Zinnias are among the easiest flowers to grow from seed, and they provide a quick reward. Plant them in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil and wait for a riot of color. Sow zinnia seeds in the ground after the last frost and after the ground has warmed, or transplant as seedlings. Several zinnia varieties were among the big winners in the 2010 All-America Selections annual trials. These varieties were deemed resistant to leaf spot and mildew, menaces that can spoil a garden party. The double-flowered ‘Double Zahara Cherry’ (deep pink color) and ‘Double Zahara Fire’ (blaze orange) bloom 8–10 weeks after sowing, reach about 12–14 inches tall, and spread about 12 inches. These have 2½-inch flowers, as does ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’, another top-rated zinnia. ‘Starlight Rose’ is the first bi-color pink-and-white variety. To see photos of these and winners from years past, visit www.all-americaselections.org. For sources of seed, visit www.all-americaselections.org/Seed_Source.asp.
Edamame is a soybean grown for kitchen cuisine—the pods are steamed, then shelled for their nutty-tasting seeds. They can be eaten as a snack or added to dishes. Edamame is similar to other bush beans in its needs and growth habit. Wait to sow in spring until soils have warmed to about 65 degrees F. Edamame is ready to harvest when the seeds are plump but before pods start to yellow. 'Midori Giant', 'Mojo Green' and 'Sunrise' are some varieties well suited to North Carolina.
The rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) is a large, easy-care shrub rose. Rugosas are sometimes called beach roses, an apt nickname since they are tough enough to withstand drought and salt spray. Beach roses tolerate poor soils and are winter-hardy throughout North Carolina. Rugosas are thorny, so they are useful as protective screens.