It’s 70 degrees and the sun is shining. The soft drone of a hedger can be heard among the early morning sounds of nature waking in Alys Beach. With unmatched precision, every blade of grass is sheared, every hedge shaped to perfection, and there stands Rip Thompson, owner of Rip’s Professional Lawn Care, in the center of it all—surveying the lay of the land. “The plant material changes so much up from the Gulf and into the community itself; it’s all so unique. How could you choose a favorite spot?” he asks.
From the lush, rolling lawn of Central Park to the sculpted waves of Yaupon holly in Arboleda Park, each landscaped area in Alys Beach is master crafted to feel distinct, remarkable. Rip has a crew of about a dozen to maintain the prodigious grounds. His team works off a tentative map of maintenance that is ever changing based on the needs of the community. “Alys Beach is such a beautiful place and it’s exciting to be able to work with different ideas a little outside the box, and that’s what makes it so great,” comments Rip.
Originally from Arkansas, Rip credits the high winds of hurricane season for introducing him to the Gulf. “My stepfather was a general contractor that worked in the area after Hurricane Eloise came through,” he explains. Following his return to Arkansas, Rip’s mother and stepfather decided to move to Panama City Beach to open a beach bar and invited him along. “As a 19 year-old kid, who would turn up the chance to go work in a beach bar in Panama City Beach?”
Rip worked in the family business for a few years and then opportunity came knocking once again. “A guy had his landscaping business for sale. It was basically an idea and a bunch of worn out equipment.” He bought in and started what is now Rip’s Professional Lawn Care. Rip began landscaping in Carillon Beach and then moved along to Rosemary Beach. Rip was responsible for creating the avenue of oaks along Rosemary Beach on 30A as well as the iconic 44 Medjool palms that signal your arrival into Alys Beach. He explains, “I carried and planted each individual tree and it’s amazing to see the how they’ve grown up along 30A.”
From his time maintaining Rosemary Beach, Rip created a familiarity with the designers of Alys Beach and has been connected to the community since 2004. “I became involved a year before it broke ground and have been able to share my thoughts and ideas with the designers. It’s been incredible to watch the idea of this ‘new-urban town’ evolve from ’04—’05 to where it is now.” Alys Beach is always a work in progress, and Rip credits the tight-knit community with the ability to hold true to its vision. “There are great opportunities for people who want be involved in a horticultural field in a beautiful place. It doesn’t get much more beautiful than Alys Beach.”
Paradise found, indeed.