James P. Folsom, who has served as director of the botanical gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens for more than 30 years, will retire at the end of the year, the facility announced Tuesday.
“Jim’s indelible imprint on The Huntington is everywhere,” Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence said in a statement. “It can be seen in the gardens he has built, the botanical collections he has developed, the relationships he has nurtured with donors, and in the passion for the natural world that he has shared enthusiastically through programs for young and old.
“Any description of his duties fails to capture the totality of Jim’s legacy, but it is anything but a platitude to say that his legacy lives on. We will miss the contributions of The Huntington’s one-of-a kind Pied Piper of botany,” she said.
Folsom has been in charge of the botanical gardens for 36 years. He spearheaded the development of the library’s ornate and celebrated Chinese gardens. The first phase opened in 2008 with the Liu Fang Yuan — The Garden of Flowering Fragrance, originally 3.5 acres but now covering 15 acres. The newest features of the gardens are scheduled to open Oct. 9.
According to the library, the Chinese gardens are a “world-class attraction that not only celebrates the height of Ming dynasty-era garden building, but also embodies the contemporary ideals of international cooperation and cross-cultural exchange.”
The $54.6 million development cost was covered by individual, corporate and foundation gifts.
Folsom joined the Huntington staff in 1984 as assistant curator and was named director of the Botanical Gardens in 1987. He oversees a staff of 81, charged with the stewardship, care and interpretation of more than a dozen thematic gardens covering 130 acres of the 207-acre grounds and conducting research among the specialized plant collections.