Mill Pond Garden Delights!
On a January afternoon, I wavered at the thought of visiting Mill Pond Garden, an outdoor garden recommended by a friend. But when I toured the property of the homeowner and creator Michael Zajic, my mind simply marveled at the beauteous landscape of shrubs and trees and yes, flowering plants, around me.
“Nature is our greatest teacher and greatest joy. Public gardens are like plant and happiness schools; we need them now more than ever,” explains Zajic , who has devoted his entire career to designing gardens to share with the public.
Zajic began his career as lead gardener at Fannie Mae headquarters in Washington DC with a nine acre campus. Soon he was hired to be Horticultural Supervisor of Brookside Gardens (out of 120 applicants) and the McCrillis Gardens for the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission, where he served for 23 years until he retired in 2003.
My husband and I were frequent visitors to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. We were married in the rose garden in 1979. Zajic invented the annual winter of light show and brought it to Mill Pond.
Michael founded the Delaware Botanic Garden, but he wanted a garden in Lewes. So in 2005, he opened his private garden and shared it with the neighborhood. Because of neighborhood interest and popular demand, Michael says, “it became incorporated as a certified non-profit public garden in 2013 to serve the wider community without infringing on the peace of the neighborhood.”
“We show plants that do well at the Cape,” he explains. “Plants are labeled with scientific name, which is what makes a botanical garden. We accommodate wildlife, such as a frog pond and three hibernaculum, one for box turtles to winter over and two for garter snakes, frogs, lizards, skinks and salamanders. Box houses are scattered about to house different kinds of birds and bats.”
There was much to see in winter. Scores of flowering camellias, hellebores, and spirea. Nine coral bark maples. A fountain and a gnome garden. Arbors against the backdrop of a glassy Red Mill Pond.
Michael urges me to return in the spring to see thousands of tulips, daffodils, crocus, azaleas, Wisteria, and Virginia bluebells.
Summer will feature large leaf tropical plants and overlapping peaks of pollinator plants, such as tall phlox, daylilies, water lilies, crepe myrtles, and butterfly bushes.
Fall hosts chrysanthemums and orange, gold, purple, and red leaves on shrubs and trees.
Ticket sales are limited to a small number of cars each half hour so the flow of traffic is small and street parking is not a problem to the neighborhood. Currently, the garden is open for three hours on a few days each month. Each car pays $12 for one ticket for all passengers.
Mill Pond Garden is available for small weddings or events, photography sessions, and artist plein-air painting. Donations make up half the budget so any size is extremely welcome. Volunteers are also welcome.
Zajic’s long term goal is to garner “community support to acquire a piece of suitable land from the Sussex County Land Trust, or from one of the towns, or even a small part of the Cape Henlopen State Park, to create another horticultural Eden.”
Mill Pond has a huge plant budget and six part time contractors. Michael can offer advice and encouragement for gardeners with questions, wishing to start, grow, or improve gardens in the area since many people move here to the from a different climate zone and are eager to learn the possibilities.