|March 13, 2020||Nelson County||Jefferson Chapter||The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler|
By Charles Smith, Co-Chair, Native Plant Site Registry
The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler Registry Site consists of 40 acres bordered by 400 acres in a conservation easement. The 40-acre public garden area was selected by the owners, Armand and Bernice Thieblot, working with ecologists to encapsulate the rare community types and quarry pits and rubble piles. The Gardens are centered around an abandoned soapstone quarry on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge physiographic province. The quarry pits dominate the setting with 45-foot vertical walls surrounding 45-foot deep pools of water covering the lower half of five of the six former quarry pits. In between the two ponded areas is a former quarry pit that was filled with overburden and rubble. Overburden and rejected soapstone rubble are deposited in massive piles surrounding the open pits over large areas.
Intact, old age forest remnants near the middle of the site are bordered on one side by younger forest that was timber harvested in the 20th century and areas of pine on highly disturbed soils where the quarrying operation was active until the 1970s. The quarry pits and surrounding rock piles have volunteer native and non-native vegetation which is being actively managed to preserve and introduce locally native plants and control invasive species. Trails link the higher elevation areas near the site entrance and visitor center with the quarry pits and lower portions of the site, taking visitors through 30 designed galleries of local native plant communities.
About 31 miles south of Charlottesville, Quarry Gardens has trails through native plant communities around a group of retired soapstone quarries, and is a private garden for public enjoyment and learning.
Reserve a free guided tour at quarrygardensatschuyler.org.
Visits are by appointment only.
The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler contain 10 vegetative communities on two principal geologic formations. Several of these communities are globally rare. The plant communities are described in detail below. Global and Virginia Natural Heritage resource protection priority rankings are indicated in parentheses.
- Southern Piedmont Hardpan Forest (Global/State Ranks: G2G3/S2)
- Inner Piedmont / Lower Blue Ridge Basic Mesic Forest (Global/State Ranks: G4?/S4)
- Piedmont Basic Oak – Hickory Forest (Global/State Ranks: G3/S3)
- Piedmont Ultramafic Woodland x Southern Piedmont Hardpan Forest (Global/State Ranks: G2/S1Q)
- Piedmont Ultramafic Prairie/Savanna (Note: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation currently recognizes Piedmont prairies as semi-natural with a conservation ranking of G3/SU)
- Southern Piedmont Ultramafic Barren (Ruderal) (Note that natural community type is Global/State Ranks: G1/S1)
- Piedmont Acidic Oak – Hickory Forest and Mixed Pine-Oak Heath Woodlands (Global/State Ranks: G3-4/S34-4)
- Northern Piedmont Small-Stream Floodplain Forest (Global/State Ranks:G4/S3)
- Smooth Alder Impoundment Swamp (Global/State Ranks: G4G5/S4)
- Arrow-Arum Impoundment Marsh (Global/State Ranks: G4?/SU)
Surveys of biota at the site have documented more than 850 species: approximately 550 flora (503 native) and 300 fauna—including 56 species not previously reported in Nelson County. About 100 plant species native to the area have been introduced in the Galleries, bringing the species total to more than 950. Lists of the biota found at the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler in surveys carried out since 2015 are available on Google Docs.
The Gardens are designed on ecosystem modeling principles, taking advantage of the unique characteristics of 14 ecozones and 7 conservation areas. Trails are interlaced with more than 30 designed galleries of local native plant communities, including many plants propagated from the site.
The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler is a unique place, seeking to preserve rare plants and communities and the animal species they support, highlight unique geology and human history, restore disturbed lands, introduce native plants species endemic to within 15 miles of the site, and bring the public in to appreciate and learn from this rich assemblage of biota and the landscape.
Armand and Bernice Thieblot, owners of the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler, were interviewed in May, 2020 in a video episode produced by Virginia Home Grown (VHG). They described the creation, design, and flora of the Gardens in a video available on the VHG Facebook page, starting about 30 minutes into the episode.
See Charles Smith’s article and photos about The Gardens in the September 2020 issue of Sempervirens.