Mill Pond Garden in Lewes hosts Open Day

Native plants featured in design that attracts birds, wildlife
April 12, 2018

Mill Pond Garden in Lewes, located on Red Mill Pond, held its first Open Day of 2018 April 8, allowing visitors from across Sussex and the Eastern Shore to experience an American-style garden and interact not only with plants, flowers and wildlife, but the sights and sounds of this diverse habitat.

Michael Zajic, the owner of this property, has a long history with horticulture. Zajic is the former horticultural supervisor of Brookside Gardens in Maryland, creator of a nationally recognized private garden in Washington, D.C., and designer of multiple gardens throughout Maryland.

"Gardening is in my blood," he said when explaining his passion for nature. He is also founder of the Delaware Botanic Gardens in Dagsboro, which is currently under construction.

Mill Pond Garden was created in 2013, but the property was purchased in 2004. This half-acre collection of plants, flowers, trees, ponds, streams, man-made waterfalls and fountains, and much more not only delivers a unique place for visitors to explore, but provides a habitat to the birds and other animals that call Sussex County home. The garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, Certified Sentinel Garden, and a member of the American Public Garden Association as well as the National Wildlife Federation, all while operating as a nonprofit organization.

The board of directors includes Zajic and Treasurer Elisabeth Zajic. Samuel Cashdollar is the head gardener and plant engineer; John Saltiel is the plant scientist, and Valerie Gargano is the manager, rounding out the team of passionate horticulturalists who work on this growing project. Mill Pond Garden has also received grants to develop a GPS System for identifying the species and genus (plant profile) by incorporating different devices and applications so visitors will be able to simply use their cellphone camera to view a plant and receive information on its biology.

Mill Pond Garden's mission statement says: "Mill Pond Garden strives to educate the public on the traditional American Style Garden, promote the garden as a habitat for birds, pollinators, and all wildlife, and use of primarily native plants, through educational tours, educational publications, scientific botanic plant labels, educational presentations, and by the sheer beauty of the whole garden immersion experience."

Throughout the year, Mill Pond Garden hosts eight Open Days that allow the public to explore, photograph and ask questions about this rare and beautiful collection of plants and animals.

The garden also hosts many private tours, painting groups, and other events during different parts of the year. For photographers, this garden is an amazing place to truly capture beauty in its purest form: nature. During the winter and around the Christmas holiday, there is also a light show that features more than 30,000 lights that are strewn throughout trees, plants, and the property to provide an alternate and fun way to experience this beautiful garden.

“The garden operates to persuade people to the romantic style of natural gardening, to educate about plants, use of native plants and gardening techniques and science,” courtesy of Mill Pond Garden information.

The main goal of this project was to “show gardens as a habitat, not just a decoration,” and it is clear with the attentiveness to detail that this goal was achieved. Not only are guests immersed in a beautiful array of flowers, plants, and waterways (including Red Mill Pond) but they get to see a diverse assortment of rare birds including bald eagles and ospreys, beaver, foxes, rabbits, reptiles, turtles, and many more species that represent the unique environment of the Eastern Shore. This is all made possible by creating the garden in a way that promotes breeding, provides food and shelter, and focuses on the general needs of these species, making it a great place to frequent and call home.

“Gardens bring enchantment, beauty, and provide a home for wildlife. The mix of sights and sounds that are present at our garden aids in what makes us unique and recognized,” said Michael Zajic.

For more information on this nonprofit, schedule of upcoming events, and various photographs of Mill Pond Garden, go to