Thanks to Covid-19, our fourth season was a whole different experience.
Visitors: Only 350 joined us for guided tours—which we curtailed after a while. Of the 29 large groups that reserved, 27 canceled; the photo shows members of the Albemarle Garden Club on October 5. Of the Friends who visited independently we have no count, but we’re glad the QGs were here for them.
Volunteers: Our loyal volunteers contributed nearly 400 hours assisting the Center for Urban Habitats team with planting, grooming, and management of the ecosystem galleries. Besides working with Rachel Floyd on Friday mornings, several adopted favorite areas of the Gardens to monitor and manage independently.
Champions were Julie Farrell and Taylor Randolph, each of whom contributed nearly 60 hours. Volunteers came from Master Gardener and Master Naturalist units of both Albemarle and Nelson counties, the Bluebird Society, and United Way. During the summer, we were fortunate to have as intern Will Jones, a rising senior at Western Albemarle High School.
Visitor Accommodations: The Picnic Pavilion was completed and landscaped. Those who used it this season enjoyed it, and we look forward to many more meals and meetings there in 2021. The tables accommodate up to 40—same as the classroom.
Plants: Thanks in part to a generous grant from the Rivanna Garden Club, we completed construction of a deer exclosure by the south quarry pool. It protects and exhibits native species we have otherwise been unable to save from browsing. Planting is complete and, by late spring it should approximate what we had in mind. Controlled burns during the spring rejuvenated the parking lot islands and the prairie below the quarry overlook platform. New roadside prairies were planted along the driveway, and rain gardens were planted near the picnic pavilion.
Wildlife: Three red fox kits started life in a den in the big rockpile east of the Visitor Center. A record 45 bluebirds fledged from the nine nest boxes at QGs and on the adjoining conservation site; Claire Waters and Gareth Hunter of the Bluebird Society tend the boxes.
Explorers: With CUH surveys completed in areas that buffer the Gardens, and 13 miles of hiking trails built through the remainder of the 600-acre property, we have created a new category of membership—Quarry Gardens Explorers—to provide access to those remarkable ecosystems. Explorers may follow the big new trail map up the mountain and along the ledges above the Rockfish River most any time. There’s much to see along the acidic cliffs and boulder forests.
Research: Planting was completed in the native lawn study plots, and volunteer Ron Fandetti has helped us monitor them. The Blue Ridge Mycological Society continues to meet and foray here, adding new fungi species to the QGs biota and sharing data with the North American Mycoflora Project.
Exposure: The Quarry Gardens were featured once again by Richmond PBS’s Virginia Home Grown, in the May broadcast. Later that same month, we learned the Gardens were added to the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Registry, as one of 20 sites of interest in the Commonwealth.
Plant sharing: We were pleased to have a team from Little Bluestem Nursery visit in early December to gather seeds. Little Bluestem is a non-profit native plants grower and seller in Afton VA. The 2021 spring sale of the Jefferson Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society will include plants propagated by member Will Shaw from seeds collected at the Quarry Gardens.
In the coming year, we look forward to:
Seeing many more visitors—as soon as possible. And having many more Friends and Explorers enjoy the beauty and peace of this magnificent site.
Establishing a roster of guides to lead special-interest tours—for native plant enthusiasts, gardeners, birders, mycologists, herpetologists, odonata enthusiasts, artists, photographers—whatever! If you would like to lead a tour, please get in touch!
Finishing conversion of the dynamite shed in the lower field into a thunderbox/ outdoor restroom for the convenience of Friends.
Completing a book of photographs showing the Gardens through all the seasons.
Discovering new ways The Quarry Gardens can realize the potential of their distinctive place.