We asked leading landscape designers for one of their favorite plants to work with. Here's what Douglas Owens-Pike, Minneapolis-based designer who specializes in plantings for energy and water conservation, had to say:
Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) is an excellent North American native. An alternative to the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus), this tough plant can be managed as a small specimen tree (30 by 30 feet) or as a thicket/hedge (9 to 12 feet) for privacy with renewal pruning. It can grow in full sun to partial shade and in wet to dry soils. This makes it an excellent candidate for rain gardens that are occasionally flooded. The late spring flowers are a deep maroon; they are small but stunning on close examination. The fall color is a delicate pink. Once the foliage drops, the red fruits inside light pink capsules will stop traffic. Seeds are a preferred bird food during winter months. USDA Zones 4–9.
Native range: Eastern half of North America. American Indians planted wahoo around their camps for its "warrior spirit," believed to help keep enemies out.
Great companions for wahoo include gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), hazelnut (Corylus americana) and snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).