Valley People: From Switzerland to Scotts Valley, gardens green for Schweizer family
by Sandi Olson
Aug 28, 2014 | 971 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Alice Schweizer, manager of Redwood Nursery in Scotts Valley, has happy childhood memories of running through orchards and working in the vegetable garden with her mother.

Schweizer’s parents, Emma and Arnold Vogt, owned a farm in Muttez, Switzerland, near the Rhine River. In addition to a variety of fruit trees and vineyards, her family also raised cattle and grew different plants and grains.

“I learned a lot from my parents about taking care of the soil and the needs of different plants and trees,” said Schweizer. “We all helped out and did what needed to be done. “

During this time, her father struggled with his health and was ordered to move to a healthier climate. The family decided to immigrate to the United States.

However, when World War II broke out in the late 1930s, their plan was thwarted. Switzerland was a small, industrial country with no raw materials, and they depended on exporting goods to other countries. Now, all import or export to other trade partners was under German control. Also, food was scarce, and many items had to be rationed.

In 1956, Alice married Alfred Schweizer, a tanner, who shared her dream of moving to America.

The following year, they boarded an ocean liner in England and spent eight days at sea before arriving in New York. Alfred was an adventurer and had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area before he met Alice.

The couple drove to California and settled down in Redwood City. Although Alice didn’t speak English, she worked in a nursery owned by a German family.

“I loved the big trees and rolling hills, in Woodside,” said Schweizer. “The countryside reminded us of home. Our favorite outing was to drive over the mountains to La Honda and spend the day at the beach.”

The Schweizers moved to Scotts Valley in 1959. The following spring they purchased an acre of flat land, built a house, and converted the existing fruit stand into a greenhouse. This was the beginning of their nursery. They also started a family and had four children — two boys and two girls. The kids loved to play outdoors while their mom tended the nursery. Alfred worked temporarily for a company that installed water pumps in order to help out financially until their business got going.

“We’re not only responsible for the maintenance care, including watering, pruning and insect control, but also the potting and propagation of plants and trees,” Schweizer said. “It’s a demanding job with long seasonal hours, unpredictable weather and ongoing training. I appreciate the interaction with my long-term customers, as well as meeting new planters. I also learned English from them and my Polish-American neighbor,” she added, in a thick Swiss German accent with a hint of Polish.

In time, the children grew and moved away. Flora, the older daughter, shared her parents’ passion for plants. She received her Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Monterey Institute of International Studies. She returned home and took over the family business shortly after her father passed away.

Today, Redwood Nursery offers thousands of different plants — most of them locally grown. The Schweizers take pride in their product knowledge and specialize in promoting plant varieties that are drought resistant and do well locally in our microclimate.

“We want to educate our customers so that they’ll enjoy their purchase for many years to come,” said Schweizer. “We also offer consultations for people who need gardening or landscaping ideas for their own property.”

One thing that has not changed over the past 54 years is the quality of Redwood Nursery’s products and their expertise. Flora uses hands on knowledge to help customers grow the garden they want. Alice still resides on the property with her daughter but remains behind the scenes. Once an avid swimmer and skier, she has finally given up sports at age 89. Alice feels blessed to be outdoors, still following her dream and being with people she loves – which now includes eight grandchildren.

Whether you’ve looking for a particular plant or just want advice, Redwood Nursery is worth checking out. It’s located on the frontage road off Highway 17, between the church with three crosses and the Scotts Valley Medical Center.

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