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June 13, 2014

The magical garden of Cody Hogan, Lidia’s chef de cuisine

Cody Hogan and Peter Crump’s garden at their Waldo home is a magical place of color, texture, sound and scents and a showcase of the couple’s combined talents and interests. For Hogan, chef de cuisine at Lidia’s Kansas City restaurant, the garden serves as a testing ground for Italian varieties of vegetables he wants to encourage local farmers to grow.

The garden Cody Hogan and Peter Crump have created at their Waldo home is a showcase of the couple’s combined talents and interests.

“I use my vegetable garden as a testing ground for Italian varieties of vegetables that we then try to get farmers in our area to grow,” said Hogan, who is the chef de cuisine at Lidia’s Kansas City restaurant.

Crump is a skilled concrete designer whose hand is evident in fountains, planters and other structures that adorn the garden. It’s a magical place of color, texture, sound and scents, where edibles and ornamentals happily cohabit.

How long have you had this garden?

I’ve lived here for 13 years, and Peter has been here for eight. When I moved in, it was lawn back and front. That’s all there was. I watched the yard for a year to see the light. From there it completely evolved.

What’s the organizing idea?

We like the Mediterranean lifestyle. It’s all about quality of life and slowing down so you can enjoy a meal and be with friends or family. In the garden I like the French potager concept of mixed use, flowers and fruit. Those are plum trees near the house. We make a lot of preserves, although last year, with the late snow, we didn’t get a single plum.

Tell me about the espaliered trees with that distinctive flattened, spreading shape. How do you get them to do that?

We have four varieties of espaliered apples, including Spitzenberg, which Thomas Jefferson liked, and espaliered pear trees. Get them when they’re small and the branches are soft and train them horizontally to a frame. I used bamboo.

What’s this circular area fanning out from a tower?

We call it the “landing pad.” We stole the idea from Kansas City antique dealer Bruce Burstert, who stole it from renowned English gardener Rosemary Verey, who stole it from an earlier garden.

In the spring I planted it with broccoli and cauliflower. Now, those cool weather plants are coming out, and I’m putting in peppers, bush beans, and mustard and collard greens that do well in the heat. The Swiss chards and kohlrabi were all started from seed. We eat it and sometimes take some to Lidia’s.

The boxwoods at the corners are the green mountain variety that we trimmed to a pyramid shape. There were a lot of boxwoods here originally by the deck and the fence. We potted them up and replanted them.

Are those dandelions you have planted in there?

Yes. I got this dandelion variety from an Italian seed company, Seeds From Italy — find them at growitalian.com — now located in Lawrence.

You want to keep them small and cut them back. Pull the bloom off so they don’t seed freely. They’re too intense now for salad, but you can cook them. They’re a member of the chicory family, which includes radicchio.

What are some of the seeds that you’re testing?

The agretti (an edible succulent that looks like grass) is one of the varieties I’m testing. They have a lemony flavor; you can saute or braise them or put them on pizzas.

And that’s Peter’s artistry in many of the structures?

Peter built the obelisk. We like to grow hyacinth beans up that, and when they’re really small, you eat them. I saw them on a road trip with my parents to Monticello. The cedar stakes he used in the tower are from my parents’ ranch in Arkansas.

Peter studied concrete design. He made the cement table and chaise on the patio and the cement fountain. It’s shallow and deeper toward the middle, so it’s a perfect bird bath. We built that wood-fired pizza oven together. This is the shape found at Pompeii.

Tell me about this narrow pond at the back.

This type of long rectangular water garden is called a rill. The pond walls are stacked concrete blocks with a layer of insulation and then the liner, and it has a fountain mechanism. It was inspired by the living wall at Powell Gardens.

Behind it is an eating area with a big table we use for parties. It’s shaded by an arbor covered with grapevines.

This goes on and on. The south end is like another room.

This whole section is raised. You can get a really early start with raised beds because it drains the soil so you can work with it, but it’s not good for drought. You need a lot of organic matter to hold water, and after the drought we converted everything to drip irrigation. In this area we have tomatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and potatoes. Also, wild fennel. It doesn’t form a bulb. I got those seeds from Lidia from her garden in New York.

Peter assembled the beehive. It helps with pollination, and he loves honey.

What do you do with rhubarb?

Use the leaf stalk, or petiole. Add sugar and put it on ice cream, or make it savory and use it to make chutney. You can also make jam.

That’s horseradish planted next to it. You dig up the roots and grate it over roast porchetta or roast beef. It’s also good on salmon.

The front garden is primarily ornamentals.

This was a four-square garden with beds of herbs inspired by the Cloisters in New York. We had quince trees, but they got fire blight, so we converted it all to grass. Around the perimeter we’ve made a braid of boxwood, barberry and euonymus, inspired by knot gardens, and inset them with Norway spruces.

The iris came from my grandmother, and we have deciduous peonies. That’s bear acanthus and variegated artemisia along the fence, and we planted chartreuse sumac and yellow loosestrife by the house. The front is covered by climbing roses.

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