A Word about Foliage Gardens

by Sue Olsen



Who we are

Foliage Gardens is small retail mail order nursery specializing in hardy native and exotic ferns. It has been our passion and business since 1967. Our goal is to offer the best of the natives, unusual foreign species and traditional favorites to the fern loving public as well as newcomers to this fascinating area of the plant kingdom. Over the years we have offered our customers a tremendous variety of species and cultivars including many new introductions to the North American market. We are pleased that some that were once rare in the trade are now commonly offered at your neighborhood nursery. It has been our pleasure to encourage this growth in interest and to promote the use of a greater diversity of ferns in private and public gardens. May they thrive for us all!

We garden in the Puget Sound basin of the Pacific Northwest, an ideal growing area with a benign combination of reasonably temperate winters and comfortable summers sprinkled with the moisture that we all associate with growing ferns. Most of our material can be grown in colder or warmer climates, however, and appropriate zones and recommendations are noted in the catalog. For an especially coveted plant that is outside of your range we recommend experimenting with an eco-niche. It is called a “learning experience” and hopefully one that brings success (and perhaps some bragging rights)!

Our ferns are grown from spores, occasionally bulbils, or from tissue culture. All are nursery propagated and none are wild collected.


Foliage Gardens dates back to the summer of 1967 when I became enamored with a planting of Dryopteris erythrosora. Unable to find any of this now common fern for sale I decided to try growing a few from spores. Some 300 D. erythrosoras sprang to life and an addiction was born! One fern led to another and the small basement propagating table soon was replaced with sets of shelves. That lasted about as long as an empty garden bed and we soon added a “plant room”. After that filled up a greenhouse followed and so it continues!

At first the ferns were donated to local plant societies for their fund raising efforts, but as enthusiasm and interest expanded so did the need to officially open for business and so we did. (Foliage Gardens is the oldest mail order nursery for spore grown ferns in the U.S. according to Dr. John Mickel, Curator of Ferns, Emeritus at the New York Botanical Garden.)

While most nurseries in those days were offering but a smattering of collected native ferns, we soon discovered fern societies and better yet their spore exchanges. Their lists are a collector’s dream with an enticing selection of unusual foreign species, natives and traditional favorites. We were pleased and excited, then as now, to be able to grow these hardy exotics and introduce them to the American market (not to mention our garden). We offer no collected ferns - all are nursery propagated.

The nursery took on a new dimension in 1990 when husband Harry retired from the Boeing Co. and was able to indulge his love for Japanese maples and their cultivars. He selectively propagated the best of these and they first appeared in our catalog in 1992. He continued his research, photographic documentation and propagation until he passed away in 2001. We found growing maples and ferns to be incredibly complimentary and our years of sharing enthusiasm for our specialties were very rewarding and are sorely missed.

With the nursery, garden and our home all sharing approximately one half an acre, Foliage Gardens is small by modern standards – a delicatessen compared to a super market. We have no regular business hours and are open strictly by appointment. Visitors are indeed welcome. Please call well in advance and keep in mind that we are in the Pacific Time zone, so watch those early morning calls!!!!

May your garden always have room for at least one more fern! (several??)


Please, please note that we are open for visitors by appointment only. Please do not drop in unannounced. Also please note that we are unable to take phone or credit card orders.

Foliage Gardens
2003 128
th Ave. S.E.
Bellevue, WA 98005

Phone 425 747-2998
e-mail Foliageg@juno.com

Thank you for your business and happy growing!
- Sue Olsen


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