James Folsom

Marge and Sherm Telleen/Marion and Earle Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens

James Folsom, Marge and Sherm Telleen/Marion and Earle Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens


James Folsom, the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens, joined The Huntington staff in 1984, serving as assistant curator before becoming director in 1987. As director of The Huntington’s gardens, Folsom oversees more than a dozen thematic gardens covering 120 acres of the 207-acre grounds and serves as visionary and project head for the development of new gardens and botanical facilities and restoration of historic gardens and maintenance. He dedicates much of his effort at The Huntington to educational programs that increase public interest and understanding of the science, culture, and history of plants and gardens.


Under his purview are about 85 staff members, including 10 curators, 40 gardeners, and numerous technicians and other staff as well as more than 100 volunteers who maintain the botanical collections, provide interpretive programs for visitors, and propagate plants.


Some of the most notable achievements under Folsom’s leadership have been the design and construction of a botanical research and education facility (45,000 square feet; 2001), The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science (18,000 square feet; 2003), the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden (one acre; 2004), the Chinese garden, Liu Fang Yuan, or the Garden of Flowing Fragrance (3.5 acres; 2008); and the Huntington Ranch (15 acres; 2010); as well as the renovation and expansion of the Japanese Garden (nine acres; 2012).


He also has added invaluable botanical collections to The Huntington, including, most recently, more than 5,000 orchids donated by the family of the late collector and grower S. Robert Weltz that will help The Huntington become a center for orchid conservation. The late Frances L. Brody, a champion of The Huntington’s gardens since the 1990s, worked closely with Folsom, playing a critical role in launching the Chinese garden’s fundraising effort and eventually naming The Huntington a major beneficiary of her estate, resulting in a gift of more than $100 million to the institution in 2010.


Folsom received his bachelor’s degree in botany from Auburn University, a master’s degree in biology from Vanderbilt University, and a doctorate in botany from the University of Texas at Austin. His academic research centered on the orchid family, with much time spent in Central and South America—including a year in Colombia on a Fulbright Predoctoral Fellowship. He has published numerous articles for scholarly and lay audiences and has curated exhibitions at The Huntington on topics ranging from orchids to Carl Linnaeus.


The American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta presented him with a Professional Citation in 1999, and the Garden Club of America awarded him a Medal of Honor in 2007. He was recognized as a Friend of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America in 1996 and as a Member-at-Large of the Garden Club of America in 1998.


Folsom lives on the grounds of The Huntington, where he and his wife have reared their two children.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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