Curb Appeal

Plants That Keep Pests Away

Mosquitoes and other bugs can become a bother when you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors. Did you know you can make your favorite outdoor spaces less desirable to pests with a few simple plants?

Herb Appeal

We’ve learned a lot of the plants that bugs dislike are simple herbs. Which means you can grow a beautiful herb garden for cooking and keep the pests at bay at the same time. Seems like a win-win!

Pops of Color

Lavender is a colorful plant with a popular scent to us humans, but bugs and other pests don’t like it. Marigolds are also great for pops of color but they don’t smell nice to most humans, AND mosquitos, bugs, and snakes. Luckily, we can’t smell them as easy as they can!

Tears of Joy

A lot of the onion and garlic family of plants repel mosquitos, snakes, beetles, snails, mites, and other bugs.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemongrass, lemon bee balm, the grass version of Citronella… basically most lemon scented plants in the garden seem to be listed as a bug deterrent. Mint is another scented plant that apparently mosquitos, flies, spiders, ants, and even some snakes dislike.

WITH ANY PLANTS: Always research the plants for care tips, planting needs, and safety precautions. If you are planting in an area used by pets or curious children, be sure to check labels and with a plant specialist for information on what plants may be harmful.

Deter insects from invading the inside of your home:

TRIM
Trim plants away from the house. You don’t want any limbs or leaves touching the house or roof. A good rule of thumb is to keep 1 foot of space between your house and plants. This way, you don’t give the bugs any highways into your home.

EMPTY WATER
Mosquitos love standing water. Drain any planters or lids that may have collected water.

REMOVE OLD LEAVES
Ants love old leaves and brush. Pack it up in paper bags and get it to the curb before they build a tiny ant town in your backyard.

KEEP AN EYE OUT
Use caution when you’re poking around in old leaves and brush or moving pots and lids. That’s often where critters like to hide.

Discarding Yard Waste:

I know it seems like buying those black plastic “yard and lawn” bags, seems like the right thing to buy for yard waste – but they’re not. Yard Waste facilities can’t take/process them. Make life easier for your yard waste collection team (and the environment) by placing it in open garbage cans (plant material only, no trash), paper bags from the grocery store, or purchase large paper yard bags from home improvement stores. We love the ones from Ace Home Improvement, but have also gotten them from Home Depot and Lowes. We even found them on Amazon:

Here’s to enjoying our outdoor spaces! 

Curb Appeal

Create an Instant Butterfly Garden

Grab the garden gloves! Today, we’re creating a not-so-secret garden that continuously attracts beautiful butterflies and their whimsical friends. The best news is, you can create a butterfly garden on a small budget with just a few good plants – which means you can have fun growing your garden by collecting plants little by little if the need be.

D&CO. PRO TIP: Buy in threes. Three always seems to be the magic number for how many plants to buy, especially when starting out. Grouping three of the same plants together (planting a few feet apart for growth) usually makes the best visual, and also makes it easy for butterflies to find.

Most of the plants that attract butterflies love the Florida sunshine, therefore a great area for a butterfly garden is one that has at least part sun – check plant labels or with an associate for specific plant care and warnings*. Butterfly plants are usually simple looking, with lots of green leaves and small flower accents. A butterfly garden should grow a little more wild than be perfectly trimmed and shaped all the time, if you want the plants to attract the most winged visitors. (Too frequent trimming gets rid of flowers and buds, which are what attracts the butterflies.) Approach your butterfly garden design more like you are building a theme park for butterflies, than creating a traditional tightly manicured garden.

Common Butterfly Attractors:


Monarch Caterpillar eating Milkweed leaves

Milkweed
The easiest way to get butterflies to show up in your yard is to plant some Milkweed. Milkweed is a host plant for Monarch butterflies and comes in a few varieties. We like the type pictured here best. It’s labeled a “host plant” because Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plant so caterpillars have something to eat when they hatch. The caterpillars will eat this plant down to a nub. Don’t worry, the plant continuously leafs out and grows back again. We suggest planting it behind or among other plants so that you don’t notice as much when the caterpillars eat it all – and they will absolutely eat it ALL! Note: Milkweed is toxic to nearly everything but the Monarch caterpillar, so keep it away from curious children and animals. 


Penta flowers with butterfly

Pentas
These tiny star flowers come in a variety of colors and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, bumble bees… all of the little creatures that make a garden magical. Note: Some varieties are long and leggy, some are neat and shrub-like. Be sure to check labels or ask an associate about the type of penta you are purchasing, so that you know what space is best for planting it.


Yellow Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plants
Shrimp plants have flowers that kind of look like little shrimps from a distance. It’s a butterfly favorite in any color. Note: Hummingbirds LOVE this plant too. In our yard, they seem to gravitate to the red variety. 

 

 


Plumbago with lots of flowers!

Plumbago
This one is a large loose bush that butterflies and hummingbirds love. You want to keep it a little wild so that the flowers are always plentiful and present – it’s what the butterflies are attracted to and feeding on. 

 

Plumbago

By adding all or any of these four simple butterfly attractors, your garden is sure to be a hit with all kinds of butterflies.  

Share your butterfly gardens with @DeAnnaAndCompany by using the hashtag #GrowWithDandCO

* Keep in mind: some plants can be toxic to animals and humans. Be sure to check labels and with a knowledgable plant associate for information. Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to always wear gloves and eye protection while gardening, and to thoroughly wash hands/shower after.

Curb Appeal

Pool Solar Panels – is it worth it?

Living in Florida, we have the ability to heat our pools with the sun using pool solar panels. But is it worth the investment?

In our opinion, yes. If the goal is to regulate a pool’s in-season temperature in an energy-efficient, cost-effective way, then solar panels are a great way to accomplish that goal. Read more to see if solar pool panels are right for your needs.

Solar Pool Panels Perks List:

  • Low energy
  • No giant propane tanks like with gas heaters
  • No reoccurring propane costs because the SUN is the heat source
  • Most economical way to keep a pool at a consistent temperature
  • Lasts 10+ years

How it works:

A solar panel heating system takes water from your pool filtration system and sends it up to your roof to be heated by the sun, moving the water through a series of small tubes in the “solar panels” before returning the newly heated water to the pool. The system has sensors that regulate and keep the pool at the set temperature, automatically adding the solar-heated water as needed to maintain temps. Here in Central Florida, it’s best used “in-season,” late spring through mid fall. You can still warm a pool in the colder months, BUT using it when it’s consistently cold can cause you more general pool maintenance issues. (Likely due to the temperature changes between day and night evaporating the pool water at a higher rate.) Keep in mind that in the winter months shorter days providing less sunlight means less heating capabilities.

What panels are best for:

Solar panels can typically heat your pool up to 10 degrees above it’s current stand-alone temperature.

A solar panel heating system simply does not have the environmental resources to heat a 40 degree pool up to a consistent 80 degrees in the winter. We only rely on our system for the warmer season when the outside day temperatures are more consistent with the night temps. While solar panels can technically work all year mechanically, winter will have less sun (shorter days), which means a lot less opportunity to warm the colder pool water with the solar panels. There’s also a lot more water evaporation if the temperature of the pool is warmer than the air on the colder nights.

How long do they last:

Be sure to ask your provider. Lots of systems are guaranteed for around 10 years. The roof components of a system is typically changed out with a new roof installation, but the mechanics of the system (the power, piping, and controls mounted on the side of the house) can last even longer. Expect a few minor fixes needed along the way, usually due to freezing temperatures in the winter. Fixes should only have labor costs when panels are under warranty.

How much do they cost:

Prices vary but typically around $3,000 to $5,000. Cost usually depends on things like how many panels your pool will need, and the additional materials and labor needed to install your system.

How to choose a solar panel provider:

Make sure they are a licensed, insured contractor. Look for real-world reviews and compare companies. Ask neighbors with pools if they have solar heaters, who they hired, and how their solar panels have worked for them. Warranty is important, so make sure you are getting a quality product that is guaranteed.

Do you have solar panels for your pool? Share your experience with others in the comments section of our Instagram pics for this Curb Appeal article: @DeAnnaAndCompany

Curb Appeal

How to Choose a Pressure Washer in Three Steps

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the clean lines from pressure washing a dirty driveway. However, choosing a pressure washer that actually works for your needs is kind of hard and confusing. To make the decision simpler, we’ve compiled our best info, tips for comparing units, and also suggest a miracle item that will help you clean your walk ways in half the time no matter which washer you choose!

Pressure washers are serious equipment, so you should take the same precautions using them as you would using power tools and saws. Always follow the proper steps for powering and maintaining your washer. If there ever was a manual to read, it would be this one. Always wear appropriate clothing, eye protection, and strong close-toed shoes (no flip flops!) when operating a pressure washer.

Pressure washers are pricey, so make sure you are getting the one that will meet your expectations. Here are THREE things you should pay attention to:

Strength, Water, Power

Strength = the PSI number (Pounds per Square Inch) how strong the stream will be = how deep you can clean. The higher the number the stronger the stream/cleaning capabilities. 3000-4000 PSI is more than sufficient for most home owners.

Water = GPM (Gallons Per Minute) How much water will flow = how fast you can clean. Think: garden hose vs fire hose

Power = type of motor (Gas vs Electric) Pressure washing things like sidewalks and deck tops requires a lot more power than things like cars or boat washing. 

How to compare units?

An easy way to compare machines to see which unit cleans more efficiently is to multiply each unit’s PSI number by the GPM number. (PSIxGPM) The one with the highest number should clean best.

Example:
WASHER A: 1400 PSI x 1.6 GPM =2240

vs

WASHER B: 1400 PSI x 2.4 GPM =3360

vs

WASHER C: 3300 PSI x 1.6 GPM =5280

In this example, WASHER C (with the highest = number) is the more efficient unit. “Efficient” meaning it will clean an area faster in less time than the others.

Electric-Powered Pressure Washers

Amazon

There are a lot of great entry-level electric units out there. We found that anything below 1800 psi didn’t clean much on driveways or sidewalks. However, we started with an electric unit, 1400 PSI/1.6GPM and it cleaned cement, decking, and pvc lawn chairs really well – but it did take a whole day.

The good: smaller units, lighter weight.

The bad: Doesn’t get deep stains as well, takes longer to deep clean areas. There are lots of cords to wrangle – the electric cord, the wand (sprayer) hose, and the garden hose.

Gas-Powered Pressure Washers

Amazon

These are the real deal. If you were to hire a company to pressure wash your driveway, they are going to show up with something gas-powered. We recently graduated to a gas-powered washer with 3300 psi and 2.4 GPM. It cleaned like a breeze.

The good: A lot more powerful. Cleans stubborn stains with ease. More maneuverable: not having a power cord to worry about allows for cleaning an area as long as your garden hose.

The bad: Louder. More powerful streams are more dangerous. You could easily blast through an old window pane, loose cement, or brittle lawn chairs. Be sure to take appropriate precautions and read the manual.

This magical attachment saved us SO much time. The space that usually took us 6 to 8 hours to pressure wash, was done in 60 minutes with this type of “surface cleaner.”

Disc attachments like these surface cleaners found on Amazon, are great for wide passes (not detail work) – which makes it awesome for cleaning large areas quicker. It also eliminates all those hidden-ink-like squiggle lines that often appear when the cement dries from using the wand alone. IMPORTANT: Make sure to buy the right disc attachment for your unit by verifying the psi compatibility on both.

Happy cleaning!

Curb Appeal

Garage Storage Ideas

Alas, the holidays are over and it has you needing a way to store all of that holiday cheer for another year. Fear not, we’ve found some great options for space saving and garage organization.

Packing Christmas with Care

About these selections that we found on Amazon: 

Storage Cubes: Tired of every-shaped ornament box towers to topple and boxes in a bigger box storage? Consistently sized ornament cubes with individual holding dividers make ornaments a snap to stack away. (We recommend still packing any heirloom type special ornaments in individual boxes.)

Reels: Putting things like twinkle lights and garland on spools make it so much easier for decorating next year.

Wrapping Storage: Gift wrap organization keeps everything nice and wrinkle free. They come in bags, boxes, carts, even over-the-door organization options.

Wreath Bags: No more mystery-garbage-bag-covered surprises when you buy storage options that look like the thing they are holding.

General Organization

About these selections that we found on Amazon: 

Pack like-things together, and use clear bins or bags. Color bins are fun, but make it impossible to look through things at a glance. While clear bins make it easier to see what’s inside, a general label holder on the outside helps too for when you have things to store during the year. “There’s a bin for that!” Some bin organizing label ideas: “Gardening,” “Toys,” “Holiday,” “Tools,” “Yard Sale,” “Auto,” “Extension Cords/Power Strips,” “Sports,” etc. Packing soft items like blankets in clear bags with handles are great for ease-of-use too.

Bin Storage Options

About these selections also found on Amazon:

While stacking the bins on one another is possible, it makes it harder to get to what you need quickly and can even become dangerous. Things that separate the bins like storage cubbies, make it easy to access one tub at a time. Overhead storage gets things off the floor and into the wasted space above. Just make sure any option you choose is properly installed and secured for your safety first. Pro Tip: Keep bin weights at an amount that is easy to carry. Rather than cramming everything into one unmanageable tub, if you have more stuff, just start another bin for it and keep the bins safe to carry and store.

Garage Wall Storage

About these selections found on Amazon:

Wall Racks: Storage racks that keep things neat and organized on the wall are always a help in the garage. Peg boards are a helpful option too, but leave a lot to your creativity to set up effectively for your needs.

Tool Bucket: Instead of storing away your go-to tools and then spending time trying to find them at some point in the future, a bucket organizer makes it easy to keep them handy, on-the-go, and organized at the same time. No more wondering where you stored the tape measure! Pro Tip: Tool buckets work great for gardening tools and items too. Keep the house tools in one bucket, and the garden stuff in another to minimize your frustrations finding the right tool for the job at hand.

The Catch-All

About these selections found on Amazon:

Clear Bags: Bags are always the easy thing. Storage zipper lock bags are a great way to organize items within a bin or utility bag – or just to keep items dust free. Vacuum storage bags make it great for storing big soft items like bed linens, clothing, curtains, plush toys, holiday themed pillows and bedding – into such a small footprint you could possibly store them inside (where humidity is less likely to mess with their soft surfaces). Pro Tip: Place an odor fighting dryer sheet or two in with your bedding before vacuuming the air out to help keep it smelling fresh.

Utility Totes: A heftier option for storing items like decorations. The handles make it easy to carry back and forth between seasons too. Pro Tip: assign utility tote colors based on the items it is holding. For example, green and red tote colors could indicate holiday items, a person’s favorite color could indicate items stored of theirs. Fall decor could be in an orange bag… color blocking your bags (or bins) make it easy to see where what you’re looking for is at a glance.

Over-the-Door Clear Shoe Holders: Aren’t just for shoes. Use the clear pockets to organize and store small items that you may need access to more often. Smaller tools, odd bolts and screws, that one thing you found on the floor but have no idea what it is but seems too important to throw away, small flashlights, tubes of this, small boxes of that… it really is a handy way to organize the little things (and shoes).

And just like that, you now have a storage option and place for almost anything in your garage.

Curb Appeal

CREATE A WINTER WONDERLAND IN MINUTES

Decorating home exteriors for the holidays used to take FOREVER, but now there are so many modern options that significantly cut the time creating and increase the time enjoying. Oversized decorations and lights that are more like flood lights (rather than individual string lights) cover more space in a fraction of the time to set up. Here’s what we found.

FOR WALLS:

Projection spot lights, motion lights, and slide shows set up in a snap and cover a good amount of area. We found these options on Amazon:


Star Shower Slideshow Motion – We love this thing! It’s basically a spotlight projector that shines moving graphics (included in little slide inserts) on to a wall. The instructions say one unit can cover 25 feet, if you can get the unit 30 feet away from the wall you want to project on. Ours is about 8 feet away and covers a 10 foot wall nicely. The best part is you can use it for several holidays if you get the versions that include the extra themed slides!
The Original Star Shower Motion – You’ve seen this little guy everywhere. Tiny green and red moving dots. One unit covers a decent area. We liked it most shining on the shrubs and bushes.
App Lights Projection Spot Lights – This covers about 20′, and the whirling motion of the light is mesmerizing. The app has presets to control it from your phone. The only thing we didn’t like is that the app is a little confusing, and there’s no other way to control the device.

FOR LAWNS:

Inflatables – Move over car dealership dancing inflatable, you’ve got some serious seasonal competition! They come in all kinds of holiday themes too!
Giant Ornaments – Just like the real thing but bigger and made for using outdoors. We are particularly excited about these this year!
Yard Stakes – Can’t get any simpler than that!

Pro Tip: Be sure to guy a good timer(s), then you can set it and forget it for the season!

FOR PORCHES:


Remote Control Flameless Candles – How cute will these look in windows?! Create additional cuteness with Outdoor Pillow Covers, Bows, Banners and Floor Decals. (All found on Amazon)

FOR PATHS:

These candy cane and jumbo bulbs are stake lights with festive flair! We’ve also seen the candy canes as plain plastic decoration stakes (no lights) too. (All found on Amazon)

HAPPY DECORATING!

Share your seasonal curb appeal photos with us on Instagram or Facebook #DCOHOLIDAYS 

Curb Appeal

Mums the Word!

Well technically “chrysanthemums” is the word – and they are the perfect little flower for fall landscaping.

Mums the Word!

Mums are one of the easiest ways to give your autumn curb a happy little kick of color. These flowers are easy to care for, a reasonable cost, and available in the garden department of almost every home improvement store. What are you waiting for? Grab a few planters today and give your yard all of the fall vibes it deserves!

More About Mums:

  • Mum flowers typically last about one month, in our warm Florida climate they can last longer if you cut off flowers as they fade. Cut the flowers just below their base, leaving the stem long.
  • Mums are thirsty flowers, so water them a few times a week to keep them happy and blooming as long as possible. A wilted mum is a sad mum indeed. Water at the base of the plant, rather than on the leaves or flowers.
  • These flowers love being in the sun, which can also dry them out, so give them their time in the sun, but don’t forget to water.
  • Keep away from pets. Mums are best to use in areas that your pets do not have access to, as I read mums can make pets sick if eaten.
  • If you plant your chrysanthemums in the ground, cut the stems back to about 4″ after the plant has gone brown and dormant to encourage new growth next season.

Mums come in a variety of colors – reds, yellows, even purples.

A really cute way to decorate with mums is by creating, what we call, an autumn “porchscape.”

You will need:

1 hay bale

3 to 5 pumpkins in varying sizes (Psst, you could even throw in a seasonal gourd if you’re feeling extra… fall-y?)

1 bandana or fabric square in a complementing fall color or pattern

1 to 3 potted chrysanthemums

1 small chalkboard easel or fall sign

Let’s make it:

The first thing you will have to decide is where you want your porchscape – on a table, or on the ground? For a table you could use smaller hay bales available at craft stores with mini pumpkins, while ground-based creations would require bigger hay bales and larger pumpkins. Whatever the size, the design approach is the same:

  • When in doubt, odd numbers usually work best for groupings or quantities
  • Designs like this tend to look better slightly off center, and at angles rather than perfectly centered or flush against walls
  • You want some elements that are taller (the mums), some medium (the hay bale) and some smaller (the pumpkins)
  • Your show piece pumpkin selections should be half as tall as the hay bale or mums and shorter so you can make little tiered groups

How we would do it:

  1. Start with your hay bale, at an angle, out from the wall. Make sure that your design is in a good, safe, and dry place. Never put decorations near heat sources like lights, outlets, or in the path of high traffic or sprinklers. 
  2. Drape your bandana or fabric square over the bale off center, to the right. Drop a corner over the front edge as a color/shape accent. You’ve just created a little stage to set items on!
  3. Next place one mum on the floor on the right side of the hay seated back, one mum on floor in front of the hay left of center, and one mum on the top of hay on the left corner. This should create a visual triangle with the mums.
  4. Then you fill in your design around that triangle – large pumpkin on ground in front of the mums on the right side of hay, place another large pumpkin next to planter on top of hay, group with one to two smaller pumpkins.
  5. Finish with a friendly message or fall sign on your small chalkboard easel placed on the fabric on the top of hay bale. You can cozy up a mini pumpkin around your sign for even more autumn-ness if you like.

Kinda like this:

Think of this as an outline for your porchscape. You may need to move things around to work out the right feel for your space with the exact flowers and elements you’ve selected. Get creative – you may prefer to create this concept backwards, or to group two mums together, or use more pumpkins… that’s all the fun of design, go for it! Pro tip: view your porchscape up close and from a distance as you rearrange items. Move one thing and stand back to see how it looks as a whole design. You may find you need to angle or move things further than you think, and you can see that best by standing back a little to take in the whole composition.

The most important part is to have fun creating and don’t forget to share your porchscape masterpiece with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Don’t have a porch to “scape”? We can help with that! Getting pre-approved for a home loan is all done virtually! Click on “Apply Now” to learn more or call us!