Mill Pond Garden: To Delight, Inspire and Educate

According to its website, Mill Pond Garden’s mission is to delight, inspire, and educate visitors about gardens and plants for our region, and to host abundant wildlife. From the “get-go” how can one not like this place?  

This botanical garden is a precious little gem nestled just west of Coastal Highway between Lewes and Milton. It’s creator and proprietor, Michael Zajic, has a prestigious background. He started his career as the lead gardener at the nine-acre campus of Fannie Mae’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. He then became horticultural supervisor of Brookside Gardens and the McCrillis Gardens for the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission. He served in that capacity for 23 years before retiring in 2003. After his retirement, he founded and was instrumental in developing the Delaware Botanical Gardens in Dagsboro.   

“Mill Pond Garden is important to the community because it is the only professional horticultural garden, botanic garden, in the Cape region.” – Michael Zajic

Michael continues, “It is my personal belief that every community should have a botanical garden within a 15-minute drive, just as we have schools, churches hospitals, and libraries close by. This Garden emphasizes the holistic approach including biological and native plant diversity as well as ornamental beauty for enjoyment and inspiration”. 

Zajic lives right on the Mill Pond Garden property, part of a residential neighborhood, that overlooks Red Mill Pond Lake. He makes himself available and offers advice to those looking to start their own home gardens in the Cape region. He also provides education via guided tours and community outreach.  

Just three-quarters of an acre, Mill Pond is the smallest public garden in the American Public Gardens Association. Changing with each new season, a popular time of the year is early to mid-Spring when thousands of tulips, daffodils, crocus, azaleas, wisteria, and Virginia bluebells bloom in full glory. Large-leaf tropical plants, tall phlox, day lilies, water lilies, crepe myrtles, and butterfly bushes are on display during the summer. The Fall display features chrysanthemums accompanies by multi-color leaves on shrubs and trees. Winter offers its own wonderland. On designated nights during November, December and January, the Garden is ablaze with a dazzling 40,000 light “Garden of Lights” show.  

Mill Pond Garden is also home to or is visited by an abundant wildlife population of insects, birds, reptiles, fish, and small mammals, including notably Eagles, Ospreys, Crows, Blue heron, Green heron, Cormorants, Swans, White Herons, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, five species of Turtles, four species of Snakes, five species of Frogs, a bat colony box, Wood Duck box, Owl box, nesting boxes for many other birds, all the common known year-round and migratory garden birds, Hummingbirds, Rabbits and several other small and several medium-sized mammals, abundant butterflies 

MPG is a non-profit operation with a part-time staff and dedicated volunteers. It relies on donations and revenue from its fifteen “Open Days” a year, bus and group tours (by appointment) and as a venue for weddings and special events. It has ticketed admission for the public on Open Days. Invitations to Open Days are by email to subscribers and tickets may be purchased on the web site. A $12 ticket admits one car and all its occupants. 

In addition to the American Public Gardens Association, MPG is also a member of The Sentinel Plant Network, the National Wildlife Federation, and a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  

Mill Pond Garden is a significantly native and sustainable walking garden, evergreen and deciduous, emphasizing the beauty of nature through careful design, with flowering plants and beautiful foliage for year-round interest and enjoyment. 

By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Ophrah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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