Mariann Fessenden has been responsible for the gardens here at MacKenzie-Childs since the fall of 2006 when she arrived with 30 cases of bulbs, heart shaped spades, magic shovels and “the best garden gloves, ever.” Since then, she has been refashioning the gardens to suit her vision of what an English estate transplanted into the Finger Lakes would look like. She finds inspiration in the gardens at Sissinghurst, Quatre Vents, Monticello, and Chanticleer.

Mariann earned her BS at Cornell University. She, her husband and four children live on a farm in nearby King Ferry.

15 Responses to About Mariann

  1. Melissa Foderaro says:

    Hi Mariann,
    I fell in love with Aurora in 2001 when my son was attending Ithaca College. I would love to see your gardens now. It’s been four years since I ventured back to New York. You mentioned you have the best garden gloves ever and I was hoping you would tell me what brand they are. I too love to garden, not to the extent that you do. My love is daylilies. I wish you well staking all those plants . Hoping to hear from you soon.

    • MFessenden says:

      Hello Melissa, and welcome! I, too, have a passion for daylilies- some of my favorites are blooming now- Strutter’s Ball, Pretty in Pink, and Carolyn Criswell. After going through many different gloves, I have settled (very happily) on Atlas 370. They are nitryl dipped in the palms and fingertips but lightly enough that I can feel the difference between the weed and the plant, the backs are nylon mesh so they breath. I wash them in them in the clothes machine and they last very well (our get a lot of use). I buy them online by the dozen. They come in xs-xl and different colors. I am sure if you search the name you will find a supplier. Good Luck!

  2. tabitha says:

    Hi Mariann,

    I am going to the barn sale this year for the first time ever, can you advise to what time i should arrive on friday to make it in? I heard people start coming in the middle of the night, and i’m hoping that isnt true!!

    Thank you!


    • Mariann says:

      Hi Tabitha- welcome to the blog. I am so sorry I did not get an opportunity to check the blog last week so that I could help you in your question. It was super busy here with last minute details for the barn sale. I hope you made it and had a wonderful experience. For next year- my assessment, as a cashier, is: Friday is crazy-fun and liney until around 4 pm. Best selection and a real party atmosphere. Saturday is steady, Sunday is slightly crazier with bigger discounts on plentiful items. They nicely try to save some of the most popular items for each day so that people unable to make the first day do not feel like they are getting only leftovers. So, first thing in the morning each day brings pleasant suprises!

  3. Julie says:

    We’ve been docking our boat at Hibiscus Harbor in Union Springs for two years, and I finally took the time to stop in and see your wonderful gardens! They are glorious! I would love to know what the big purple plants are in the center courtyard – the ones with the elephant hostas. I started a shade bed in my yard a few years ago, and I would love to add some of those for color. I’m also putting in a large sun bed, and any suggestions for plants would be greatly appreciated – I love everything, so I have a hard time choosing!

    • Mariann says:

      Hi Julie and welcome to the Blog! The plant you are curious about in the Courtly Check Courtyard is Strobilanthes dyerianus, or Persian Shield, a fantastic tender perennial about which we have received so many comments. I find bringing color to shade using foliage is sometimes more reliable than flowers. Regarding sunny garden plants- there are so many! It is really dependent on your personal preferences and garden time available. Some of my favorites are lily, delphinium, nepeta, monarda, phlox, grasses, hemerocallis, sedum, and echinacea.

  4. Camille says:

    Hi Mariann, We met in the fall at the JM fashion show. I promised I would comment on your wonderful blog. Keep up the great work–everything looks beautiful and I can’t wait to visit Aurora again soon. Happy Holidays!

    • Mariann says:

      Hello Camille and Welcome! Thank you so much for the kind response- I often wonder if there is anybody out there. I hope you get a chance to stop in before Christmas- we have froze ourselves making it beautiful. I am looking forward to days spent inside drinking coffee and researching/planning for 2011 gardens. We just finished planting the 20,212 bulbs for spring and summer display- not that I kept track! See you at the next fashion show or sooner!

  5. Shelley says:

    Hello. I am trying to find the dates for the barn sale this year…have they been set? Thank you!

    • Mariann says:

      I am sorry, I have not heard anything about dates for the barnsale yet. in the past, we have not released the dates until 3 to 4 weeks prior. I know this gets people who need to plan a trip a bit frustrated but the barnsale has grown into such a phenomenal event that we find it best to maintain some flexibility about the date. That said- keep an eye on the website, facebook, and the blog- you will know as soon as it is announced AND you can keep up on some great events all year round. Thank you for your interest!

  6. Barbara Littlefair says:

    Mariann, Check out Bonnie’s garden in Pennsylvania and her blog site re her labyrinth (featured in today’s Fine Gardening Picture of the Day). Her story of resurrecting plants and rebuilding a new garden is lovely. I particularly enjoy labyrinths and enjoyed seeing hers. I’m one of your biggest fans re the enjoyment I get out of visiting the gardens at MacKenzie-Childs. I think a Labyrinth at MacKenzie-Childs would bring in lots more visitors to enjoy your gardens. I think you could enter some of your beautiful garden photos into Fine Gardening ‘picture of the day’ too – good exposure for your blog and for MacKenzie-Childs.
    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving with your family.

    • Mariann says:

      Great idea Barbara! Corinne and I have been discussing adding a Labyrinth-Corinne is especially keen. I have just added it to my winter “to research” list. I have a goal of ramping up the production garden area to include espalliered fruit trees, bringing height to the beds, enclosing the space to create a room, and adding some of out garden gates; maybe this area could also support the addition of a labyrinth. I am looking forward to a long and productive winter! Thanks for the suggestions and for the links. My favorite picture is the winter scene.

  7. Wendy says:

    I am helping to put together an article about monarchs for a magazine. Would you be willing to share your monarch photos with me to include with the article? The photo I am interested in is the top photo on the butterflies and bees entry –

  8. eloise james says:

    I just love the picture titled “Notes From The Garden”. It’s the picture featuring the barn,house,and silo. can this picture be purchased, if so how can I purchase it?

    thank you
    eloise james

    • Mariann says:

      Hello Eloise,
      I am sorry I have taken so long to reply. I am trying to get an answer for you regarding the masthead picture. I will get back to you! Mariann

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