Quarry Gardens Tour

Our group at Quarry Gardens on April 16, 2022. Photo by Steven David Johnson.

A recent continuing education opportunity provided a chance for Headwaters Master Naturalists to combine birding, geology, botany, history and getting together in person. The Quarry Gardens are located in Schuyler, Virginia. In 1991, Bernice and Armand Thiebolt were able to purchase 600 rural acres of land in Nelson County which included the abandoned quarry. 

The quarry was mined for soapstone from 1890 to 1975. The Lynchburg Formation running through Schuyler is 1200 feet deep, and one of three sites in the world where soapstone is deep enough to mine. In the past, soapstone had a multitude of uses such as laboratory benches, sinks and laundry tubs among many other things.

The quarry was filled with water and had been used as the local dump area for many years. The Thiebolts, with help from the Center for Urban Habitats, have worked diligently to restore native habitat for plants and animals: 950 species of natives are found on the property; 650 are plants. Using controlled fire burns to restore some of the areas has provided the opportunity for these species to thrive. The area was important to indigenous people and many artifacts have been found on the property.

The Quarry Gardens comprise 40 acres with 30 galleries of native plant communities linked by 2 miles of trails that wander through piles of cast-off soapstone. The 40 acres of garden are surrounded by 400 acres of forest placed in a conservation easement. One of the first native communities we saw was a large area of fruticose lichen (a.k.a. Reindeer Moss). Umbrella magnolia tree, Hearts-a-burstin’ and yellow sessile trillium are just a few of the many other things that you can see there.

Two avian highlights were Blue-headed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler. Thanks to Kathy Byers for the IDs!

Don’t miss an opportunity to visit!

– Chris Bowlen, April 2022

Here is a sample of the photos you will find at the links at the bottom of this post (click on a photo to enlarge and advance as a slideshow):

Botanical notes thanks to Sharon Landis:

·      Bank of Reindeer Moss is not moss, but lichen. Each piece could be hundreds of years old! Reindeer lichen needs good quality air to grow. The Reindeer moss was brittle and would crumble if touched.

·      They are testing different species of native grasses for use in various parts of the gardens to see which one looks nice when mowed.

·      Trout Lily needs two leaves before it flowers. Also called Adder’s Tongue, Fawn Lily, Dog-toothed Violet.

·      Devil’s Walking Stick has many spikes! This tree has the biggest leaves of any North American plant.

·      Pasture Rose (Carolina Rose) is similar to Swamp Rose. Swamp Rose likes wetter feet. 

In attendance were: Chris Bowlen, Kathy Byers, Tom Engle, Phil Henning, Anna Maria and Steven David Johnson, Jay and Sharon Landis, and Elaine Smith. Big thanks to Phil for making the arrangements! And thanks to Elaine for hosting the outing and compiling this post!

Link to Elaine, Chris, Jay, Sharon and Tom’s photos.

Link to Steven David Johnson’s photos.