Reserve a Tour Now!

Reserve a Tour Now!

 (The featured photo is of marsh marigold blooming in Whispering Waters Wetland.)

The Quarry Gardens events calendar and online reservation form is up—and we look forward to seeing you soon! (Thanks to Sara Elizabeth, our website builder and first volunteer Friend of the Quarry Gardens.)

To reserve a free tour online, go to, click Visit, then Events Calendar; choose your month and event (through June 18, so far), and RSVP with the number of persons in your party. If you want to reserve an event for an established group—such as a native plants, gardening, or industrial history organization—use the Contact form to request a date.

Many have asked when we’ll have our “grand opening.” We’re actually not going to have one, but plan a “soft opening,” instead, guided by the knowledge that the site is better experienced with a small group. Tours for individuals on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons, will start in May and continue until November. In late April, we’ll have a private Open House for families of those who have been involved in building the gardens and Visitor Center. And we’ll have six tours on Saturday, May 6, for the Nelson County Historical Society’s biannual tour of historic sites. (For that day, purchase tickets from the Historical Society.)

As to our readiness, time has somewhat overtaken us. The plants know their schedule, and will be abundant in May and June, although spring ephemerals have already begun appearing and will continue through April. Many plants are still being added to the 40,000 already installed. The Visitor Center is coming together. We have a working classroom, restroom, and water cooler. We expect to have a map of the garden galleries and a soapstone exhibit soon, and the Nelson and Albemarle Railroad model to be running in a few weeks. Most plant- or animal-related exhibits in the Visitor Center will wait until we’ve had a full season to observe and photograph.

Some of the plants already in evidence are spring beauty, skunk cabbage, round-lobed hepatica

So, we’re a work in progress (and likely always will be).  Come see it happening!


Sign of Progress

Sign of Progress

Our permanent sign is up. Neighbor and soapstone artisan Mark McQuarry spent Friday completing it. On the face of the soapstone boulder he had smoothed earlier, he first masked off areas surrounding the Quarry Gardens logo;
then he incised the letters by sandblasting;
finally, he sprayed paint into the sandblasted areas to bring out the contrast.
It should be visible to motorists in plenty of time to prepare a turn into the driveway.
In other news, Center for Urban Habitat’s Rachel Bush has designed a gallery of native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that will be installed around the sign soon. And the concrete floor in the Visitors’ Center has gotten a thorough cleaning and a fresh polishing.
Mark McQuarry (don’t you love that name?) also makes artisanal things out of soapstone. Some of Mark’s smaller pieces will be among those available in the Garden Shop next month.


March 1, 2017

The lead photo is of Bernice, Skyla, and me on one of the eleven imaginative and unique benches that Eric Bull has made for us, and that have been put in place around the quarries. These benches were made of woods representing species growing around the quarries. (This particular photo will appear with an article on the Quarry Gardens in the next issue of Virginia Living magazine. Keep an eye out for it.)

Some of the other benches include two made of cedar by the passenger drop-off at the entrance;

A fantastic Y-shaped Beech bench overlooking the south quarry and the nearby wetland;

A long Sycamore bench at the high overlook of the north quarry; 

and the “over-rock” White Pine bench, also at the north quarry.


(There are five more, but you’ll have to visit to see them.)

 One of the Cedar benches by the entrance was our first to be dedicated. A gift of the Piedmont Master Gardeners, it will bear a plate honoring Bernice for her two years as President of the group. (Hint: the others are available, too.) 

Speaking of gifts, our friends Charles and Mary Roy Edwards—Charles was the architect for the viewing platform and bridges—have given us an artifact of the quarrying age in the form of a large belt-pulley wheel. We are in the process of turning it into a glass-topped coffee table to serve as a functional exhibit in the Visitors’ Center. (Another hint: if you have an interesting artifact from the old quarry days you might like to add to our collection, please be in touch.)

Portent of Spring

Portent of Spring

Just in—from Rachel and Devin of the Center for Urban Habitats: A design for the Demonstration Garden that will greet visitors to the Quarry Gardens. The plan view below shows the main entrance to the Visitor Center, with paths branching to east and west.

While based on the same ecosystem modeling principles as plant galleries throughout the QGs, this garden has a different mission: To show property owners how local native plants can be employed to create beauty in more formal settings.

Conditions on the sloped terrain range widely. The soil is mostly clay and rocks with areas of dry shade, dry sunny meadow, rock walls in both shade and sun, and a rain garden that alternates between wet and dry. Plants have been chosen to prosper in these conditions without improved soil. More than a hundred native species are being ordered for early spring planting. Visitors near the April opening may see this garden being installed and in its infancy.

The process of actually installing the garden is substantially messier than indicated by Devin’s beautiful (highlighted) sketch, as you can see, below. At the time this picture was taken, there were 11 different tradesmen, mechanics, and workmen toiling on the site, some doing garden layout, some doing electrical installations, some working on the entrance pavilion roof, some doing general woods cleanup.

But the interior is progressing. Here’s a shot of the classroom that’s already behind times, as doors are in and bags of insulation have been distributed.


In recent days, a contract has been let for an electric lift gate to control access at the entrance, the first of the train garden backdrops was installed (picture next time), and Bernice has designed a bunch of directional and explanatory signs. You also may notice that a revised website is under construction. All told, although it may be close, we may well be ready in time for our April opening.


Winter Birds

Winter Birds

February 1, 2017

As we approach completion of the basic structures and plantings of the Quarry Gardens in anticipation of our opening in April, there may be more and more emphasis in our “Progress” blog related to happenings rather than developments. This is one of those, relating to a visit Monday morning, January 30, by volunteers Ezra and Theo Staengl, aged 13 and 10—new to CUH surveying—who walked two miles of Quarry Garden trails and identified 92 birds of 23 species. They gave us a list of what they saw on that one morning.

Their list:

American Crow, Bald Eagle, Black Vulture, Blue Jay, Brown Creeper, Canada Goose, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Common Raven, Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored), Downy Woodpecker (Eastern), Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey Vulture, White-breasted Nuthatch (Eastern), White-throated Sparrow, Winter Wren. (Their list included the Latin names.)

The home-schooled brothers live in Nelson County and have been exploring habitats with Devin for years. Ezra propagated the Lobelia Cardinalis installed in the QGs fern gully wetland last summer from plants found in a seepage swamp on their parents’ property. So happy to have them on the team.

Caption: Tiny and quick, the Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper are hard to photograph—but Theo got them. The brown Creeper is the highlighted photo. Here is the Golden-crowned Kinglet.