Grafting conifers legacy-where the beauty of nature meets the artistry of man

As a tree nursery forester, I am always in search of new ways of improving my work and conifer grafting is undoubtedly the most noble and inspiring of them all. It combines dendrology knowledge, seedling behaviour, practical skills and a true determination in giving life to rare, miniature, dwarf or witch broom conifers.

Across the world, tree nurseries are focused in grafting a wide selection of conifer varieties, mainly focusing on size, shape and color features. According to Encyclopedya of Conifers, which is the reference book of any grafter, there are documentated over 8000 cultivars and all of world’s 615 conifer species, plus their subspecies and varieties, but the real number of conifer cultivars is much higher, due to the cultivar explosion in the last years, based on witch’s broom findings.

In US, one of the most important grower of dwarf conifers, Japanese maples, ornamental trees and shrubs is Iseli Nursery, which are working hard to provide 12 months of color to gardens all over the country. Their trademark, “Where the beauty of nature meets the artistry of man”, which is the title of this post, reflects a grafting philosophy which applies not only for this nursery but for all conifer grafters around the world. Their founder, Jean Iseli, a mathematician, started his passion for plants in 1975, trying to communicate with other plant collectors worldwide and trying to convince his nursery employees to grow more plants and experiment unique grafts, in promise of a bright future. That future came, but not during his life, as Jean passed away few years before his work was fully professional and  financial recognized, in 1986, near his propagation greenhouse,  as he struggled all his life in expanding facilities and plant production. Nowadays, his dream is carried on and his legacy inspires conifer growers around the world. (For more info about the tree nursery you can visit


Jean Iseli, Founder of Iseli Nursery and an insight in his Memorial Display Garden from Boring, Oregon, US. Photo credit:

In Europe, grafting nurseries are widespread across most countries, though their number is very small, producing conifer varieties that end in private collections and gardens of plant lovers. One of the most important grafting tree nurseries from eastern Europe is located in Danceni, Ialoveni, near Chisinau, Moldova Republic. The nursery, founded by Iurii Dnestreanskii over 15 years ago, is the home of more than 1000 varieties of grafted conifer and hardwood plants, exhibited in a unique layout that brings together a wide range of plant colours, shapes and sizes. Iurii’s nursery saw the first rays of sun in the dawn of 2003, when his passion for plants inherited as previously working in the Botanical Garden from Chisinau inspired him to start on a long and hard road, but so beautiful and full of gratitude. Now, he’s philosophy  of “Growing plants for the soul” is inspiring the young generation of grafters, who are so fortunate to step his nursery,  becoming a way of living on which so many private gardens benefit through the amazing plants grafted by him. (Visit for more pictures of the tree nursery).


Iurii Dnestreanskii’s tree nursery from Danceni, Ialoveni, near Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. Photo credit: Iurii Dnestreanskii and Sorin T. Schiop

One of the youngest conifer grafting nurseries from Europe is located in Albac, Romania. At Ferma de Brazi tree nursery, first grafts were successfully performed in 2017, using as root-stock own Picea abies and Abies alba seedlings, as the nursery is a wholesale conifer supplier for the reforestation industry in the country. For this year, hundreds of plants were grafted, with promising results, in several trial experiments which were performed in one of the greenhouses. The nursery’s plans for the future include an exponential increase of production on grafted plants, thus expanding the offer of conifer species on a Romanian market which is dependent on imports.  Ferma de Brazi nursery is investing every year in creating new greenhouses and tree nurseries in Apuseni Mountains, Romania, and also diversifying the conifer species and varities grown in its nurseries, mainly propagated through seeds, with plans of increasing production for the next years. (For more data about Ferma de Brazi tree nursery you can visit or Facebook page


Grafting on Picea abies and Abies alba rootstock at Ferma de Brazi tree nursery, Albac, Romania. Photo credit: Sorin T. Schiop

Conifer grafting brings together the beauty of nature and artistry of man in private collections and gardens worldwide, thus highlighting a “hidden legacy” that is passed through generations of grafters.

Cover photo: Conifer grafting at Ferma de Brazi tree nursery in Albac, Romania. Photo credit: Sorin T. Șchiop


About the Author:

Sorin T. Schiop

Forestry engineer working in a Romanian forest district. He has a PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding, with most of the research conducted at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. His expertise includes genetic diversity and biochemical response of Norway spruce seedlings to salt and drought stress, greenhouse and nursery production of conifer seedlings (seed and grafting), forestry management.

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