Spring Is Coming on; Come on Out

Spring Is Coming on; Come on Out

The Quarry Gardens will open two weeks early with wildflower walks for groups of 10 or fewer. To join us, just go to quarrygardensatschuyler.org  and sign up on the Visit page. We’ll assemble at the picnic pavilion and walk the trails. Anyone who wants to stay outside can do so, others can use the visitors’ center if they wish. A Spring is a terrible thing to waste.



Conditions were almost perfect (moderate temperature, dry leaf litter, light winds) for fires at The Quarry Gardens this week. Blazes swept over the three parking lot islands—which surveys have found to be extremely biodiverse—and over the prairie beneath the platform overlook between the two quarry pools. These prescribed burns have been planned for awhile and are likely to be repeated every few years.   

If successful, they will help us manage such overabundant natives as blackberry, greenbrier, Virginia pine, red cedar, and beech, and non-natives such as fescue and Japanese honeysuckle. At the same time, burning may encourage some long-dormant and rare plants to wake up and grow—all while preserving our fire-adapted and fire-tolerant species such as oaks and hickories.

Devin Floyd and his properly certified Center for Urban Habitats  team coordinated the burn, led by Ryan Lepsch, a Crozet Volunteer Firefighter who arranged for the required permits, assisted by Jessie Wingo and Rachel Floyd.

After leaf litter was raked from vulnerable plants, Ryan outlined  burn areas using a flame-dripping torch filled with corn-based eco-fuel. The thin layer of natural fuel on the ground, plus higher than ideal humidity at 60%, kept the flames low. These areas are Piedmont Ultramafic Woodland and Southern Piedmont Hardpan Forest, about which more information may be found at quarrygardensatschuyler.org/gardens.

There is such a thing as too many trees, a condition common in today’s forests where many young saplings share nutrients. This condition contributes to stress and disease and prevents the best trees from growing healthier and larger. Small fires like these can help to create more dynamic forests with stronger, healthier trees.

And then the wind shifted…and some of our young spectators went home smelling like country hams.
This prairie sits atop a depth of some 150 feet of discarded soapstone boulders between the two quarry pools. Trash was removed from the surface, a skin of soil applied and 70 species of locally native sun plants added in 2015-16. The North Quarry pool is visible to the right of Devin.

We’re looking forward to fresh new growth in coming weeks.




Where Has the Winter Gone?

Where Has the Winter Gone?

Our wonderful volunteers have braved four blustery February Fridays to begin  spring clean-up—removing excessive leaf litter and standing biomass from the plant galleries. Replacing seedheads with stubble has the effect of making everything look worse for awhile. But there’s reason for hope as this tiny, lone February 28 moss phlox blossom shows. 
Here, Taylor Randolph, Laura Sorenson, Ron Fandetti, and Rachel Floyd are clearing a section of a parking island for new growth.
And here is a pile of debris on its way to becoming compost.

We’ll open officially for tours on April 11. In the meantime, there’s lots more to do, including pruning and some planting. Rachel, our consulting hands-on horticulturalist, will be here directing volunteer activities Friday mornings March 13, 20, and 27. If you’d like to join the party, we’d love to have you. Just let Bernice know via the website’s Contact button or at bernice.thieblot@gmail.com

A Cultural Landscape!

A Cultural Landscape!

A fine article about the Quarry Gardens is featured in the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s current newsletter:  https://tclf.org/quarry-gardens-schuyler  

The foundation, located in Washington DC., was unknown to us until recently when a kind visitor referred us to its leadership, and we learned a bit about its mission. By “connecting people to places,” the foundation seeks to raise awareness of the irreplaceable value of the landscapes that shape the country, and to empower stewards of those landscapes. 

The foundation’s online database of more than 2,100 sites, 1,200 designer profiles, and 12,000 images is a treasure trove of information about What’s Out There in the U.S. and Canada. Searchable by landscape name, locale, designer, type, and style, it is a fascinating read and an inspiring resource for travelers and conservationists. 

Included in the site are What’s Out There Cultural Landscape Guides to significant landscapes in 17 cities, five produced in partnership with the National Park Service. (Fifty-nine landscapes are described and pictured for Richmond.) Through its Landslides program the site also highlights endangered landscapes.

We hope you will enjoy the article as well as some time spent on the https://tclf.org website. 

Photo courtesy UVA Library Special Collections

Looking Back . . .                 And Forward

Looking Back . . . And Forward

During 2019, some 1400 native plant enthusiasts, geologists, naturalists, environmental science educators, school and college classes, professional landscapers, birders, history buffs, hikers, and photographers visited—taking 108 tours. The featured photo shows a few of the 49 Charlottesville homeschoolers who visited in April. Visitors came from throughout the Commonwealth and wherever Virginians have friends or family.

Starting February 1 with spring clean-up, a growing corps of volunteers contributed more than 300 hours to make visitors’ experience educational as well as enjoyable. Besides guiding visitors, volunteers assist the Center for Urban Habitats team in planting, grooming, and managing invasive species. Volunteers include Piedmont Master Gardeners, Master Gardeners of Nelson County, Rivanna Master Naturalists, and Central Blue Ridge Master Naturalists. A growing roster of Friends supports the Gardens with membership fees, gifts in kind, and volunteer service.

In February, Mountain Press released Albert Dickas’s Virginia Rocks! A Guide to Geologic Sites in the Old Dominion. The book includes The Quarry Gardens among 50 “compelling and accessible” sitesVirginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy also included QGs in its guide to notable geologic sites.

The Nelson & Albemarle Railroad exhibit was completed and the train is running. An exhibit of minerals and artifacts found on the site has been put in place. Bluebird nest boxes, part of a collection Paul Davis built using woods of each of Virginia’s native tree species, have been added; those made of woods found at QGs are on exhibit, others are for sale in Visitor Center.

Devin Floyd, here with Dr. Mary Jane Epps, led a summer survey by the CUH team of areas around the parking lot, and found them extremely rich in plant diversity including trees more than 200 years old. The total of plant and animal species now exceeds 950 of which 56 are Nelson Country firsts. QGs now has the largest documented number of native plant species of any botanical garden in Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Mycological Society continued to meet and foray each month, adding new fungi species to the QGs biota and sharing data with the North American Mycoflora Project. 

Brothers Ezra and Theo Staegl, of the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club, led a walk here for the public in May and designated the QGs a site for a Rarities Roundup in October. So far, 80 species of birds have been spotted. In other news, 39 young bluebirds fledged from the nine nest boxes tended by members of the Bluebird Society.

During 2020, we look forward to completing the picnic pavilion rising on the lawn between the Visitor Center and the Overlook. Under a metal roof matching the VC, it will accommodate 40 for lunches and other events needing tables—the same number as the classroom. We’ll also be completing a deer exclosure along the lower trail to protect plant species the animals can’t resist. We’ll be planting two more prairies, one along the entrance road, the other around the research beds, which have been planted with various grass seeds and blends.

And, finally, we’ll be looking for new ways The Quarry Gardens can realize the potential of their distinctive site.  

We wish you all the best for the New Year—and hope to see you at The Quarry Gardens.