By Kerry Ann Mendez
I love Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), especially those with burgundy-red leaves. Two striking, mid-size Japanese Maples are 'Fireglow' and 'Bloodgood'. Both grow between 10-20' tall and are hardy to Zone 5. Their graceful branching habit is particularly striking in the winter landscape.
Commonly called Summersweet, Clethra is a fantastic native shrub to partner with Japanese Maples. Clethra 'Compacta', 'Hummingbird' and 'Sugartina Crystalina' are smaller cultivars (2-5' tall) with highly fragrant white flowers in mid to late summer. Their foliage turns buttery-yellow in fall, contrasting brilliantly with the maple's red leaves.
Perennial Brunnera macrophylla, commonly called Siberian Bugloss, draws the eye spring through fall. Bright blue, forget-me-not like flowers billow above large heart-shaped foliage in spring. 'Jack Frost' is probably the best known cultivar with frosty-silver leaves intersected by green veins. Other sensational varieties include 'Sterling Silver' and 'Emerald Mist'. A sweep of Siberian Bugloss in front of the Summersweet completes the threesome!