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Garden Village Bled, an interview with the gardener Jan Bizjak


The extraordinary garden and greenery around the Garden Village Bled Resort owes almost every bit of its prodigious features to the man who had cared and nurtured it like his own baby. It is gardener Jan (pronounced as Yan), the man with a fascinating character.

His knowledge about plants and nature is unfathomable and so is his delivery of feelings for the plant kingdom. I thought it would look appropriate to have an interview organized to explore deeper into the mind of this man. In the course of the conversation, he unraveled his philosophy towards life and nature which is equally appreciable as his gardening skills.

It is a great pleasure for me to share the excerpts of the interview here.

Me: Well, Mr. Jan could you introduce yourself to the world?

Lake BledSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: My name is Jan and I stay very close to Lake Bled. I come from Slovenia of Central Europe. I grew up amidst a farm and since childhood I have built a strong connection with nature. My love for the plants grew since then and as I advance in age this love seems to be more intense.

I consider myself lucky to have a close nexus with green nature. I utilize this opportunity to work almost throughout the day in this garden regularly. I am really passionate about my job which I love most and am proud of it.

I am a PhD in Agronomy. My education and degree have some significant meaning to me only if I am able to serve the plant kingdom and mankind on mutual benefits. Luckily, so far my profession has made me extremely happy and fulfilling.

Me: I am clearly amazed by the sheer variety of fruit and flower bearing plants growing here vibrantly. There are flowers which are edible too which was beyond my imagination. Tell us more about these types of plants and your experience in growing them.

fruits Source : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: Garden Village Bled nurtures a notion that why shouldn’t we grow more and more plants that is both a beauty of nature as well as have immense utility. With this ideology in mind, the owner of this resort encouraged me to participate in this gardening project.

We have flowers that bloom sheer beauty.  We have trees whose leaves turn blood red during the autumn and bear fruits in another season. Then again the visiting guests from every corner of the world are simply fascinated by the spectacular beauty of my garden.

They are allowed to pluck fruits during their vacation. This all-round greenery is something very special and incredible for our foreigner guests which we value most. They can closely explore how these fruits and vegetables grow amid nature. This is a marvelous piece of experience for them I believe.

Me: Tell us more about plants and vegetables you have specialized in growing. Tell us more about varieties?

seasonal vegetablesSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: I focus on seasonal vegetables particularly on salads. Salads lose their quality the moment they are plucked as there is a rapid loss of water and vitamins. Within a day they lose much of their nutritious value.

But salads are important components of our diet. People consume salads throughout the year. From the local farmers we buy leaks, spinach, radishes and ruccola, commonly known as rocket salad. We grow them in the garden to serve the guests with farm fresh produce. We also buy from the local produce if the requirement is high.

Me: Since you buy local produce do you think they have a high nutritious value and you get them fresh as you pick them regularly from local suppliers? 

Mr. Jan:  Yes. You can say that. I pick them regularly. However, it is not really necessary for a few vegetables like the potatoes, tomatoes and carrots as they can retain their food value for a longer time. I do not need to pick them from local farmers on regular basis. But occasionally when we procure them, we buy in large quantities.

Me: Just tell me more about a particular root that you offered me to taste. It was so sweet and amazing. How is it possible that despite its sweetness it is good for diabetic patients?

Mr. Jan: This is because this sweet root has a very low glycemic index which ranges between 0 to 1. So it is good for health. You can consume them like sweet chips without impairing your health. We harvest it before frost.

Me: Do you sun-dry it before making it fit for the market?

FlowerSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: Sure. But it is not sun-dried. I use my drying machine and put the stuff inside for a day within a temperature ranging between 35 to 45 degrees. After drying, you can store it for a year without spoiling it. It is ready for consumption.

Children with a sweet tooth like it very much. It also helps in raising good cholesterol in your blood. It is beneficial for your liver and kidney too. More research is underway to find what more health benefits are stored in this interesting plant.

It is very easy to grow. I have a special respect for plants that are easy to grow and at the same time give nutritious and tasty fruits, roots, flowers and other parts.

For the same reason, I admire Aloe plant because it can survive for several months without water. It is one of those amazing plants that don’t attract any pest and neither gets infected by diseases. It has several health benefits.

 Me: It will give you beautiful skin. Any other benefits?

Mr. Jan: It helps to detoxify your body. We prepare a mixture with ½ kg honey, 330 grams Aloe and 1 liter alcohol extracted from fermenting apples. This is a wonder potion that has immense health benefits. But we make sure the Aloe plant is aged between 5 to 7 years. At least it should be more than 4 years old.

The mixture has to be prepared in the dark. Once exposed to light it loses its value rapidly. Mix it well as the sun sets and encase the mixture in a dark glass container. Drink a little in the morning and in the evening. It is great for purification of the body and combats colon cancer and cancer of the digestive tract. 

Me: What about the edible flowers?

edible flowersSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: The flowers are beautiful and tasty to eat. With the leaves, you can prepare a tasty soup adding little spice. It tastes sweet in the beginning and culminates in a spicy taste. The seeds are edible as well. This plant is simple and doesn’t demand much input for a healthy growth.

Me:  Is it so? But how do you determine the age of this plant?

Mr. Jan: It is simple. The number of leaves on the tree will tell you the age of this plant. In our country and in this climate, the plant produces about six leaves in a year. Talking about health benefits, I find Aloe Boristi more nutritious than Aloe Vera.

 Me: Yes. I can see them growing all over the garden. 

fruits turns yellowSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: That’s right.  I have something interesting for you. You see these are golden berries also known as Inca berries. They have an awesome taste and have loads of vitamin C. You can start your own kitchen garden by planting these berry plants.

The green color of the fruits turns yellow and the fruits become dry when ripe. It has an amazing fragrance and is good for your dental health. It also combats various types of cancers. When it comes to fruits, I select a plant that has borne fruits and explain it to my guests.

When it comes to flowers I select a plant with flowers blooming. It makes live demonstration easier for me and my guests can comprehend the subject better.

Me: I suppose no chemical fertilizers are applied in the entire garden. If this is so, how do you organize to nourish the plants? Do you apply compost and organic fertilizers? 

Mr.  Jan:  If the soil is right, the plant gets sufficient nourishment. I use organic manure from cattle as well as from horses. I even use chicken manure. Plants can draw in quick nourishment from chicken manure. Plants need enough water to grow which I ensure with the source of water supply.

Plants are just like human beings. If I locate a plant showing symptoms of sickness being grown at a particular place, I replant it at another place that suits it better. Human beings too show signs of growth and improvement on relocation.  Do you remember the apple I offered you to taste?

Me: Yes it tasted awesome.

gardener-Jan-BizjakSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: Yes. That was really tasty and the plant is resistant to apple cap disease, a specific ailment for apple plants that completely destroys them.

Me: I am really amazed at the variety of plants grown in your garden. 

Mr. Jan: Every year I try to add variety to my garden. I bring in new plants and include them in my healthy and happy family of plants and vegetables. I sow seeds and saplings of new plant species every year.

This makes me happy. My guests also feel happy seeing more ornamental inclusions. It adds to the overall garden worth. You see rosé berries and black berries are much in demand and they grow all over the fences. I prune them with meticulous perfection and care.

Me: I see you have cultivated edible mushrooms beneath the tree house.

 Sleepy-ForstSource : photo.drprem.com

Mr. Jan: From the forest, I gather trees which may be completely destroyed by frost in future. What little use I could make of them is to give them a place in my family. This garden will be an excellent breeding ground for growth of shitake mushrooms.

From next year, I wish to include mushroom dishes in the menu using the fresh garden picked variety that I am cultivating. Our climate is also supportive of a healthy growth of a variety of plants.

Me: I would love to take some photos of the beautiful nutritious produces of your garden.

Mr. Jan (Smiling):  Sure. I encourage my neighbors to grow fruits and vegetables for their own consumption. This would help in growing your gratefulness towards nature. You learn to acknowledge nature’s invaluable gifts only when you grow them. This creates awareness regarding valuing nature.

Me: Can’t agree more. This helps you understand how nature supports our survival. We become more conscious of our choices. We learn to conserve more and waste less.

gardener-Jan-BizjakSource : photo.drprem.com

With this, I thanked Mr. Jan for taking me through this wonderful garden tour providing deep insights about the variety of plants, their requirements and the benefits they gift for our survival.

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