signage must be completed before the application can be submitted.
  • Work with the appropriate people at the Garden to determine the best way to showcase the conifer collection to visitors (updated plant lists and maps, additional front desk information, docent/volunteer training about the conifer collection, etc).
  • Physically review the Reference Garden on an annual basis to ensure that the required criteria are being met.
  • Work with the appropriate person at the Garden to complete the Annual Reference Garden Summary and report on the garden status by submitting the annual summary and photos to the ACS Sponsor.
  • Act as the liaison between the Reference Garden and the local Region of the American Conifer Society.

The ACS Sponsor group MAY NOT contain current garden employees.

The ACS Role:

The American Conifer Society will:

  • Provide Reference Gardens with ACS Membership brochures
  • List all Reference Gardens on the ACS website (with links) and in any appropriate literature

published by the ACS.

  • Publicize all Reference Gardens when possible and appropriate.

  • Review all Reference Garden applications approve those gardens that meet the criteria.
  • Review the Annual Summary submitted by the Reference Garden to ensure that the Garden continues to meet all participation requirements.
  • Review all grant requests and award appropriate amounts to those requests deemed most appropriate.